An attendee places his hands over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance at a rally against the Iran nuclear deal in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Iran Accuses Trump of `Bullying' as Nuclear Deal Deadline Nears

(Bloomberg) -- Iran intensified its criticism of President Donald Trump days before he decides whether to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal that lifted punishing sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

“Bluster or threats won’t get the U.S. a new deal, particularly as it is not honoring the deal it has already made,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a video-message tweeted on his account.

“If the U.S. continues to violate the agreement, or if it withdraws altogether, we will exercise our right to respond in a manner of our choosing.” He accused the U.S. of “bullying” businesses into putting off investments in Iran.

Citing Iran’s missile program and its role in Middle East conflicts, Trump has ridiculed the nuclear agreement reached under his predecessor as “flawed” and a “disaster.” He has threatened to pull his nation out by May 12, despite intense lobbying from European leaders, while signaling that he might at some stage attempt to negotiate a tougher pact.

A collapse of the nuclear deal could have widespread consequences, ranging from a rise in oil prices to an increased risk of conflict should Iran resume controversial parts of its nuclear program. It would also deliver a blow to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who’s battling conservative hardliners at home.

Until recent weeks, Iranian officials had suggested the country could stand by its commitments under the deal -- which curbed uranium enrichment in return for sanctions relief -- in the face of a U.S. withdrawal, as long as other signatories that include France, the U.K., Germany, Russia and China remain supportive.

But the tone has changed, with leaders now suggesting that Iran wouldn’t have much incentive to remain bound to the accord if the U.S. left with the intention to rally its allies in the region and reimpose sanctions.

“Iran is committed to the nuclear deal but if the U.S. backs off” from the accord “we won’t stay either,” Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted by state-run Mehr news agency as saying Thursday.

In his video, Zarif pointed out that United Nations inspectors had found Iran to be complying with the deal’s terms in almost a dozen reports since early 2016.

“Let me make it absolutely clear once and for all, we will neither outsource our security, nor will we renegotiate or add on to a deal we have already implemented in good faith,” he said. “The U.S. is well-advised to finally start honoring its commitments, or it, and only it, will have to accept responsibility for the consequences of not doing so.”

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