Iranian officials on Wednesday dismissed a series of demands from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying the US was afraid to face Iran in battle and vowed to push ahead with its military programs.
On Monday, Pompeo said the Trump administration was preparing to impose “the strongest sanctions in history” on Tehran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this month, as he laid out a list of demands for a new treaty.
“Iranian armed forces are now, thank God, more prepared than ever and will not wait for the permission or approval of any foreign power to develop defense capabilities,” Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, said according to Iran’s Mehr news agency, an apparent reference to their missile program.
Bagheri slammed the US as “a criminal and oppressor, isolated and angry with corrupted and oath-breaker leaders who are mercenaries of the Israeli regime.”
“This enemy, while afraid of facing Iran head-on in battle, is trying instead to exert pressure on Iran in the economic sector and through psychological warfare,” he added.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed US charges against Iran as “untrue” and alleged that Pompeo was merely repeating old allegations, “only with a stronger and more indecent tone,” Reuters reported.
“Pompeo and other US officials are trapped in old illusions … They are taken hostage by corrupt pressure groups,” he added in an interview on state television.
Bagheri was speaking at a parliament session marking 26 years since the country’s 1982 recapture of the Khorramshahr region from Iraqi control during the Iran-Iraq war.
He drew a comparison between US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s “tearing up” of the 1975 Algier Agreement signed with Iran. He added that Trump’s fate would be like that of Saddam, who was removed from power following a US invasion in 2003 and was executed in 2006.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that the new US policy risks further destabilizing the Middle East.
“The sanctions to be launched against Iran will not foster dialogue, on the contrary, they will boost the importance and power of Iran’s conservatives and weaken President [Hassan] Rouhani, who wanted to negotiate,” Le Drian told France Inter radio. “Finally, this stance is likely to put the region in further danger than it is today.”
In his speech, Pompeo argued that Iran had advanced its march across the Middle East precisely because of the nuclear deal, which saw the West lifting sanctions on Tehran in return for Iran limiting its nuclear program.
“Qassem Soleimani has been playing with house money that has become blood money. Wealth created by the West has fueled his campaigns,” he said.
“We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime,” Pompeo told the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in the nation’s capital, in his first major speech outlining Washington’s strategy for curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its “malign” regional behavior.
“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” he added.
“Sanctions are going back in full effect, and new ones are coming,” he warned further. “The Iranian regime should know this is just the beginning.”
Trump’s newly installed top diplomat also hinted at the possibility of military action should Iranian leaders reconstitute their nuclear program.
“If they restart their nuclear program, they will have big problems, bigger problems than they’ve ever had before,” he said. Pompeo also threatened to “crush” Iran’s “terrorist proxies around the world.”
Pompeo demanded that Iran come clean about all of its past nuclear work, completely stop its uranium enrichment, provide the International Atomic Energy Agency “unqualified access to all sites throughout the country,” halt its ballistic missile development and testing, end its support for Middle East terrorist groups and respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.