Barbs, Flag Burning and Despair: Iran Reacts to U.S. Deal Exit

(Bloomberg) -- Iran’s top leaders attempted to shrug it off, while lawmakers burned a U.S. flag in parliament. Newspapers split along their usual ideological lines. Ordinary Iranians poked fun or despaired on social media. Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal provoked a wide range of reactions on Wednesday, underscoring the deep uncertainty the Islamic Republic now faces. The extent of the damage to Iran’s struggling economy -- and any popular anger that follows -- will help determine what happens next, but here’s how the country has taken the news so far.

Barbs, Flag Burning and Despair: Iran Reacts to U.S. Deal Exit

The Leaders

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, dismissed Trump’s Tuesday afternoon speech as “silly and superficial.” He then laid into the U.S. for attempting to thwart Iran at all costs since the 1979 revolution. “The Iranian nation is standing tall and the previous (U.S.) presidents are dead and their bones turning to dust and the Islamic Republic is still here,” he said. “This man, too, will die and his corpse will be eaten by insects.”

Shortly after Trump’s White House announcement, President Hassan Rouhani told the nation on TV that he was glad a “pesky creature” had left the multi-party agreement that capped Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. He said his country will continue to work with the other participants -- though he warned that it could step up enrichment of uranium if they fail to ensure tangible benefits for Iran.

The Front Pages

Newspapers aligned with Rouhani’s more moderate political factions repeated the president’s barb from the night before. They also railed against U.S. duplicity but pointed to a future for the nuclear deal -- known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- minus America. Signatories Germany, France, U.K., China and Russia have all stressed their continued support for the accord.

“The JCPOA stayed, the U.S. left,” was the headline of the Hamshahri, which has the largest circulation in the country. “Coup d’etat of the madman,” said the reformist Hamdeli’s front page. The Ettelaat daily declared “the end of the world’s trust in the empire of lies.”

Conservative publications seized on the biggest setback yet to Rouhani’s landmark diplomatic achievement, reflecting their long-held opposition to the accord and the decision to engage with the West that made it possible, especially the U.S.

“Trump tore up the JCPOA, now it’s time to set it on fire,” the hardline Kayhan newspaper said. “Outcome: Nothing” was the front page headline in Vatan Emrooz.


In the Iranian chamber, several lawmakers took to the podium ahead of the session’s opening, where they burned the U.S. flag as well as the text of the nuclear deal, state TV reported.

“The American nation is at the hands of a self-centered and politically inexperienced person,” parliament Speaker Ali Larijani told the assembly, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. “We have dealt with conditions worse than these in the past 40 years and will give a response that will make the U.S.” regret its decision.

The Military

Top officers condemned the U.S. for not sticking to its obligations, and said Trump’s move reflected a long-standing animosity toward Iranian influence in the Middle East.

“The nuclear deal wasn’t to the liking of our nation and we accepted it with dignity to end conflicts,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri said, according to Tasnim news agency. Iran is “faced with a state that doesn’t even stand by its own signature.”

Iran’s nuclear program was evidently “a pretext” and Washington’s real issue “is with Iran’s power and its influence in the region,” Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.


Hours after Trump and Rouhani spoke, the hashtag #untr_US_table was being shared on social media as Iranians took a swipe at the unreliability of the U.S. under Trump’s leadership. Others expressed emotions ranging from mockery to despair.

“America left the group,” wrote web developer Maria. “People have suffered enough, now they need to think about how they can feed they children so that they don’t sleep hungry in this critical situation that is affecting everyone in #IRAN,” tweeted Reza. Another user’s message was more succinct: “Winter is coming.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.