Conservative clerics: Rouhani must apologize for Iran nuclear deal

Iran's Assembly of Experts blasts US withdrawal from 2015 accord.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / HO / KHAMENEI.IR)
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO / HO / KHAMENEI.IR)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must apologize to the people of Iran for signing the Iran nuclear deal, the country's conservative Assembly of Experts said in a statement released Sunday.
In light of the "damage" caused by President Donald Trump's decision that the United States would withdraw from the agreement, the statement "honestly and frankly" called on Rouhani to apologize for "not adhering to the red lines" set by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The Assembly of Experts is an elected body of theologians charged by Iran's constitution with selecting and overseeing the Supreme Leader, the religious scholar who wields ultimate power in the Islamic Republic. In practice, however, the body has become a rubber stamp for arch-conservative Khamenei.
When nuclear negotiations were underway in 2015, Khamenei listed seven "red line" issues that the Iranian diplomatic team, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, had to make part of the final agreement. These included no long-term restrictions on Iranian nuclear research and development and the immediate removal of all economic and other sanctions upon the signing of the accord.
Despite Khamenei's warning, both these "red lines" were ignored in the final agreement, signed by Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France — and Germany. Nevertheless, the agreement could not have been reached without his approval.
Politicians representing more moderate and conservative political visions have battled over the future of the Islamic Republic in recent decades. Supreme Leader Khamenei is aligned with the most conservative elements, while Rouhani is largely supported by the more moderate, reformist camp.
The Assembly of Expert's statement comes as Rouhani attempts to salvage his principal foreign policy achievement.
"If the remaining five countries continue to abide by the agreement, Iran will remain in the deal despite the will of America," Rouhani said during a meeting with Sri Lanka's president Sunday.
Foreign Minister Zarif made similar conciliatory remarks during a visit to Beijing Sunday.
"We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive (nuclear) agreement," Zarif said.