Senior Iran leaders praised the North Korean regime this weekend and claimed the Islamic Republic is encouraged to follow Pyongyang's nuclear pathway following the Trump administration's decision last week to decertify Iranian compliance with the landmark nuclear agreement.
Iran's threat to become the next North Korea, which has itself played a longtime and key role in providing the Islamic Republic with nuclear technology and know-how, is likely to set the stage for increased confrontation with the United States following President Donald Trump's decision to request that Congress reconsider the nuclear agreement to make it far tougher for Iran to continue its military buildup and pursuit of nuclear equipment.
Iran is more likely to follow the North Korean nuclear model—which includes the illicit transfer of nuclear technology and the routine test of this equipment—despite the U.S. decision to remain a party to the nuclear agreement in the short term. Congress now has 60 days to decide whether it will reimpose all economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Obama administration as part of the agreement.
Iranian leaders spent a large portion of the weekend threatening the United States and vowing to "continue the path" to a nuclear weapon as a result of Trump's decertification and nascent moves by Congress to level a series of harsh new penalties on Iran.
The United States and Iran continue to head closer towards a diplomatic clash over Trump's desire to see Congress level a series of new restrictions on Tehran that would greatly curb the nuclear and military actions it can legally pursue under the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chair of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, lashed out at Trump early Monday, saying that Iran and other countries will have no choice but to "follow North Korea" as a result of the decertification effort.
"The U.S. president showed by his remarks again that the U.S. government is not trustworthy and the U.S. behavior towards the nuclear deal persuades views of countries like North Korea," Boroujerdi was quoted as telling his Turkish counterpart during a meeting in Tehran on Monday, according to the country's state-controlled press organs.
In a separate Monday meeting with a French official, Boroujerdi vowed that Iran would restart its pursuit of nuclear weapons technology if Congress follows through with new sanctions and other penalties.
"If the U.S. Congress decides to violate and abrogates the nuclear deal and its undertakings, the Islamic Republic of Iran will have no motivation to continue the path," Boroujerdi was quoted as saying.
The Washington Free Beacon first reported late Friday that congressional leaders are already considering legislation that would tighten restrictions on Iran's pursuit of ballistic missile technology and refusal to permit international nuclear inspectors into its contested military sites.
The legislation, if signed by Trump, would create a parallel nuclear agreement that addresses many of what Congress and the current White House view as key flaws in the original accord. Iran would not be party to such an agreement, but would face harsh economic sanctions if it does not follow these restrictions.
Iranian leaders have already said this remains a non-starter. Iran will not compromise on its ballistic missile program—a key international concern—and refuses to renegotiate any portion of the original nuclear deal.
The ballistic missile issue in particular is "not negotiable at all," according to Boroujerdi and other senior Iranian government officials who have voiced similar comment in the previous months, as well as following Trump's decertification.
Ali Akbar Velayati, the Iranian Supreme Leader's senior adviser on international affairs, also stated on Monday that Iran would not renegotiate any portion of the JCPOA.
"The nuclear deal will not be renegotiated at all and we will not hold renegotiations," the top aide was quoted as saying on Monday.