Iran warns over 'economic war' waged through U.S. sanctions
TEHRAN, Iran (UPDATED) – Iran's foreign minister warned Monday, June 10, of the consequences of waging "economic war" against the Islamic republic through US sanctions, saying those conducting and supporting it could not expect to "remain safe."
"One cannot expect an economic war to continue against the Iranian people and that those waging this war and those supporting it remain safe," Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a joint news conference in Tehran with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
"The only way to decrease tensions in the region is to stop the economic war," he added, noting Germany and the European Union could have an "important role" to play in defusing the situation.
Iran signed a landmark nuclear accord with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States in 2015 , leading to sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
But the US administration of President Donald Trump has imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran and, according to Tehran, waged an "economic war" against it after walking away from the deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The visiting German foreign minister said his country would do its utmost to ensure tensions do not escalate.
"There is war in Syria and in Yemen, fortunately not here," Maas said in Tehran. "We want to do everything we can to keep it that way" for Iran.
"Nevertheless, the tensions here in the region are worrying, and we fear that single events can trigger developments that end in violence, and we want to prevent this under all circumstances," he added.
Maas met Zarif in Tehran, and both said they had discussed the future of the nuclear deal and regional issues.
Yet the press conference after their meeting appeared tense as the two ministers seemingly agreed on little in their remarks.
"We had a serious, frank and rather long discussion," Zarif told reporters at the news conference.
Ahead of his meeting with Zarif, the German minister acknowledged the economic benefits Tehran hoped for from the deal were now "more difficult to obtain" but urged Iran to fully respect the agreement.
It was in Iran's "political and strategic interest to maintain this agreement and the dialogue with Europe," he said.
The nuclear deal, Maas said, is "extraordinarily important" for Europe's security and they "have made the greatest effort to meet (their) commitments."
"We will not work miracles. But we are doing all we can to prevent a failure."
But Iran's foreign ministry begged to differ.
"What the Europeans must do, and have done has so far, has not satisfied" our interests, ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a news conference on Monday.
The US sanctions reimposed last year targeted crucial parts of Iran's economy, especially the oil and banking sectors.
"The summary of Maas' remarks: we are nothing without America and are not capable of doing anything, do not expect much from us," Abdollah Ganji, the managing director of ultra-conservative Javan daily mockingly wrote on his Telegram channel after the ministers' meeting.
The oil embargo has hurt Iran's main supply of foreign revenues, while the banking sanctions have scared away foreign investors and made money transfers through official channels nearly impossible for Iranian businesses.
Europe tried to respond to the US withdrawal by setting up a special trade mechanism called INSTEX that would allow legitimate trade with Iran to continue without falling foul of US sanctions, but it has yet to become operational.
Iran has given Europe, China and Russia until July "to make their commitments operational."
Otherwise Tehran said it would stop complying with the nuclear deal's uranium enrichment restrictions and resume building a heavy-water reactor at Arak that was shut down as part of the deal.
The Gulf region has been undergoing a tense period for about a month over increased strain between Iran and the United States on one hand and the Islamic republic and US allies such as Saudi Arabia on the other.
They were exacerbated as the US military announced it was dispatching reinforcements to the Middle East to deal with an alleged "Iranian threat" and also by the sabotage of 4 ships at the entrance to the Gulf on May 12.
Washington and Riyadh have accused Tehran of being behind those attacks, a charge it has dismissed as "laughable."
Meanwhile a international investigation has found a "state actor" to be likely responsible for the attacks, without blaming Tehran. – Rappler.com