Trump says tanker attacks ‘very minor’ to start war
Don't open 'Pandora's box' in Middle East, China warns
Russia to US: Drop provocative plans
President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that Iran does not seek war with any country, but stressed that the Iranian nation will be the ultimate winner of any conflict against the Islamic Republic.
“We will not wage war against any nation, those facing us are a group of politicians with little experience,” said Rouhani, addressing an inauguration ceremony at the Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) in southern Tehran.
The comments came a day after the United States announced the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the region and released new photographs it said showed Iran was behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Iran has denied involvement in the attacks.
Rouhani further slammed attempts by enemies to pile up economic pressure against Iran to create despair among the people.
He said the ill-wishers have launched a “war of hope and wills” against the Iranian nation, adding that the enemies are attempting to create despair among the Iranian nation through malicious schemes.
Iranians are, however, determined to defeat such plots and keep their hope alive, said the president, stressing that the Iranian people “will be the ultimate winner of this war and pressure.”
Iran has been witnessing new economic and social progress despite all the enemy pressure, he said.
“Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful,” Rouhani said.
The world community, he added, praises Iran’s stance in its face-off with America.
“Iran has been loyal to its signature, Iran has been loyal to international agreements, and the one standing against us today is the one that has trampled all pacts, agreements and international accords,” he added, referring to Washington’s withdrawal from a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.
‘Very minor’ incident
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump downplayed the seriousness of the tanker attacks, essentially dismissing the idea that the recent events would trigger a war with Iran.
In an interview with Time Magazine published Tuesday, Trump called the June 13 attacks “very minor”.
“So far, it’s been very minor,” Trump told Time magazine.
Trump seemed to suggest that energy interests in the region – including the Strait of Hormuz, near the site of the attacks and the conduit for 30% of the world’s seaborne oil exports – were not worth starting a war over.
“Other places get such vast amounts of oil there,” Trump told Time, referring to major importers of Middle East oil like China and Japan. “We get very little. We have made tremendous progress in the last two and a half years in energy … So we’re not in the position that we used to be in in the Middle East where … some people would say we were there for the oil.”
Trump’s comments are markedly less hawkish than those coming from the Pentagon and State Department, where national security leaders have insisted that all options are on the table, including military action, in order to defend US interests.
When asked by Time about what provocations would lead him to move toward war with Iran, Trump replied, “I would certainly go over nuclear weapons.”
Trump has been reluctant to drive a war narrative, having run his campaign on promises of ending America’s drawn-out Middle East conflicts. Hawkishness toward Iran has been mainly attributed to his National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called for military action against Iran long before Trump’s ascent to the Oval Office.
Stop ‘extreme pressure’
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday warned the US against opening a "Pandora's box" in the Middle East and urged Iran to not pull out of the nuclear agreement after Iran said it would exceed its uranium stockpile limit if world powers fail to fulfil their commitments under the agreement in 10 days.
Wang said China was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Persian Gulf and called on all sides to ease tension and not head towards a clash.
"We call on all parties to remain rational and restrained, not to take any actions to provoke the escalation of tension in the region, and not to open a Pandora's box," Wang told reporters in Beijing during a joint press conference with visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
"In particular, the United States should change its practice of extreme pressure," Wang said.
“Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated ever since the US quit the nuclear deal and with Washington blacklisting Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.
Since exiting that accord in May last year Trump has restored and extended sanctions, forcing countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
Wang also said that the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue and urged Iran to "make prudent decisions" and not "so easily abandon" the deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions.
“We understand that relevant parties may have different concerns but first of all the comprehensive nuclear deal should be properly implemented,” he added. “We hope that Iran is cautious with its decision-making and not easily abandon this agreement.”
Rouhani announced on May 8 that Iran would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed under the deal, a move he said was in retaliation for the unilateral US withdrawal.
Tehran on Monday followed through with a 10-day countdown for world powers to fulfil their commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran has threatened to go even further in scaling down nuclear commitments in 60 days unless remaining partners to the deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – help it circumvent US sanctions and especially enable it to sell its oil.
The US responded to the ultimatum by urging the international community not to give in to Iranian "nuclear extortion", while the UN and European states called for cool heads.
"China's determination to safeguard the comprehensive agreement has not changed," Wang said.
"We are willing to work with all parties to continue to make efforts for the full and effective implementation of the agreement."
At the same time, China hopes other parties respect Iran’s legitimate lawful rights and interests, Wang said.
Wang said China has also "worked closely" with all parties to reconstruct the Arak heavy water reactor at a nuclear plant in the southwest of Tehran.
China and Iran have close energy ties, and China has been angered by US threats against countries and companies that violate US sanctions by importing Iranian oil, including Chinese firms.
Russia told the United States on Tuesday to drop what it called provocative plans to deploy more troops to the Middle East and to cease actions that looked like a conscious attempt to provoke war with Iran.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters that Moscow had repeatedly warned Washington and its regional allies about what he called the “unthinking and reckless pumping up of tensions in an explosive region.”
“Now what we see are unending and sustained US attempts to crank up political, psychological, economic and yes military pressure on Iran in quite a provocative way. They (these actions) cannot be assessed as anything but a conscious course to provoke war,” Ryabkov said.
If Washington did not want war it had to show it, he said.
“If that’s really how it is then the US should step back from reinforcing its military presence,” said Ryabkov.
Reuters, AFP, CNBC and Press TV contributed to this report.