LONDON (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader on Wednesday launched a fresh broadside at Washington’s rejection of a nuclear accord with Tehran, saying the U.S. pullout showed the Islamic Republic could not deal with a country that did not abide by its commitments.
In his first public remarks since U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded Iran make sweeping policy changes, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed revulsion at what he suggested was the casual and boastful way the Trump administration had abandoned the accord.
“The Islamic Republic cannot deal with a government that easily violates an international treaty, withdraws its signature and in a theatrical show brags about its withdrawal on television,” he said in excepts of his remarks posted on his official website.
Listing what he called his experiences of U.S. government behavior toward Tehran over the decades, Khamenei said: “The first experience is that the Islamic Republic cannot deal with America. Why? Because America is not loyal to its commitments.”
“Iran was committed to the deal. They (the Americans) have no excuse. International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly verified Iran’s commitment. But you see they (Americans) easily cancel this international agreement.”
“The current U.S. president will meet the same fate as his predecessors … and will vanish from history,” he said, referring to President Donald Trump.
Khamenei did not directly address remarks made by Pompeo on Monday that threatened Iran with “the strongest sanctions in history” if it did not curb regional activities such as support for armed groups in countries like Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Pompeo spoke two weeks after Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal that had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program. European powers see the accord as the best chance of stopping Tehran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Turning to other Western powers, Khamenei said Iran did not want to start a fight with Europe but experience had shown France, Germany and Britain followed their ally Washington on the “most sensitive issues”.
France, one of several European powers dismayed by the U.S. withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear accord, said Washington’s method of adding more sanctions on Tehran would reinforce the country’s dominant hardliners.
And German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton that Europe remained “very, very united” in supporting the deal because it feared a proliferation of atomic weapons on its doorstep.
A senior Iranian military official, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, said Iran would not bow to Washington’s pressure to limit its military activities. The United States “does not have the courage for military confrontation and face-to-face war with Iran,” he said.
“ENDANGERING THE REGION”
In Damascus, Syria’s deputy foreign minister dismissed the notion of a withdrawal of Iranian forces.
In Syria’s seven-year-old conflict, Iran has provided vital support to President Bashar al-Assad’s military. Its forces and the militias it backs from the region, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, helped Damascus claw back control of major cities from militants and rebels.
“Whether Iranian forces or Hezbollah withdraw or stay in Syria is not up for discussion because it’s the (business) of the Syrian government,” Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV cited Faisal Mekdad as saying.
Pompeo told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing the administration intended to work with “as many partners, friends and allies as possible” to stop what he described as all of Tehran’s nuclear and non-nuclear threats.
However, in Paris, France’s foreign minister said the U.S. decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and implement a tough strategy on the country would strengthen Tehran’s hardliners and endanger the region.
“We disagree with the method because this collection of sanctions which will be set up against Iran will not enable dialogue and, on the contrary, it will reinforce the conservatives and weaken President Rouhani. This posture risks endangering the region more,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter radio.
He said Paris would continue to implement the pact even if it did agree with Washington that Iran’s ballistic missile activity and regional hegemonic ambitions needed to be curbed.
He said Paris shared U.S. concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile “frenzy” and regional aims, but the 2015 deal was the best chance of stopping Tehran developing a nuclear bomb.
Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Parisa Hafezi in Ankara, Ellen Francis in Beirut, Editing by Janet Lawrence, Richard Balmforth, William Maclean