Iranian official: We never should've signed nuclear deal

Khamenei's military adviser says Iran made a mistake by signing 2015 deal, clarifies his country won't negotiate while under sanctions.

Elad Benari ,

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and the military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told NBC News on Monday that his country should never have signed the 2015 nuclear deal that has now been renounced by US President Donald Trump.

Shamkhani, who rarely speaks to the Western press, told the US network that there were people in Iran who felt that signing the 2015 nuclear pact, known as the JCPOA, was a mistake.

Asked if he was one of those people, Shamkhani replied, "Yes. … I'm just following the viewpoints of my nation, the people of Iran."

In the interview, Shamkhani painted the US as the aggressor and prime source of tension in the region and warned the US to "act with wisdom." He added the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran would not bring Iran to heel or bring it back to the nuclear negotiating table.

"The sanctions campaign is not for negotiation, it's for making us surrender," said Shamkhani. "As long as this approach is taken by the United States, Iran will never ever seek negotiations."

"We had a case of successful negotiations with the JCPOA. How come the United States departed from it?" he continued.

Shamkhani said the Iranian public has long dealt with international sanctions and proof of the failure of Trump administration policy was obvious in the mood on the street.

"Just walk the streets of Tehran and see how energetic our people are and you will realize that [what the US has] been trying to achieve has not materialized," he claimed.

Trump withdrew last May from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and later imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which went into effect in November of 2018.

Iran, angry over the sanctions, has started to roll back its commitments under the deal.

Recently, Iran warned the EU that it is prepared to end all of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear, and restore its nuclear program to what it was before the agreement, when Tehran placed no limits on any areas of nuclear development.

Shamkhani also told NBC News in Monday’s interview that Iran is not a source of terror in the region but a stabilizing force, whose "martyrs" sacrificed their lives and defeated terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS). He did not explicitly deny that Iranian played a role in sabotaging oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz in recent months, but emphasized Iran's role as a guarantor of security in the region.

Shamkhani denied that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, claiming such weapons are forbidden under Islam and have not provided security to those who have them, like Israel. He also denied that he had a "military wish" for Israel's destruction, saying the Palestinian people would decide Israel's fate.

"I believe that the one that is seeking the destruction of Israel is the country that does not see the realities on the ground," said Shamkhani, taking a swipe at the Trump team's Israel policies and Trump adviser Jared Kushner's Middle East peace initiative.

"They declare Al Quds, or Jerusalem, as the capital of Israel. They pursue the 'Deal of the Century' project," said Shamkhani.

Iran, continued Shamkhani, is not basing its decisions on US policy on who is president, or on the possibility that Trump will not serve a second term. He added, however, that he thinks Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign is failing because the US public and Western allies are "questioning" his leadership.

Should the US and Iran become engaged in an open military conflict, Shamkhani warned, Iran has "multiple instruments at hand, including the proxy war," though he did not specify who those proxies might be. Iran is a long-time supporter of Hezbollah, Hamas and the Yemenite Houthi rebels.

Both the US and its regional allies would be in "a terrible situation" in the event of war, he added.