Former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) Commander Mohsen Rezaei said the Rouhani administration “paid a price” and made “tactical and strategic mistakes” by “hastily” negotiating the 2015 nuclear agreement with the United States and five other world powers. In an , the Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council called on the government to work through international forums to pressure the United States to remove remaining sanctions against Iran as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (J.C.P.O.A.). “One tactical mistake was haste because the addendum [to the nuclear deal] regarding the economy is very weak,” he said, adding that Tehran should have required the U.S. Department of Treasury to announce specific instructions to international companies to do business with Iran. That is the reason, he argued, that international banks and companies are hesitant to do business with Iran. He added that the strategic mistake was that the Rouhani government presumed that the next U.S. administration, particularly a Republican one, would honor the deal signed by the Obama administration. But Rezaei credited Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for adding nine additional clauses to the nuclear agreement that favors Iran. He did not elaborate about them. 

Rezaei also warned that the Trump administration is trying to keep the deal but impose new sanctions for non-nuclear reasons. He urged the government not to take a “passive and defensive approach” to increasing pressure by the Trump administration. “It is logical not to provoke Trump,” he emphasized, “but we should also not give them space so that they come and play in our field.”

Comment: While President Donald Trump has not acted on his campaign promise to tear up the Iran nuclear agreement upon taking office, he has ordered an inter-agency review of the deal and has taken a tougher line on Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism. Last week, Trump also accused Iran of breaking the “spirit” of the nuclear accord and hinted that it was possible Washington would walk away from the accord.

Although Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif played down Trump’s remarks by telling reporters in Tehran that “don’t pay attention to Trump’s words,” Iranian leaders now appear to be uncertain about the future of the deal. As Rezaei’s interview indicates, there is also a concern in Tehran that the Trump administration may also try to re-impose sanctions on Iran without abandoning the agreement.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote to Congress that Iran remained in compliance with the nuclear accord but raised concern about Iran’s missile work and subversive activities in the Middle East.

Iran has said in the past that it will not renegotiate the nuclear deal. Last month, Zarif also warned that his government was “completely ready” to restart its nuclear program if the United States failed to adhere to the nuclear agreement. “If America reneges on the deal to the level that the continuation of the JCPOA harms our national interests, the Islamic Republic of Iran is completely ready to return to the pre-JCPOA situation and will be even stronger,” he was by the state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency on Monday.  “In the past two months, as a result of efforts and notable capabilities of our country’s nuclear scientists, we have been able to bring into operation the most advanced centrifuges that were only an idea at the time the J.C.P.O.A. was approved.”