Iran abandons nuclear deal limits after US kills general

Iran abandons nuclear deal limits after US kills general

Iran insisted in a state TV broadcast it remained open to negotiations with European partners.

By NASSER KARIMI, JON GAMBRELL and ZEINA KARAM / Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Sunday it would no longer abide by any of the limits of its unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, abandoning the accord’s key provisions that block Tehran from having enough material to build an atomic weapon.

Iran insisted in a state television broadcast it remained open to negotiations with European partners, who so far have been unable to offer Tehran a way to sell its crude oil abroad despite U.S. sanctions. It also didn’t back off of earlier promises that it wouldn’t seek a nuclear weapon.

However, the announcement Sunday represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in May 2018. It also further raises regional tensions, as Iran’s longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to be able to produce an atomic bomb.

The announcement came Sunday night after another Iranian official said it would consider taking even-harsher steps over the U.S. killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets Sunday in Iran to walk alongside a casket carrying the remains of Soleimani, the former leader of its expeditionary Quds Force that organizes Tehran’s proxy forces in the wider Mideast.

The leader of one such proxy, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, said Soleimani’s killing made U.S. military bases, warships and service members spread across the region fair targets for attacks. A former Revolutionary Guard leader suggested the Israeli city of Haifa and “centers” like Tel Aviv could be targeted.

Iran’s state TV cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country will not observe limitations on its enrichment, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium as well as research and development in its nuclear activities.

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has in a statement announced its fifth and final step in reducing Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA,” a state TV broadcaster said, using an acronym for the deal. “The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations.”

It did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran’s program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA “will continue as before.”

Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament voted in favor of a resolution calling for an end of the foreign military presence in their nation, an effort aimed at expelling the 5,000 U.S. troops stationed there over the war against the Islamic State group.

Soleimani’s killing has escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of trading attacks and threats that have put the wider Middle East on edge. The conflict is rooted in Trump pulling out of Iran’s atomic accord and imposing sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Iran has promised “harsh revenge” for the U.S. attack, which shocked Iranians across all political lines. Many saw Soleimani as a pillar of the Islamic Republic at a moment when it is beset by U.S. sanctions and recent anti-government protests.

Retaliation for Soleimani could potentially come through the proxy forces which he oversaw. Soleimani’s longtime deputy Esmail Ghaani already has taken over as the Quds Force’s commander.

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia separately warned Americans “of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks.”

Late Saturday, a series of rockets launched in Baghdad fell inside or near the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy.

Trump wrote on Twitter afterward that the U.S. had already “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 did not identify the targets but added that they would be “HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

The 1954 Hague Convention, of which the U.S. is a party, bars any military from “direct hostilities against cultural property.” However, such sites can be targeted if they have been re-purposed and turned into a legitimate “military objective,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Iran, home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites, has in the past reportedly guarded the sprawling tomb complex of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, with surface-to-air missiles.

After thousands in Baghdad on Saturday mourned Soleimani and others killed in the strike, authorities flew the general’s body to the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz. An honor guard stood by early Sunday as mourners carried the flag-draped coffins of Soleimani and other Guard members off the tarmac.

The caskets then moved slowly through streets choked with mourners wearing black, beating their chests and carrying posters with Soleimani’s portrait. Demonstrators also carried red Shiite flags, which traditionally both symbolize the spilled blood of someone unjustly killed and call for their deaths to be avenged.

Officials brought Soleimani’s body to Ahvaz, a city that was a focus of fighting during the bloody, 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran in which the general slowly grew to prominence. After that war, Soleimani joined the Guard’s newly formed Quds, or Jersualem, Force, an expeditionary force that works with Iranian proxy forces in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Authorities then took Soleimani’s body to the city of Mashhad later Sunday. State TV estimated that a million mourners came out to the Imam Reza shrine to pay their respects, although that number could not be independently verified. Soleimani’s remains will go to Tehran and Qom on Monday for public mourning processions, followed by his hometown of Kerman for burial Tuesday.

This marks the first time Iran honored a single man with a multi-city ceremony. Not even Khomeini received such a processional with his death in 1989. Soleimani on Monday will lie in state at Tehran’s famed Musalla mosque as the revolutionary leader did before him.

Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional policy of mobilizing militias across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, including in the war against the Islamic State group. He was also blamed for attacks on U.S. troops and American allies going back decades.

Although it’s unclear how or when Iran may respond, any retaliation was likely to come after three days of mourning declared in both Iran and Iraq.

Mohsen Rezaei, a former leader of the Guard, told a crowd of mourners in Tehran that the Israeli city of Haifa and other “centers” like Tel Aviv could be targeted. Rezaei earlier alleged without offering evidence that Israel leaked information to the U.S. about Soleimani’s whereabouts, which allowed them to carry out the drone strike.

“Rest assured we will level to the ground Haifa and Israeli centers so that Israel will be wiped out,” he said. “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.”

Iranian officials planned to meet Sunday night to discuss taking a fifth step away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, one that could be even greater than planned, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told journalists.

“In the world of politics, all developments are interconnected,” Mousavi said.

Iran previously has broken limits of its enrichment, its stockpiles and its centrifuges, as well as restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

The Iranian parliament on Sunday opened with lawmakers in unison chanting: “Death to America!” Parliament speaker Ali Larijani compared Soleimani’s killing to the 1953 CIA-backed coup that cemented the shah’s power and to the U.S. Navy’s shootdown of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 that killed 290 people. He also described American officials as following “the law of the jungle.”

Rain fell at the shrine in Mashhad late Sunday as an imam delivered a sermon over the coffins of Soleimani and others stood. The crowd surged and shouted as he preached. Mourners threw clothing up to officials accompanying the remains to have the fabric be brushed against the caskets in a belief it would carry God’s blessings to them.

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

Talk to us

More in Nation-World

President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive at the steps of the U.S. Capitol for the start of the official inauguration ceremonies, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Watch the presidential inauguration here

Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Biden; Justice Sonya Sotomayor will swear in Harris as vice president.

Members of the Washington National Guard stand at a sundial near the Legislative Building, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Governors in some states have called out the National Guard, declared states of emergency and closed their capitols over concerns about potentially violent protests. Though details remain murky, demonstrations are expected at state capitols beginning Sunday and leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington National Guard members activated for inauguration

The extra security comes in the wake of the insurgence at the U.S. Capitol last week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., displays the signed article of impeachment against President Donald Trump in an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Trump impeached after Capitol riot in historic second charge

Ten Republicans fled the president, joining Democrats who said he needed to be held accountable.

An American flag flies over the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
After excusing violence, Trump acknowledges Biden transition

A number of White House aides were discussing potential mass resignations before Trump’s term ends.

Nashville Chief of Police John Drake speaks at a news conference Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Drake spoke before five officers told what they experienced when an explosion took place in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning. The officers are part of a group of six officers credited with evacuating people before the explosion happened. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Suspect in Nashville explosion died, feds say

Police officers provided harrowing details of responding to the Christmas morning bombing.

Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Portage, Mich., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool)
COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort

The first of two shots are expected to be given to health care workers and nursing home residents.

A passenger aircraft at Ciudad Real International Airport in Ciudad Real, Spain, on Oct. 27, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Paul Hanna.
Airlines face ‘mission of the century’ in shipping vaccines

Cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, bikes and even donkeys may be needed to get the drug to rural areas.

FILE - Election workers, right, verify ballots as recount observers, left, watch during a Milwaukee hand recount of presidential votes at the Wisconsin Center, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Milwaukee. Wisconsin finished a partial recount of its presidential results on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 confirming Democrat Joe Biden's victory over President Donald Trump in the key battleground state. Trump vowed to challenge the outcome in court. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Completed Wisconsin recount confirms Biden’s win over Trump

Dane County was the second and last county to finish its recount, reporting a 45-vote gain for Trump.

FILE - This Nov. 18, 2020, file photo provided by the Utah Department of Public Safety shows a metal monolith in the ground in a remote area of red rock in Utah. The mysterious silver monolith that was placed in the Utah desert has disappeared less than 10 days after it was spotted by wildlife biologists performing a helicopter survey of bighorn sheep, federal officials and witnesses said. The Bureau of Land Management said it had received credible reports that the three-sided stainless steel structure was removed on Nov. 27.  (Utah Department of Public Safety via AP, File)
Mysterious silver monolith disappears from Utah desert

It vanished less than 10 days after it was spotted by wildlife biologists from a helicopter.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Fauci: US may see ‘surge upon surge’ of virus in weeks ahead

He does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas.

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 20, 2017 file photo a Boing 737 MAX 9 airplane performs a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, France. Europe’s aviation regulator has taken a step closer to letting the Boeing 737 Max fly again. It published a proposed airworthiness directive on Tuesday that could see it clear the aircraft within weeks to resume flying after nearly two years and a pair of deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, file)
European regulator moves to clear Boeing 737 for flight

The move comes after the FAA already cleared the Boeing 737 Max earlier this month.

FILE - This May 5, 2019, file photo shows Alex Trebek gestures while presenting an award at the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Pasadena, Calif. Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek died Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, after battling pancreatic cancer for nearly two years. Trebek died at home with family and friends surrounding him, “Jeopardy!” studio Sony said in a statement. Trebek presided over the beloved quiz show for more than 30 years. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
Alex Trebek, ‘Jeopardy’ host and trivia master, has died at 80

He had suffered a series of medical complications in recent years, and died at his home.