TEHRAN: Iran said on Tuesday it would further free itself from the 2015 nuclear deal in defiance of new American sanctions as US President Donald Trump warned the Islamic republic of “overwhelming” retaliation for any attacks.

Tensions between Iran and the US have spiralled since last year when Trump withdrew the United States from the deal under which Tehran was to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

The two arch-rivals have been locked in an escalating war of words since Iran shot down a US surveillance drone in what it said was its own airspace, a claim the US vehemently denies.

On Monday, Washington stepped up pressure by blacklisting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs, saying it would also sanction Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later in the week.

‘Overwhelming force will obliterate’ Iran, warns Trump

Tehran was defiant on Tuesday, saying the new US sanctions against Iran showed Washington was “lying” about an offer of talks. “At the same time as you call for negotiations you seek to sanction the foreign minister? It’s obvious that you’re lying,” President Hassan Rouhani said.

A top security official said Iran would “resolutely” abandon more commitments under the nuclear deal on July 7. Iran had announced on May 8 that it was suspending two of its 2015 pledges and gave Europe, China and Russia a two-month ultimatum to help it circumvent US sanctions and sell oil or it would abandon two more commitments.

“As of July 7, Iran will forcefully take the second step of reducing its commitments” to the nuclear deal, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

This was so “countries who interpreted Iran’s ‘patience’ with weakness and inaction realise that Iran’s answer to the American drone’s violation of its airspace will be no different than its reaction to devious political efforts to limit Iranian people’s absolute rights,” he added.

Trump’s warning

In a series of tweets, Trump warned Iran against any attack on US interests.

“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” said the US president.

Iran and the US broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 over the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran following Iran’s Islamic revolution.

Since quitting the nuclear deal and re-imposing sanctions on Iran, Trump has moved to choke the country’s economy, blacklisted its Revolutionary Guards as a “terrorist organisation” and nearly launched a military strike in retaliation to Iran downing the US spy drone.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019