Starting on Wednesday, he said, Iran would begin to build up its stockpiles of low enriched uranium and of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors — including a reactor that could give Iran a source of bomb-grade plutonium. If the Europeans fail to compensate for the unilateral American sanctions, he said, Iran will resume construction of the Arak nuclear reactor, a facility that was shut down, and its key components dismantled, under the deal.
None of those actions would get Iran to a weapon anytime soon. But they would resume a slow, steady march that the 2015 agreement temporarily stopped.
Mr. Rouhani’s announcement marked another sharp blow to an agreement that President Barack Obama hoped would end 40 years of hostility between the two countries, and which he bet could open a new era of cooperation. While Iran scupulously followed the deal, that cooperation never happened: Iran continued to test missiles — which were not covered in the arrangement — and to fund terror groups and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Mr. Trump threatened to kill what he called the “worst deal in history,” and over the objections of several of his advisers he withdrew from it exactly a year ago. He complained that it was too narrow, and that the 15-year limit on Iran producing nuclear fuel simply kicked the problems down the road. Advocates of the arrangement said those provisions bought vital time, delaying a program that otherwise might have resulted in an Iranian bomb in just a year.
It is not clear how Washington will respond. While the United States abandoned its side of the arrangement, it has long demanded that Iran fulfill its commitments to international inspections and moratoriums on nuclear work. The national security adviser, John Bolton, a fierce opponent of the deal, has often said that Iran never intended to give up its nuclear ambitions — and he may cite Mr. Rouhani’s speech as further evidence.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, said in an interview during a recent visit to New York that the country’s leadership was under growing pressure to respond to Mr. Trump’s effort to strangle Iran’s revenue. He called the continuing effort to starve Iran of the ability to engage in trade — which was enshrined in United Nations resolutions endorsing the 2015 agreement — a “war crime” against the Iranian people.
In an effort to contrast their behavior with Mr. Trump’s, Iran’s leaders have for now rejected calls that they, too, terminate the agreement. Instead, for the past year Tehran has remained fully in compliance, according to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But domestically, the failure to gain sanctions relief has put huge pressure on Mr. Rouhani to strike back at the United States.
“We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq, and there was complete agreement,” he said.
But European officials say they remain mystified why Mr. Trump did not take on the Iranians for their support of terrorist groups while remaining within the deal. The result, they say, could well be a resumed nuclear crisis, as the Iranians seek to raise the pressure.
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