Iran yesterday accused the United States of an “unacceptable” escalation of tensions and said Tehran was showing “maximum restraint” despite Washington’s withdrawal from a nuclear deal with world powers.
Tensions were already high after President Donald Trump walked away from the accord a year ago, but they have ratcheted up recently with the US deploying an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over alleged threats from Iran.
“The escalation by the United States is unacceptable,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Tokyo, where he is holding talks with Japanese officials.
“We exercise maximum restraint... in spite of the fact that the United States withdrew from JCPOA last May,” Zarif said earlier, referring to the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
He added that Tehran remains “committed” to the deal, and said continuing assessments showed Iran was in compliance with the multilateral agreement.
Later, Zarif told reporters there was “no possibility” of negotiations with the United States to reduce spiralling tensions, describing US pressure as an “act of suicide”.
Meanwhile, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, yesterday said Tehran is preparing to increase enriched uranium and heavy water production as part of its decision to stop some commitments made under the nuclear deal,.
“The process of increasing the ‘capacity and production pace’ of enriched uranium and heavy water has started since the day the president (Hassan Rouhani) ordered it,” Behrouz told the semi-official ISNA news agency.
The nuclear deal set a limit on the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges, and restricted its right to enrich uranium to no higher than 3.67 percent, well below weapons-grade levels of around 90 percent
Zarif’s comments came after the US on Wednesday ordered non-emergency staff evacuated from its Baghdad embassy due to an “imminent” threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias.
The move added to growing fears that the long-time rivals could be on course for conflict despite both sides stressing they have no desire for war.
Trump, however, predicted Iran would “soon” want to negotiate and denied there was any discord in the White House over moves that critics say could lead to war in the Middle East.
“I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon,” the president tweeted. He also blasted media reports of White House turmoil, saying “there is no infighting whatsoever. Different opinions are expressed and I make a final and decisive decision.”
Zarif dismissed that assertion late esterday, telling reporters: “I don’t know why President Trump is confident, but it’s totally wrong.”
Growing US pressure on Iran has weakened pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani and made his hardline rivals more assertive at home and abroad, recent developments show.
Despite international scepticism, the US government has been pointing to increasing threats from Iran, a long-time enemy and also a rival of US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the threat came from Iraqi militia “commanded and controlled” by Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.