Iranian President Rouhani issued an ultimatum to the European signatories of the JCPOA to assist Tehran with exporting its oil and normalizing its access to the global banking system within sixty days, or else Iran would take further actions. On the same day, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that Tehran could dismiss the enriched uranium limit “whenever we wish, and would do the enrichment at any volume and level.”
In response, the European Union and foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany expressed their continued support for the JCPOA but warned Iran not to carry out its ultimatum to disregard selected limitations to its nuclear program.
In a rare hour-long interview on May 1, the former head of Iran’s state broadcaster Mohammad Sarafraz spoke publicly about his time at the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). He was appointed director general of IRIB by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2014, after serving as the head of its 24-hour English-language network PressTV for several years, until he was prematurely replaced in 2016. Sarafraz’s short-lived tenure at IRIB contrasts sharply with that of his predecessor who directed the state broadcaster for a decade.
The Iranian president warned that Europe has sixty days to prevent US sanctions from impacting Iran’s banking and oil sectors. The news was formally relayed to the remaining signatories of JCPOA: Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed the news in a tweet: “On May 8 2018, US withdrew from #JCPOA, violated #UNSCR 2231 & pressured others—incl[uding] #E3—to do the same after a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue Our action is within the terms of JCPOA. EU/E3+2 has a narrowing window to reverse this.”
A video went viral of a local man approaching the governor of Iran’s southern Khuzestan province amid the flooding and asking him why the government spends lavishly on the Syrian and Lebanese people but not on its own. US and Israeli officials—as well as the Iranian opposition in exile—also saw an opportunity to ride the waves of Iranians discontented with their current dire economic situation.
Some have expressed hope for a more open environment as the government seeks to shore up popularity despite rising prices and diminished economic opportunity. Others believe Iran should stand up to US “bullying” despite the costs.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had extended the tenure of the former IRGC top commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, by another three years in 2017 after he had served for a decade. The decision to replace him with Salami was unexpected and premature.
The sanctions’ political aim is to make it harder for the Iranian government to govern and reach its political, military and economic ambitions. But in reality, the sanctions do more harm to the already struggling private sector, which employs a large part of the Iranian workforce, and consequently to average Iranians.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Iran has raised the question of whether Pakistan can be the friend Tehran needs to survive the Trump administration’s growing hostility.
In a series of public and private appearances last week in New York—on the sidelines of a UN preparatory meeting for a 2020 review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made clear that Iran’s patience with the Trump administration and the international community may be coming to an end.