US sanctions threaten the security of the Middle East, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has warned. Araqchi made his statement while on a diplomatic tour of the Gulf region, following military tension with the US.
Speaking in Kuwait on Monday, Araqchi said that Washington’s policy of economic sanctions threatened “the security of the entire region,” according to a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website. “Countries in the region should be vigilant about this threat,” he added.
Araqchi’s pronouncement came after several weeks of escalating military tensions in the Persian Gulf. The US deployed an aircraft carrier group and bomber aircraft to the region citing unspecified Iranian threats, and following alleged acts of Iranian “sabotage” on commercial oil tankers near the Emirati port of Fujairah, earlier this month.
Both sides have bandied threats at each other, but Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the notion of open conflict two weeks ago, saying “We don't seek a war, and they don’t either.” Nevertheless, US President Donald Trump announced the deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East on Saturday, ostensibly for “defensive” purposes.
After waving the stick, Trump then dangled the carrot on Monday. “I do believe that Iran would like to talk,” he said. “And if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also.”
Although Araqchi stated on Sunday that “there are no direct or indirect talks between Iran and the US,” the diplomat embarked on a tour of three Gulf states the same day, to discuss cooperation and development. Araqchi visited Oman on Sunday and Kuwait on Monday, and will wrap up the tour with a visit to Qatar.
At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Pakistan and Iraq over the weekend. Speaking in Baghdad on Sunday, Zarif welcomed dialog with Iraq, which fought a brutal war against Iran under Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. The eight-year conflict claimed more than a million lives and ended in stalemate in 1988.
Zarif proposed a non-aggression pact with its neighbors, some of whom are US allies. However, he also cautioned that the Islamic Republic is ready to defend itself against any attack, be it “an economic war or a military one.”
The Iranian FM also spoke out against US sanctions, enforced since Washington unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran Deal) last year, saying the US is “bullying other countries into compliance with its unilateral measures.”
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