Iran’s Zarif says US failed to build coalition in the Gulf

US navy ships conducting a replenishment-at-sea evolution with fast combat support ship in the Arabian Sea. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 August 2019

Iran’s Zarif says US failed to build coalition in the Gulf

  • Zarif said US allies are too ashamed of it
  • He also refused to meet with Trump

TEHRAN: The United States is unable to build a naval coalition to escort tankers in the Gulf because its allies are too “ashamed” to join it, Iran’s foreign minister said Monday.

“Today the United States in alone in the world and cannot create a coalition. Countries that are its friends are too ashamed of being in a coalition with them,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told a news conference in Tehran.

“They brought this situation upon themselves, with lawbreaking, by creating tensions and crises.”

Iran and the United States have been locked in a battle of nerves since May 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a landmark 2015 deal placing limits on Iran’s nuclear program and began reimposing sanctions.

Tensions soared after the Trump administration stepped up a US campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran, with drones downed and tankers mysteriously attacked in Gulf waters.

In response, the United States has been seeking to form a coalition whose mission — dubbed Operation Sentinel — it says is to guarantee freedom of navigation in the strategic Gulf waters.

However, it has been struggling to build such a coalition, with European countries reticent and believed to be concerned about being dragged into a possible conflict.

Asked on Monday about reports that he had been invited to meet Trump in the White House, Zarif said he had turned it down despite the threat of sanctions against him.

“I was told in New York I would be sanctioned in two weeks unless I accepted that offer, which fortunately I did not,” said the Iranian minister.

The New Yorker magazine reported on Friday that Senator Rand Paul met Zarif in the US on July 15 and had Trump’s blessing when he extended an invitation to the Iranian minister to go to the White House.

The United States imposed sanctions against Zarif on Wednesday, targeting any assets he has in America and squeezing his ability to function as a globe-trotting diplomat.

Protests rage in sanctions-hit Iran amid regime crackdown

Updated 9 min 20 sec ago

Protests rage in sanctions-hit Iran amid regime crackdown

  • Police officer dies in confrontation with protesters in the western city of Kermanshah
  • US condemns regime's ‘attempted shutdown of internet’

JEDDAH: Protests in Iran are a continuation of popular discontent among citizens, a regional expert told Arab News on Sunday, as a policeman was shot dead amid unrest at rising oil prices.

Maj. Iraj Javaheri died of his wounds a day after a confrontation with protesters in the western city of Kermanshah on Saturday, provincial Police Chief Ali Akbar Javidan said.

President Hassan Rouhani defended the controversial hike in gasoline prices during Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, arguing the alternatives were less favorable.

 Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed the sharp gasoline price rises and blamed the protests on Iran’s opponents and an act of “sabotage” by foreign foes.

But Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami, an expert in Iranian affairs, said that Rouhani’s remarks “may be read by protesters as a sign of weakness from the government and thus lead to raising the ceiling of popular demands, especially as most of the slogans chanted by the demonstrators hit Khamenei personally and the regime of the Islamic Republic, burning images of Khamenei and attacking the headquarters of the Basij forces.

“The coming days remain important, especially if the protests continue until Friday,” he said. “The protests are expected to widen and increase in frequency.”

Access to the internet has been restricted since the demonstrations broke out.

Netblocks, an internet monitoring website, said the country was in the grip of a shutdown.

“Confirmed: Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown; realtime network data show connectivity at 7 percent of ordinary levels after 12 hours of progressive network disconnections,” it said on Twitter.

The internet curbs are apparently aimed at preventing protesters from communicating with each other and sharing videos on social media.

“We condemn the attempted shutdown of the internet. Let them speak!” US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Twitter on Sunday.

Al-Sulami also said it was clear that US sanctions on Tehran “have strained the Iranian budget, making it move toward the easiest option to absorb funds from inside Iran.”

He added: “All this was the spark that encouraged the Iranian people to start a new wave of demonstrations.”