Iran's president issued a direct threat to the West on Tuesday, claiming his country is capable of restarting its nuclear program within hours—and quickly bringing it to even more advanced levels than when it signed the nuclear deal. The AP reports Hassan Rouhani's remarks to lawmakers follow the Iranian parliament's move earlier this week to increase spending on the country's ballistic missile program and the foreign operations of its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. The bill—and Rouhani's comments—are seen as a direct response to new US legislation that imposed mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The legislation also applies terrorism sanctions to the Revolutionary Guard and enforces an existing arms embargo.
If Washington continues with "threats and sanctions" against Iran, Rouhani said in parliament on Tuesday, Tehran could easily restart the nuclear program. "In an hour and a day, Iran could return to a more advanced (nuclear) level than at the beginning of the negotiations" that preceded the 2015 deal, Rouhani said. He did not elaborate. Rouhani's remarks were likely an attempt to appease hard-liners at home who have demanded a tougher stand against the US. But Rouhani also tempered his own threat, adding that Iran seeks to remain loyal to its commitments under the nuclear deal, which opened a "path of cooperation and confidence-building" with the world. (Read more Iran stories.)