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U.S. Plans Summit Aimed At Tehran And Stricter Oil Sanctions

BAHRAIN -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo poses for a photo with Vice Admiral James Malloy (L) Commander, US Naval Forces, U.S. Central Command/Commander, US 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces before taking a tour of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Iranian officials have lashed out at the United States and Poland about a Middle East and particularly Iran-focused global summit Washington plans to host in Poland in February.

It is still not clear how many countries will attend the summit and what is the exact goal President Donald Trump’s administration is pursuing by organizing an international gathering.

In the meantime, economic pressures on Iran mounted dramatically as the United States announced that Washington will grant no more waivers to buyers for importing Iranian oil, in another push to choke off Tehran's sources of income, reported the National on Saturday.

It is hard to miss the signs that Washington this week has ramped up the pressure on Tehran.

Iran's National Security Chief Ali Shamkhani on Saturday January 12 labelled the U.S. as a "looser" whose idea of exerting "maximum pressure" on Iran has led to holding a "conference."

Shamkhani said the measure marked the United States' "confusion and lack of success."

A day earlier, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif reacted to his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's remarks who broke the news about the summit during his Middle East tour.

Zarif termed the plan a "desperate anti-Iran circus" and particularly lashed out at Poland, reminding that Iran had saved polish World War II refugees, probably not mindful of the fact that the Islamic Republic did not exist then and was established some 35 years after the end of the war.

The February 13 and 14 event to be held in Warsaw would focus on stability and security in the Middle East, including on the "important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence," said Pompeo on Friday.

Europe’s participation would be an important factor for the summit to be considered a success. Major European countries did not approve of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and promised trade facilities to Iran to calm its protests as the U.S. sanctions hurt its economy.

Reacting to Pompeo's remarks in a January 11 tweet, Zarif made references to a 1996 summit in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, "Reminder to host/participants of anti-Iran conference: those who attended last U.S. anti-Iran show are either dead, disgraced, or marginalized. And Iran is stronger than ever." He went on to write that "The Polish Government cannot wash the shame: while Iran saved Poles in WWII, it now hosts desperate anti-Iran circus."

Zarif posted a picture that shows former US President Bill Clinton, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin as well as former Israel leader Shimon Peres, and former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Zarif's deputy Abbas Araqchi also said that Iran has respected Polish refugees for decades and preserved thousands of their graves in Tehran for 77 years now, although graveyards can be demolished after 30 years based to Iranian laws.

According to the State Department, tens of states with an interest in bringing about stability in the Middle East are expected to be represented at the Warsaw meeting. Pompeo has said that the summit is aimed at promoting stability and freedom in the Middle East, with an emphasis on confronting Iran's influence in the region.

The event looks like yet another landmark in the deterioration of relations between Tehran and Washington which have been more than tense since the U.S. pull-out from the nuclear deal in May and re-imposition of sanctions against Iran in August and November 2018.

In another development, Iran Action Group Chief at the Department of State, Brian Hook, who broke the news of removing the waiver to import Iranian oil granted to a select group of friendly countries, said, "Iran is now increasingly feeling the economic isolation that our sanctions are imposing... We do want to deny the regime revenues," adding that "Eighty per cent of Iran’s revenues come from oil exports."

Indeed Iran's oil exports have halved in the past six months, but U.S. waivers granted to countries such as South Korea, Japan and India have enabled Tehran to export more than a million barrels a day.

"We want a new and better deal [with Iran] but in that process, we are denying the Iranian regime billions and billions of dollars and they are facing a liquidity crisis," Hook said, adding that Iran would not return to the negotiating table without pressure, the National quoted him as saying.