Rouhani to U.S. and Europeans:
TEHRAN (Dispatches) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday warned the United States to end its military intervention in the region, saying such a withdrawal will both help restore regional security and serve Washington’s own interests.
The "intolerable” insecurity currently afflicting the region threatens Asia, Europe, and even America itself as it can lead to all sorts of incidents, Rouhani told Cabinet session.
The American forces in the region are today faced with insecurity, which may come to threaten the European troops as well in the near future, he added.
"Restore this security. We want you to leave the region… not by means of war, but by taking the wise move,” he said. "You will stand to benefit from this. Go down the path that benefits the region and the entire world,” Rouhani said.
The president touched on Iran’s recent strikes against U.S. bases in western and northern Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and his companies in Baghdad on January 3.
"General Soleimani’s martyrdom will not go unanswered. The military response was given,” he said, noting that the strikes showed that "we do not back down in the face of the US and will surely respond to their crime.”
Apart from the military retaliation, Rouhani suggested, the real response would be a collective endeavor by regional countries towards the U.S. departure from the region.
Iran’s president also warned that European soldiers in the Mideast "could be in danger” after three nations challenged Tehran over easing up the limits of its nuclear deal.
Rouhani’s remarks in a televised Cabinet meeting represent the first direct threat he’s made to Europe as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington over President Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the deal in May 2018.
The current tensions between Iran and the U.S. reached fever-pitch two weeks ago with the American drone strike in Baghdad.
Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile strike targeting Iraqi military bases housing U.S. forces early last Wednesday, just before an anti-aircraft battery shot down a Ukrainian airliner taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Amid all of this, Britain, France and Germany launched the so-called "dispute mechanism” pertaining to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Speaking before his Cabinet, Rouhani showed a rarely seen level of anger in his wide-ranging remarks Wednesday.
"Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” Rouhani said. ”We want you to leave this region but not with war. We want you to go wisely. It is to your own benefit.”
European forces have been deployed alongside Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. France also maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, while Britian has opened a base in the island nation of Bahrain.
Rouhani separately criticized Europe’s "baseless” words regarding the nuclear deal. Iran had been holding out for Europe to offer a means by which Tehran could sell its oil abroad despite U.S. sanctions. However, a hoped-for trading mechanism for other goods hasn’t taken hold and a French-pitched line of credit also hasn’t materialized.
After Gen. Soleimani’s assassination, Iran announced it would no longer abide by any of the nuclear deal’s limits. However, Iran has said it will continue to allow the United Nations’ nuclear agency access to its nuclear sites. Rouhani on Wednesday also reiterated a longtime Iranian pledge that Tehran doesn’t seek the bomb.
The European nations triggered the so-called dispute mechanism on Tuesday to force Iran into discussions, starting the clock on a process that could result in the "snapback” of UN and EU sanctions on Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, speaking in New Delhi at the Raisina Dialogue, blamed U.S. "ignorance” and "arrogance” for "fueling mayhem” in the Middle East.