Zarif: Netanyahu, Bolton, Gulf leaders ‘thirst for war’ between Iran and US
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Zarif: Netanyahu, Bolton, Gulf leaders ‘thirst for war’ between Iran and US

Islamic Republic’s foreign minister targeted with fresh sanctions, along with its supreme leader, Khamenei

American navy ships USS Kearsarge  and USS Bainbridge deployed alongside the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf waters near Iran, May 17, 2019 (MCSN Michael S. Singley, US Navy)
American navy ships USS Kearsarge and USS Bainbridge deployed alongside the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf waters near Iran, May 17, 2019 (MCSN Michael S. Singley, US Navy)

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Zavad Zarif, said Monday that leaders in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US “despise diplomacy and thirst for war,” following a new round of American sanctions leveled against Iranian leaders.

US President Donald Trump “is 100% right that the US military has no business in the Persian Gulf. Removal of its forces is fully in line with interests of US and the world,” Zarif tweeted hours after the sanctions were announced. “But it’s now clear that the #B_Team is not concerned with US interests — they despise diplomacy, and thirst for war,” he added.

Zarif has used the term “B team” in recent months to refer to a handful of top officials in the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia whom  he claims are pushing for war with Iran. They include US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

Zarif was among those targeted by the new US sanctions, which also extended to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and eight senior military figures.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C) answers questions after meeting with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono at the foreign ministry in Tokyo on May 16, 2019. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP)

Trump signed the punitive financial measures against the Islamic Republic in the Oval Office, calling them a “strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions.”

Tensions are running high after Iran shot down a US spy drone last week and Trump considered, then canceled, a retaliatory strike.

In a pair of tweets on Monday, Trump told other countries to protect their own Gulf oil shipments and declared the US has only limited strategic interest in the “dangerous” region.

“Why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation,” Trump said on Twitter.

“All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey. We don’t even need to be there,” he said.

Trump’s complaints were echoed by his top diplomat, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who encouraged Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Monday to shoulder more of the burden of maritime surveillance of Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy head of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, in Abu Dhabi on June 24, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP)

Pompeo flew to the US allies on Monday, meeting with Abu Dhabi’s bin Zayed.

In Abu Dhabi, he said he was hoping that more than 20 countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, would work together on building maritime security.

“We’ll need you all to participate, your military folks,” Pompeo said. “The president is keen on sharing that the United States doesn’t bear the cost of this,” he added.

Iran, crippled by existing US sanctions that include the blocking of most of its crucial oil exports, sought to play down the latest US move.

“Are there really any sanctions left that the United States has not imposed on our country recently or in the past 40 years?” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said shortly before Trump signed his order.

“We… do not consider them to have any impact,” he said.

The Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran, including on its energy sector, last November, after pulling America out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers in May 2018.

The US designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group in April — the first ever for an entire division of another government — added another layer of sanctions, making it a crime under US jurisdiction to provide the paramilitary force with material support.

The moves are part of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran that aims to eliminate all of its revenue from oil exports which the US says funds destabilizing activity throughout the Mideast and beyond.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order to increase sanctions on Iran, in the Oval Office of the White House, June 24, 2019, in Washington. Trump is accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Iran’s UN ambassador said Monday that conditions were not ripe for a dialogue with the US after Trump imposed new sanctions on Tehran.

As the UN Security Council met behind closed doors, Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi told reporters that the United States must stop “its economic war against the Iranian people.”

“You cannot start a dialogue with somebody who is threatening you, who is intimidating you,” said Ravanchi. “The atmosphere of such a dialogue is not ready yet.

“As long as this threat is there, there is no way that Iran and the US can start a dialogue,” said the ambassador.

Ravanchi renewed an appeal for talks with regional countries on improving security and said he had asked the United Nations to play a role in promoting such a forum.

The Security Council was meeting at the request of the United States after Iran last week shot down a US surveillance drone that Tehran insists had ventured into its airspace — a claim rejected by Washington.

Trump said he had called off US military strikes against Iran because he decided there would be too many deaths, but tensions soared anyway.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters ahead of the meeting that stepped-up sanctions by Washington had to be matched with intensified diplomatic efforts.

“We are at a time when maximum pressure only makes sense with maximum diplomacy,” said Delattre.

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