Zarif warns America cannot ‘expect to stay safe’
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday that it “cannot expect to stay safe” after launching what he described as an economic war against Tehran, taking a hard-line stance amid a visit by Germany’s top diplomat seeking to defuse tensions.
A stern-faced Mohammad Javad Zarif offered a series of threats over the ongoing tensions gripping the Persian Gulf. The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s decision over a year ago to withdraw America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Trump also reinstated tough sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil sector.
“Mr. Trump himself has announced that the U.S. has launched an economic war against Iran,” Zarif said. “The only solution for reducing tensions in this region is stopping that economic war.”
Zarif also warned: “Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it.”
For his part, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas insisted his country and other European nations want to find a way to salvage the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But he acknowledged there were limits.
“We won’t be able to do miracles, but we are trying as best as we can to do prevent its failure,” Maas said.
However, Europe has yet to be able to offer Iran a way to get around the newly imposed U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, a July 7 deadline — imposed by Iran — looms for Europe to find a way to save the unraveling deal.
Otherwise, Iran has warned it will resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels.
Though Zarif made a point to shake Maas’ hands before the cameras, his comments marked a sharp departure for the U.S.-educated diplomat who helped secure the nuclear deal, alongside the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani. They came after Maas spoke about Israel, an archenemy of Iran’s government.
“Israel’s right to exist is part of Germany’s founding principle and is completely non-negotiable,” Maas said. “It is a result of our history and it’s irrevocable and doesn’t just change because I am currently in Tehran.”