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Hassan Rouhani takes oath for second term with swipe at Trump

The Guardian logo The Guardian 8/6/2017 Saeed Kamali Dehghan Iran correspondent
Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during his inauguration ceremony in Tehran.: Hassan Rouhani: ‘Those who want to tear up the nuclear deal should know that they will be ripping up their own political life by doing so.’ © Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock Hassan Rouhani: ‘Those who want to tear up the nuclear deal should know that they will be ripping up their own political life by doing so.’

Hassan Rouhani has been sworn in for a second term in office in a Tehran ceremony over the weekend that highlighted the European support for the nuclear deal with the west despite Donald Trump’s threats to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement.

Rouhani, who was re-elected in a landslide victory in May, took an oath before parliamentarians and foreign dignitaries, including the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and senior diplomats from the UK, France and Germany.

The president said in his speech, which was aired live on the national television, that “Iran would not be the first to pull out of the nuclear deal, but it will not remain silent about the US repeated violations of the accord”.

Despite his belligerent rhetoric, Trump has twice reluctantly certified Iran’s compliance with the deal, allowing the nuclear-related sanctions to remain suspended, but it has emerged that he has instructed aides to find a way to declare Tehran in violation of the agreement.

“Today is the time for the mother of all negotiations, not the mother of all bombs,” Rouhani said, referring to the US dropping its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat in Afghanistan in April. The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, was among those present at Rouhani’s inauguration.

“The US has showed a lack of commitment in its implementation of the nuclear deal because its policymakers are addicted to the illegal and futile policy of sanctions and humiliation,” Rouhani said. “This has proved the US to be an unreliable partner to the world and even to its longtime allies.”

Referring to Trump, he added: “We do not wish to engage with political novices ... Those who want to tear up the nuclear deal should know that they will be ripping up their own political life by doing so and the world won’t forget their noncompliance.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said in its latest report that Iran was complying with the terms of the agreement, but Tehran has complained that the US is reneging from its share of obligations. Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said last week that Tehran has formally complained to the joint commission supervising the implementation of the accord over the US senate’s new sanctions against Iranian entities, imposed over Tehran’s testing of missiles.

In Tehran, Mogherini “reiterated the EU’s unwavering commitment to the deal, recalled its historic significance, multilateral dimension and its importance for regional and global stability”, an official statement said.

Local media quoted Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, as telling Mogherini: “Mr Trump is trying to destroy the nuclear accord at Iran’s expense, and Europe should be conscious of this.”

Sadegh Zibakalam, a Tehran University professor, said the inauguration sent a powerful message to Trump. “The fact that Ms Mogherini as the representative of the EU foreign policy was here showed that the EU values the nuclear deal greatly,” he told the Guardian.

“Internationally, Iran has had a win and a loss,” he said. “Our loss is that Obama is gone and the Democrats have been replaced by the Republicans. The win is that Iran has been successful in strengthening its relations with Europe. The main reason Trump has not been able to dismantle the agreement is that the EU is resisting and the US knows very well that the EU is serious in keeping the nuclear deal.”

In a sign of thawing relations with Europe, Mogherini was popular in Iran. A group of Iranian parliamentarians came under attack domestically after an image circulated online showing them jostling to take a selfie with Mogherini. One MP, Farajollah Najafi, apologised after largely negative reactions online.

Many Iranian social media users said the MPs’ behaviour was embarrassing and demeaning and in sharp contrast to women’s rights in Iran. Rouhani has been under pressure in recent weeks to nominate female ministers as he mulls a cabinet reshuffle. In 2013, he unveiled his cabinet on the same day he was inaugurated, but he has yet to release the list for the new cabinet.

Rouhani’s inauguration dominated front pages in Tehran. “Inauguration with an anti-Trump flavour” read the headline of Iranian daily Khorasan. “Rouhani, the 12th tenant of Pastor” read Kelid’s front page, referring to Rouhani as being the 12th president after the 1979 revolution to occupy the presidential palace in Pastor Street, Tehran.

The ultra-conservative newspaper Keyhan was critical of Rouhani’s speech, saying in a headline: “Unveiling the mother of negotiations instead of confronting the mother of sanctions.”

Rouhani’s inauguration came two days after his re-election was formally endorsed by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On Thursday, Khamenei urged Rouhani to conduct “extensive interaction with the world”.

Nasser Hadian, a political expert based in Tehran, said the inauguration ceremony showed that the world was recognising Iran. “The world understands that, in spite of differences, there is a mechanism inside Iran through the ballot box that helps resolve big issues.”

Hadian said that despite his global advances, Rouhani faces pressure from hardliners domestically. “His opponents want to limit his power in the political sphere, especially in regards to the civil society and social freedoms. They have all the means and the facilities to prevent him from doing so.”

The reformists want him to deliver on social freedoms, especially human rights, Hadian said, but the conservatives want him to remain loyal to revolutionary values. “His biggest challenge and priority in the second term will be the economy.”

Hadian said: “The nuclear deal won’t collapse because of Iran. There is a consensus inside the country that the nuclear deal should survive, so Iran won’t violate first, but if the US wants to make excuses and, for example, demand inspection of military sites without any valid evidence then the world knows what the US is up to. The world is not stupid.”

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