War rhetoric ratchets up again as Iranian president says his people will never give up the fight for their independence.
Iran will not surrender to US pressure and will never abandon its goals even if it is attacked, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Iran’s top military chief said the standoff between Tehran and Washington was a “clash of wills”, warning any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Tensions are festering between the two countries after Washington sent more military hardware to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.
After pulling out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, US President Donald Trump restored punishing American sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
“More than one year after the imposition of these severe sanctions, our people have not bowed to pressures despite facing difficulties in their lives,” Rouhani was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying.
Addressing a ceremony in commemoration of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, he added: “We need resistance so our enemies know that if they bomb our land, and if our children are martyred, wounded or taken as prisoners, we will not give up on our goals for the independence of our country and our pride.”
Iran’s armed forces chief of staff, Major-General Mohammad Baqeri, also pointed to an Iranian battle victory in the war with Iraq, and said that outcome should be a message that Iran will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy.
“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” Baqeri said.
The war of words between the two rivals shows no signs of abating.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”
Acting US defence chief Patrick Shanahan on Thursday confirmed the Pentagon was considering sending additional American troops to the Middle East as one of the ways to bolster protection for US forces there amid the rising tensions with Iran.
“What we’re looking at is: Are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?” Shanahan said. “It may involve sending additional troops.”
But Shanahan denied news reports that plans call for the deployment of as many as 10,000 more American soldiers to the region.
‘Window of opportunity’
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told German envoy Jens Ploetner – who is seeking to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal – that Tehran’s patience was over. He urged the treaty’s remaining signatories to fulfil their commitments after the United States pulled out, the Fars news agency reported on Thursday.
Britain, France and Germany, which signed the 2015 deal along with the US, China and Russia, are determined to show they can compensate for last year’s US withdrawal from the deal, protect trade, and still dissuade Tehran from quitting an accord designed to prevent it developing a nuclear bomb.
But Iran’s decision earlier this month to backtrack from some commitments in response to US measures to cripple its economy threatens to unravel the deal, under which Tehran agreed to curbs on its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions.
“After Iran’s announcement to partly suspend its commitments under the [nuclear deal], there is a window of opportunity for diplomacy to persuade Iran to continue to fully comply,” an unnamed German diplomatic source told Reuters News Agency.
Tensions have soared between Iran and the US since Washington sent more military assets to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles.
The German diplomatic source said: “The situation in the Persian Gulf and the region, and the situation around the Vienna nuclear accord is extremely serious. There is a real risk of escalation … In this situation, dialogue is very important.”