Rouhani: US trying to divide Iran, must remove ‘knife’ of sanctions to negotiate
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Rouhani: US trying to divide Iran, must remove ‘knife’ of sanctions to negotiate

Islamic Republic's president says Tehran 'welcomes' talks, but Washington has shown it cannot be trusted

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives an interview on August 6, 2018. (Press TV screen capture)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives an interview on August 6, 2018. (Press TV screen capture)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Monday that Washington’s call for new negotiations at the same time as it reimposes crippling sanctions “makes no sense.”

He spoke after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to restore nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, increasing economic pressure and renewing his criticism of what he called a “horrible, one-sided” nuclear deal. The sanctions are set to go into effect at midnight US time.

In a televised interview, Rouhani rejected Trump’s call for renewed negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, saying it was a statement intended only for American audiences and to foment chaos in Iran.

Rouhani said “Negotiations with sanctions doesn’t make sense. They are imposing sanctions on Iranian children, patients and the nation.” He was referring to fears that essential supplies such as medicines would be affected when sanctions return.

He said Iran had “always welcomed negotiations,” but that Washington would first have to demonstrate it can be trusted.

“If you’re an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.”

Washington must prove, he said, “whether it wants to resolve the problem through negotiations.” It should also apologize to the Iranian people for its past behavior, he added.

A man takes a glance at a newspaper with a picture of US president Donald Trump on the front page, in the capital Tehran on July 31, 2018. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)

“How do they show they are trustworthy? By returning to the JCPOA,” he said, using the technical name for the 2015 nuclear deal.

Rouhani fell back on the rhetoric of many of his predecessors by referencing the 1953 CIA-backed coup that overthrew Iran’s elected prime minister and cemented the shah’s rule.

“I have no pre-conditions” for negotiating with America “if the US government is ready to negotiate about paying compensation to the Iranian nation from 1953 until now,” Rouhani said. “The US owes the Iranian nation for its intervention in Iran.”

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark agreement in May, paving the way for sanctions to be reimposed.

In his statement, Monday, Trump said US policy is to levy “maximum economic pressure” on the country, while hoping for new negotiations between Iran and the United States that would result in another, more wide-ranging, accord.

“Reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions through today’s actions further intensifies pressure on Tehran to change its conduct,” Trump said.

Rouhani accused the US of seeking to “launch psychological warfare against the Iranian nation and create divisions among the people.

“The Americans thought that they can add to our social and economic problems through increasing pressure,” he said.

President Donald J. Trump signs an EO on Iran Sanctions in the Green Room at Trump National Golf Club, August 5, 2018, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

He praised European nations for resisting US calls to join it in renewing sanctions, but said the EU’s measures to combat Washington’s actions were not enough.

“We are still waiting,” he said.

Rouhani maintained that Iran can rely on China and Russia to help its oil and banking sectors as the US ramps up sanctions in the coming months.

Questioned about the sharp devaluation of Iranian currency in recent months and its threat to Iran’s economy, Rouhani blamed “chronic problems” with the nation’s banking system “from before the revolution.”

He also claimed the fault was with international restrictions, US actions, and internal unrest — saying the rial’s troubles began after protests swept through the country in January.

An man speaks on his mobile phone as he crosses a street in a shopping district in central Tehran on August 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Iran’s rial has lost more than half its value since April, in part over fears of renewed sanctions, but also thanks to an ill-judged attempt to fix the value of the rial that month and make it illegal to trade at a higher rate.

The unofficial rate for the rial fell to a record 119,000 to the dollar last week (where it had previously been around 60,000), before rallying in response to government efforts to address the crisis, and stood at 98,500 on Sunday night.

Iran’s central bank has lifted a ban on exchange offices, allowing them to resume work in a move aimed at bringing in badly needed hard currencies. The bank also gave the green light for Iranian “legal institutions and businesses” to bring gold and foreign currency into Iran, according to the governor, Abdolnasser Hemmati.

Israeli officials on Monday praised the reimposition of US sanctions and called on Europe to join the US in reimposing sanctions.

“This is an important moment for Israel, for the United States, for the region, and for the entire world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video released moments after Trump signed new sanctions into law.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 29, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool Yedioth Ahronoth/Flash90)

But the EU expressed dismay at the move and said it would move to protect countries that remain in Iran.

“We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the US, due to the latter’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany said in a joint statement, using the nuclear deal’s technical name.

“The JCPOA is working and delivering on its goal, namely to ensure that the Iranian program remains exclusively peaceful,” the statement went on. “It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world.”

The European Commission vowed to oppose the new US sanctions regime, updating its so-called Blocking Statute that is aimed at “sustaining trade and economic relations between the EU and Iran.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini addresses a joint press conference before chairing a regular session of the International Donor Group for Palestine (Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC)) at the European Commission in Brussels on March 20, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND)

“The Blocking Statute allows EU operators to recover damages arising from US extraterritorial sanctions from the persons causing them and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court rulings based on them,” the Commission said in a press release.

“It also forbids EU persons from complying with those sanctions, unless exceptionally authorized to do so by the Commission in case non-compliance seriously damages their interests or the interests of the Union.”

The other signatories of the 2015 JCPOA — Russia and China — also opposed the America withdrawal from the landmark pact and criticized the reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, arguing that Tehran had kept up its part of the deal.

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