US President Donald Trump charged on Sunday that Iran “lost respect” for the US in the wake of the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Tehran and the US-led P5+1 world powers, and that it now feels “emboldened” by the agreement to act confrontationally on the world stage.
In a Fox News interview with Bill O’Reilly hours before the Super Bowl, Trump said the nuclear agreement that saw Tehran curb its atomic program in exchange for the lifting of punishing sanctions was “the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated; it was a deal that never should have been negotiated.”
Stopping short of saying what precisely he would do with the deal, the president said Tehran “lost respect [for the US] because they didn’t think anyone would be stupid as to make a deal like that,” and that Iran was now “emboldened” by the agreement, citing a number of incidents last year in the Persian Gulf where US ships were surrounded and otherwise harassed by Iranian military boats.
“We gave them $1.7 billion in cash which is unheard of… and we have nothing to show for it,” said Trump in reference to the revelation last September that the Obama administration had authorized the transferusing non-US currency, to settle a decades-old arbitration claim between the US and Iran. An initial $400 million of euros, Swiss francs and other foreign currency was delivered on pallets Jan. 17, the same day Tehran agreed to release four American prisoners. The Obama administration had claimed the events were separate, but later acknowledged the cash was used as leverage until the Americans were allowed to leave Iran.
During his campaign, Trump promised both to “dismantle the disastrous deal” and to “force the Iranians back to the bargaining table to make a much better deal, but in a recent call to the Saudi king promised to “vigorously enforce” the agreement.
In response to a question on Sunday on whether he was considering a military option in response to a number of recent missile tests by Iran, Trump seemed more vague than in a comment made days ago in which he said “nothing is off the table.”
During the Fox interview, Trump said: “We’ll see what happens… I never talk about military moves.”
On Friday, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran in response to a recent missile test. The sanctions target more than two dozen people and companies from the Persian Gulf to China.
The sanctions came days after the US said it was putiing Iran “on notice” for test-firing a medium range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, which the White House contends violated a UN Security Council resolution proscribing missiles that could carry a nuclear device.
The Islamic Republic has confirmed it tested a ballistic missile but denied it was a breach of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers or UN resolutions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called to reimpose sanctions immediately on Iran and has indicated he will discuss the issue with Trump at their meeting in Washington next week.
Netanyahu on Sunday said the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel must form a united front to combat Iran’s “extraordinary aggression.”
Iran is “trying to test the boundaries” of new administrations in Washington and London “with extraordinary aggression, with unusual hutzpah and antagonism,” Netanyahu told reporters as he boarded a plane to London ahead of meetings Monday with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Iran for its part has largely been dismissive of US warnings, issuing a number of threats against Washington as well as Israel.
A senior Iranian government official on Saturday warned Tehran would swiftly retaliate against Israel if the US launched a military strike against Iran.
Mojtaba Zonour, a member of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps official, boasted an Iranian missile could hit Tel Aviv in under seven minutes, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
Zonour said Tehran would strike the Israeli coastal city and “raze to the ground” a US military base in Bahrain “if the enemy makes a mistake.”
“And only seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv,” he added.
Zonour’s comments came during a Revolutionary Guard military exercise aimed at testing its missile and radar systems. The exercise was taking place in a 35,000-square-kilometer (13,515-square-mile) area in Semnan province in northern Iran.
On Saturday, another senior IRGC official issued a similar warning against the US.
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Guard’s airspace division, said: “If the enemy makes a mistake, our roaring missiles will come down on them,” according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Hajizadeh said Washington criticism of recent Iranian missile tests was “a pretext to show their animosity towards us; we are making round-the-clock efforts to defend our country’s security and if the enemy dares to make any mistake our roaring missiles will land on them.”