Iranian general: We won’t talk to US under pressure of sanctions

New IRGC chief says Washington trying to force Tehran to come to the table as exemptions for some countries over energy exports come to an end

In this undated photo released by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein Salami speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran (Sepahnews via AP)
In this undated photo released by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein Salami speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran (Sepahnews via AP)

The new head of Iran’s hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on Monday said the country wouldn’t negotiate with the United States while it maintains economic sanctions on his country.

“By putting economic pressure on Iran, America wants to force us to enter talks with this country … any negotiation under the circumstances is surrendering to America and it will never happen,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami said, according to Reuters.

Last week, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the United States of “consequences” if it prevents Tehran from selling oil, after Washington ended sanction exemptions over the Islamic Republic’s energy exports.

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would be willing to negotiate with the US if it reverses economic sanctions and apologizes for its “illegal” actions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dedicates the final phase of a new oil refinery in the city of Bandar Abbas, Iran, February 18, 2019. (Official website photo)

Rouhani said reports that Iran had rebuffed American offers to negotiate were untrue.

Last Monday the US announced that, in a bid to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero, it would from May 2 end the waivers that had been been granted to eight countries including India, China, South Korea and Turkey on buying Iranian crude when it reimposed sanctions on Iran in November.

The move targets the Islamic Republic’s main economic earner and adds to sanctions pressure that has built up under Trump, who pulled his country out of a 2015 international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. It will choke off more than $50 billion of annual Iranian income, which the US says the country uses to fund destabilizing activity in the Middle East and beyond.

Earlier this month the US designated the IRGC a terror organization, the first time it has ever blacklisted an entire military branch. Tehran has raged against the move, and responded by labeling the US military a terror group under its own designation.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with a mission to defend the clerical regime, and the force has amassed great power both at home and abroad. The Guards’ prized unit is the Quds Force, headed by powerful general Qassem Soleimani, which supports Iran-backed forces around the region, including Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. It also oversees the country’s ballistic missile program and runs its own intelligence operations.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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