Iran will defend itself against any aggression: foreign minister

Zarif said they hope to have balanced relations with their gulf neighbors. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 May 2019
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Iran will defend itself against any aggression: foreign minister

  • Iraq said they will act as an intermediary between US and Iran
  • Iran said they proposed to sign a non-aggression pact with Gulf countries

BAGHDAD: Iranian will defend itself against any military or economic aggression, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday, calling on European states to do more to preserve a nuclear agreement his country signed.

Speaking in a news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Al-Hakim, Zarif said his country wanted to build balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors and that it had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

“We will defend against any war efforts against Iran, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength,” he said.

Meanwhile,  Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi arrived on Sunday in Oman and discussed "regional developments" with Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate’s minister responsible for foreign affairs, the state-run Oman News Agency reported.
Bin Alawi said earlier this week that his country is trying "with other parties" to calm tensions between the United States and Iran.

Strains have increased between Iran and the United States, which is a firm backer of Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, after this month’s attack on oil tankers in the Gulf region that Washington has blamed on Iran.

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the United States has sent an aircraft carrier and an extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concerns about the risks of conflict in a volatile region.

Iraq stands with Iran and is willing to act as an intermediary between its neighbor and the United States, Hakim said, adding that Baghdad does not believe an “economic blockade” is fruitful, a reference to US sanctions.

“We are saying very clearly and honestly that we oppose the unilateral actions taken by the United States. We stand with the Islamic Republic of Iran in its position,” said Hakim. The United States and Iran are Iraq’s two main allies.

Washington has been seeking to tighten sanctions against Iran, as relations worsen under President Donald Trump, who last year pulled out of a nuclear agreement his predecessor Barack Obama had signed with Iran alongside other world powers in 2015.

In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani floated the idea of holding a referendum over Iran’s nuclear program, Iranian media reported.

A referendum over the controversial nuclear program could give Iran’s leaders space to maneuver and a chance to resolve the standoff with the United States.

Top Iranian leaders have said they are not seeking war with the United States and officials speaking to Reuters from Tehran said last week that despite the sharpened rhetoric with Washington, authorities are trying to avoid an open conflict.

“Article 59 of the Constitution (referendum) is a deadlock breaker ... and could be a problem-solver at any junction,” the semi-official news agency ILNA quoted Rouhani as saying late on Saturday.

Rouhani said that, when he was a top nuclear negotiator in 2004, he had proposed holding a referendum on the nuclear issue to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran has only held three referendums since its 1979 Islamic revolution — to approve the setting up of an Islamic Republic and then to approve and amend the constitution.

Washington says it has built up the US military presence in the region, accusing Tehran of threats to US troops and interests. Tehran has described US moves as “psychological warfare” and a “political game”.

Separately, a deputy commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said the US military presence in the Middle East was at its “weakest in history” despite the talk of a build-up.


Saudi crown prince, Pompeo send a message to Iran: End hostility or pay the price

Updated 17 June 2019
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Saudi crown prince, Pompeo send a message to Iran: End hostility or pay the price

  • The US secretary of state said the US was discussing a possible international response
  • MBS hoped the Iranian regime “would opt to become a normal state and cease its hostile policy”

JEDDAH: The US will take all actions necessary — “diplomatic and otherwise” — to deter Iran from disrupting Gulf energy supplies, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Sunday.

Pompeo spoke hours after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the Kingdom would “not hesitate in dealing with any threat against our people, sovereignty and vital interests.”

The twin warnings to the regime in Tehran followed last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely assumed to have been carried out by Iran.

“We don’t want war. We’ve done what we can to deter it,” Pompeo said in a TV interview. “But the Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behavior.

“What you should assume is we are going to guarantee freedom of navigation throughout the Strait of Hormuz. This is an international challenge, important to the entire globe. The US is going to make sure that we take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, that achieve that outcome.”

Pompeo said the US was discussing a possible international response, and he had made a number of calls to foreign officials about the tanker attacks.

He said China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia relied heavily on freedom of navigation through the strait. “I’m confident that when they see the risk, the risk to their own economies and their own people, and outrageous behavior of Iran, they will join us in this.”

The Saudi crown prince, in an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, said the Kingdom had “supported the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran out of our belief that the international community needed to take a decisive stance against Iran.”

He hoped the Iranian regime “would opt to become a normal state and cease its hostile policy.”

Crown Prince Mohammed said the Kingdom’s hand was always extended for peace, but the Iranian regime had disrespected the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Tehran by attacking the two oil tankers in the Gulf, one of which was Japanese.

“It also employed its militias to carry out a shameful attack against Abha International Airport. This is clear evidence of the Iranian regime’s policy and intentions to target the security and stability of the region.”

The crown prince said the attacks “underscore the importance of our demand before the international community to take a decisive stance against an expansionist regime that has supported terrorism and spread death and destruction over the past decades, not only in the region, but the whole world.”

Prince Mohammed’s interview was “a message to Tehran, and beyond Tehran, to the international community,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“He sent out the message that we do not want a war in the region. He was offering peace, as is our nature, and that is what we are doing now. But if it is going to affect our vital interests, our vital resources and our people, we will defend ourselves and take action to handle any threat.  

“We are facing aggressive, barbaric and terrorist threats from Iran, and we must take rapid and decisive action against that. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is sending a message to the world that there must be a solution.”