TEHRAN: The United States is seeking “regime change” in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, adding that the current US administration is the most hostile that the Islamic Republic has faced in its four decades.
Tensions have increased between Iran and America after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a multilateral agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme in May.
“In the past 40 years there has not been a more spiteful team than the current US government team toward Iran, Iranians and the Islamic Republic,” Mr Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state TV.
Says Tehran’s response to Washington’s move on nuclear deal left the latter ‘empty-handed’
“There was a time when there was one person who had enmity. The rest were moderate. Now... the worst have gathered around each other,” he added in a speech marking the beginning of the academic year at Tehran University.
He accused the Americans of using psychological and economic warfare and questioning the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic. “Reducing the legitimacy of the system is their final goal. When they say getting rid of, regime change in their own words, how does regime change happen? Through reducing legitimacy, otherwise a regime doesn’t change,” the president said.
Washington reintroduced steps against Iran’s currency trade, metals and auto sectors in August.
With US curbs on Iran’s oil exports set to come into force next month, some Iranians fear their country is entering an economic slump that may prove worse than the period from 2012 to 2015, when it last faced major sanctions.
President Rouhani said the United States had lost against the Islamic republic’s “righteousness and wisdom” by walking out of the nuclear deal.
“Everyone knows that America has lost legally and politically by giving up on its international obligations and that we have achieved victory,” he said.
“There are but a few countries in the world that would call the US withdrawal from the JCPOA [nuclear deal] a good move,” he added.
“Those that are cautious express disappointment, those that are more frank say it was a mistake, and the outspoken say it was illegal.”
The US is due to complete the re-imposition of sanctions on Nov 5, targeting Iran’s oil sector and central bank. But Mr Rouhani said nothing would change on that day because “America has already done whatever it can”.
The other parties to the nuclear agreement — Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany — have all pledged to continue to try to make the deal work, despite their firms being vulnerable to the US sanctions if they keep doing business with Iran.
Mr Rouhani said Iran’s response had left Washington “empty-handed”. “They expected us to leave the JCPOA hours after they announced they are, and what would have happened? The case would have returned to the UN Security Council, turned against Iran and isolated us,” he said.
He said Iran had lost nothing by staying in the deal and could leave “whenever it chooses”.
Iran’s Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri also played down the impact of the planned restrictions. Iran has been able to find new partners to buy its oil even though some countries have stopped purchases, he said.
“America will certainly not be able to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero,” he said.
“America thinks Saudi Arabia can replace this oil. But right now Iran’s oil has reached more than $80 and with half the previous exports we will have the same income as before,” he added.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2018