TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has harshly criticized UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent comments about Iran posing a threat to the region
In remarks published on his website Saturday, Khamenei called the UK “a source of evil and misery for the peoples of the region” for the past two centuries.
Earlier this month, May told a summit of Gulf leaders that their countries must all, “work together to push back against Iran’s aggressive regional actions, whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria or in the Gulf itself.”
May told the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Bahrain that Britain will help Gulf states “push back” against aggressive regional actions by Iran, in a televised address.
May reaffirmed British support for traditional allies in the region, while also seeking to strengthen post-Brexit trade.
“I want to assure you that I am clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and to the wider Middle East,” she said.
However, she also said that the nuclear deal signed last year between world powers and Iran is “vitally important for regional security.”
The agreement, signed in Vienna in July 2015 and in force since January 2016, was the signature diplomatic breakthrough of President Barack Obama’s second term. It calls on Tehran to curb its nuclear program, including its ability to enrich uranium, in exchange for sanctions relief from the US and other nations. Britain was a party to the agreement.
“We secured a deal which has neutralized the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons for over a decade,” she said. “It has already seen Iran remove 13,000 centrifuges together with associated infrastructure and eliminate its stock of 20 per cent enriched uranium.”
The mainly Sunni Arab Gulf monarchies and Shiite Iran are bitter regional rivals, at odds over a range of issues including the wars in Syria and Yemen.
Iran’s alleged “interference” in the region is a central preoccupation of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council whose most powerful member is Saudi Arabia.
GCC countries are concerned about Iran’s growing influence in the region, especially after last year’s nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers took a step towards ending its international isolation.
Britain and Iran have reopened their embassies in each other’s countries and exchanged ambassadors. Direct British Airways flights between London and Tehran also have resumed after the nuclear accord.