Iran’s supreme leader: There will not be a war with the US

Khamenei tells Iranian officials that Washington ‘will have to withdraw’ in standoff, adds there will be no nuclear talks with current US administration

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets with Iranian government officials in Tehran on May 14, 2019. (Khamenei's official website)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets with Iranian government officials in Tehran on May 14, 2019. (Khamenei's official website)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that “there is not going to be any war” with the United States, but that there will also be no renegotiation of the nuclear deal.

In a speech to state officials, Khamenei said the showdown between the Islamic republic and the United States was a test of resolve rather than a military encounter.

“This face-off is not military because there is not going to be any war. Neither we nor them [the US] seek war. They know it will not be in their interest,” he said, as quoted on the official website.

Khamenei spoke to a gathering of Iranian state officials in Tehran on Tuesday in comments televised to the country.

In tweets following the comments, Khamenei wrote that the “Iranian nation’s definite option is resistance against US and in this confrontation, US will have to withdraw…. This confrontation is a confrontation of willpowers and our willpower is stronger because in addition to our willpower we also enjoy relying on God.”

In separate tweets Tuesday evening, Khamenei explained Iran would not renegotiate the nuclear deal, as the Trump administration demands, because “negotiations are like a poison as long as the US remains the same way it is. And with the current US government is additionally poisonous.”

He said US officials “aren’t even decent and don’t abide by anything.”

He added: “They say let’s negotiate your defensive arms, and why you make missiles with certain range; reduce the range so that if we strike your bases you won’t be able to strike back at us! Or they say let’s talk about your strategical influence in the region, i.e. you give up on it.”

Khamenei’s flurry of comments on television and social media came just hours after a close adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned US President Donald Trump that it “looks like you are going to get a war” with Iran, and as the US deployed additional warships to the region.

In an English-language tweet tagging Trump, Hesameddin Ashena said, “You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead.”

US National Security Adviser John Bolton unveils the Trump Administration’s Africa Strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, December 13, 2018. (Cliff Owen/AP)

In an apparent reference to mustachioed US National Security Adviser John Bolton, he added, “That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache.”

“Good luck in 2020!” he concluded sarcastically.

On Tuesday, in a rare television interview, Tehran’s envoy to the United Kingdom Baeidinejad dismissed the US deployments as “theatrical maneuvers by the US administration” and warned the US not to “try to test the determination of Iran.”

Talking with Britain’s Sky News, Baeidinejad said: “While we have renounced any escalation in the region, I would assure you that Iranian armed forces are fully ready for any eventuality in the region, so they should not try to test the determination of Iran to confront any escalation in the region.”

Iranian envoy to the United Kingdom Hamid Baeidinejad in an interview with Britain’s Sky News on May 14, 2019. (Sky News screen capture)

The comments come amid rising tensions in the region that saw the deployment earlier this month of an American aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf and attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure.

On Sunday, four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were struck off the United Arab Emirates coast in an attack US officials reportedly suspect was carried out at Iran’s behest.

Iran has called for an investigation into what it called an “alarming” incident, while a senior member of Iran’s parliament blamed Israel on Tuesday for the attacks on the ships, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility.

The attacks “appeared to be Israeli mischief,” Behrouz Nemati, Iran’s governmental leadership spokesman, said after a closed-door session of parliament, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

The USS Abraham Lincoln sails south in the Suez canal near Ismailia toward the Persian Gulf, May 9, 2019. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Also Tuesday, drone attacks by Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen shut down one of Saudi Arabia’s main oil pipelines, further ratcheting up Gulf tensions after the mysterious sabotage of the tankers.

The assaults came days after an Israeli television report said Israel had warned the US that Iran was considering targeting Saudi oil production facilities.

Tensions have risen since Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and restored US sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

European powers have vowed to fight to save the nuclear deal and the European Union has urged Iran to respect the international agreement, saying it aims to continue trading with the country despite US sanctions.

The Emirati-flagged oil tanker A. Michel, May 13, 2019, one of four ships damaged in what Gulf officials called a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. (UAE National Media Council via AP)

An American military team’s initial assessment was that Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies used explosives Sunday to blow large holes in four ships anchored off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a US official said.

The incident came after the White House ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region on May 4. The US has reportedly been reviewing a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran accelerates its uranium enrichment or attacks American targets. Trump has denied the claim of planning to send troops to counter Iran.

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