Iran pulls out of nuclear agreement after U.S strike
(CN) – In an announcement on Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country is abandoning the 2015 nuclear agreement after the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Friday in Baghdad.
Iranian state television IRNA reported the statement, which said the country would no longer abide by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that lifted offered Iran relaxed sanctions in exchange for limits to its nuclear operations.
“Iran will set their limits based on their technical needs,” the statement says. “Iran will continue to work with international nuclear agencies and will return to JCPOA limits once all sanctions are removed from the country.”
The limits outlined in the agreement include levels of uranium enrichment materials and nuclear research and development. The country had already broken those limits following the resumption of sanctions by the U.S.
After weeks of protests against the government over a hike in fuel prices, hundreds of thousands Iranians gathered for Soleimani’s funeral procession.
Government officials delayed the funeral ceremony to Monday, citing a delay of the procession by the enormous turnout of supporters for the former commander of Quds Force, Iran’s military forces that operate in the Middle East.
In Tehran, former military leader Mohsen Rezaei told mourners that Israeli cities could be targets of Iranian attacks. Rezaei has alleged that Israel helped the U.S. to locate Soleimani for its drone attack.
“Rest assured we will level to the ground Haifa and Israeli centers so that Israel will be wiped out,” Rezaei told the crowd. “The issue is very serious for the Iranian nation. You hit us and you should get hit. You attacked us and it is the Iranian nation’s right.”
Soleimani, regarded as one of the most powerful figures in the Islamic Republic, operated as the head of the Quds Force. After disembarking from a plane at the Baghdad international airport, he was killed on an access road close to Baghdad’s international airport along with nine others.
Tensions have remained high between the U.S. and Iran after President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018. The killing of Soleimani was the latest attack in the conflict between the two countries after Iran-backed Iraqi militias stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad over New Year’s.
On Friday, the State Department urged Americans in Iraq to leave the country.
“Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately,” the State Department tweeted Friday. “Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.”
Iran said it would seek “harsh revenge” for the killing. In Lebanon, Hezbollah said the general’s death meant U.S. troops and bases in the region were fair game for targets.
On Twitter, President Trump warned that the U.S. would make more attacks if “Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets.”
“We have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.” (Parenthesis and capitalization in original.)
Separately, the Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution Sunday asking its government to expel the estimated 5,200 U.S. troops from the country. Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called for “urgent measures” in a speech made to Parliament, saying that the government should either expel U.S. forces or limit them to only train Iraqi soldiers.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the rounds on Sunday morning talk shows, but refused to answer whether the U.S. would leave if asked by the Iraqi government.
“It is the United States that is prepared to help the Iraqi people get what it is they deserve and continue our mission there to take down terrorism from ISIS and others in the region,” he said.
Calling it a “decisive defensive action,” the Defense Department released a statement shortly after the drone strike, saying it was meant to curtail future attacks against American troops and diplomats abroad.
“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more,” the statement said, adding that Soleimani “approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad” earlier in the week.