Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday threatened the United States and the United Kingdom with reciprocal action, saying “peace for peace, war for war and oil for oil”.
In a speech he delivered at Iran’s foreign ministry, where he praised the foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who has been sanctioned by the U.S., Rouhani also declared, “Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars”.
He added, “We are for negotiations. If America is really ready for talks it should dismantle all its sanctions and refrain from criminal actions and economic terrorism. The path for America is real repentance.”
Reports in the past week indicated that Zarif was invited to the White house during his last trip to New York in mid-July, but he turned it down, not having received an approval from Tehran. Later in the month the U.S. announced sanctions against Zarif, but it is not clear how far these will impact his freedom of movement around the world.
President Donald Trump’s administration has both notched up the pressure on Iran in recent months and it has also repeatedly offered unconditional talks.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has banned any new negotiations with the U.S., saying that Washington is unreliable to deliver on its commitments.
Rouhani in his speech condemned sanctions imposed on Khamenei and Zarif, saying, “We do not wish to negotiate with America now, but even if we wanted to talk, who is supposed to be the ultimate decider. You know that without the assent of the Leader (Khamenei) it is not possible to run the important affairs of the state.” He added that after sanctioning Khamenei the U.S. has sanctioned Zarif and asked rhetorically, “Who is supposed to negotiate”.
At the same time, Rouhani claimed that one of the reasons he won the presidential elections was his worldview of having good relations with the rest of the world. However, decision in Iran are made in a collective manner and the presidential administration is not the sole decision-maker.
Iran’s Supreme Leader presides over a vast bureaucracy of his own, which often parallels that of the government and his has veto power over all important issues, especially matters of foreign relations, security and the military.
In addition, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) wields deep influence in the affairs of the country, sometimes appearing to act on its own.
Rouhani exhibited the hardline rhetoric of his conservative political rivals in his Tuesday speech, challenging both the United Sates and the United Kingdom.
“Wed downed your drone (U.S. drone) with our own homegrown missile…Your friend (Britain) seized our ship but we did not let it go and captured their ship”.
Rouhani was speaking about an Iranian supertanker seized at Gibraltar with the help of UK for violating EU sanctions followed by Iran seizing a British tanker in the Persian Gulf region. Both tankers are still detained.
He also threatened, “You cannot close the Strait of Gibraltar but have the Strait of Hormuz open”.
Rouhani’s admission that seizure of the British tanker was a retaliation, contradicts earlier remarks by Zarif and other officials that the vessel was detained for violating maritime rules and must await the outcome of Iranian legal procedures.
Rouhani also quipped that the UK says it wants to bring more naval vessels to the region, but why its warship, which was nearby, did not intervene to stop Iran’s seizure of the tanker. He added, “Security in exchange for security – straits in exchange with straits”.