TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran's foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday that it "cannot expect to stay safe" after launching an economic war against Tehran.
A stern-faced Muhammad Javad Zarif offered a series of warnings over the ongoing tensions gripping the Persian Gulf. The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump's decision over a year ago to withdraw America from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Trump also reinstated tough sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil sector.
"Mr. Trump himself has announced that the U.S. has launched an economic war against Iran," Zarif said. "The only solution for reducing tensions in this region is stopping that economic war."
Zarif also warned: "Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it."
For his part, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas insisted his country and other European nations want to find a way to salvage the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But he acknowledged there were limits.
"We won't be able to do miracles, but we are trying as best as we can to do prevent its failure," Maas said.
However, Europe has yet to be able to offer Iran a way to get around the newly imposed U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, a July 7 deadline — imposed by Iran — looms for Europe to find a way to save the unraveling deal.
Otherwise, Iran has warned it will resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels.
Though Zarif made a point to shake Maas' hands before the cameras, his comments marked a sharp departure for the U.S.-educated diplomat who helped secure the nuclear deal, alongside President Hassan Rouhani. They came after Maas spoke about the occupying regime of Israel.
Zarif then grew visibly angry, offering a list of Mideast problems ranging from Al-Qaeda to the bombing of Yemeni civilians he blamed on the U.S. and its allies, namely Saudi Arabia.
"If one seeks to talk about instability in this region, those are the other parties who should be held responsible," Zarif said.
Zarif's sharp tone likely comes from Iran's growing frustration with Europe, as well as the ever-tightening American sanctions targeting the country.
European nations had pledged to create a mechanism called INSTEX, which would allow Iran to continue to trade for humanitarian goods despite American sanctions. However, that program has yet to really take off, something Iran's foreign ministry spokesman noted before Zarif and Maas spoke to reporters.
"We haven't put much hope in INSTEX," spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to Iranian state television. "If INSTEX was going to help us, it would have done so already."
Maas later met Rouhani as well.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will arrive in Tehran on Wednesday as an interlocutor for Trump.
Japan had once purchased Iranian oil, but it has now stopped over American sanctions.
The Tasnim news agency reported that Ali Asghar Zarean, deputy head of Iran's nuclear department, said Tehran had increased the number of its centrifuges to 1,044 at the Fordo underground facility. That's the maximum allowed under the deal.
Meanwhile, the head of the UN atomic watchdog said Monday that Iran had already increased its uranium enrichment activities. Iran previously announced it would quadruple its production of low-enrichment uranium.
"I am worried about increasing tensions over the Iranian nuclear issue," Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency said. "As I have constantly emphasized, the nuclear-related commitments entered into by Iran under the (deal) represent a significant gain for nuclear verification — I therefore hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue."