Trump deceived by ‘warmongers’ into leaving JCPOA
President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran favors talks with the United States if it lifts sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
"Iran favors talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions," Rouhani said in remarks aired live on national television.
The president said that "peace with Iran is the mother of all peace" and "war with Iran is the mother of all wars" as he defended a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
"All sanctions should be lifted so that there will be no criminals facing us," he said, blasting for the US committing acts of "economic terrorism" by blocking food and medicine imports.
Tensions between Iran and the US have been rising since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the nuclear deal in May 2018 and began imposing sanctions on it as part of a campaign of "maximum pressure."
Twelve months on, Iran hit back by suspending some of its commitments under the deal.
The situation threatened to spiral out of control with ships attacked, a US drone downed and oil tankers seized.
At the height of the crisis, Trump called off airstrikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic Republic's forces shot down an American spy drone.
'Warmongers' deceived Trump
Rouhani, with Zarif sitting beside him, defended the top diplomat’s role striking in the deal that the Americans ultimately abandoned.
"We had so many economic victories (in the wake of the deal) that it enraged some people," he said, stressing the benefits the agreement had on Iran's transportation and banking.
Rouhani said the US made a mistake when it thought "everything will be over" for Iran after "some planned a street riot" in December 2017.
At that time, Iran was hit by several days of deadly protests reportedly sparked by economic hardship.
"This caused Americans to be trapped. They thought Iran's system is weakened," he said.
"They said, 'One more push. Iran has reached a stage where if we give it another push, everything will be over.’”
This push by "warmongers" deceived Trump and led to his decision to leave the JCPOA, he said.
'Oil for oil'
Rouhani said in any talks the Americans should be ready to negotiate fairly.
He defended Iran’s recent moves to shoot down an intruding US drone and seize a British oil tanker.
“The downing of the American drone with the Iranian missile was a symbol of Iranian might. The British vessels had long been [deliberately] making mistakes in maritime traffic and were overlooking” rules, he said.
Rouhani warned that Iran’s security must be respected if the US seeks to ensure the safety of its forces in the Persian Gulf region.
"If you want security, if your soldiers want security in the region, (then agree to) security for security," he said. "You cannot harm our security and then expect your own security.
"Peace for peace and oil for oil," he added. "You cannot say that you won't allow our oil to be exported.
"It cannot be that the Strait of Hormuz is free for you and the Strait of Gibraltar is not free for us."
Iran has also been locked in a high-seas standoff with US ally Britain since Royal marines seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on July 4.
Weeks later, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps impounded a British-flagged tanker for violating maritime rules in the Strait of Hormuz – the conduit for much of the world's crude.
Approximately one-fifth of the world’s oil traffic passes through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
President Rouhani said the recent US sanctions on Zarif failed to undermine him and that Zarif has now grown to be “stronger and more popular.”
“If you sanctioned our foreign minister to sow discord, you are still wrong. Today the whole nation is behind our foreign minister,” he said.
Zarif on Monday confirmed reports he declined an offer from a US senator to meet Trump at the White House last month.
The foreign minister said he turned it down despite a threat of being hit with sanctions within two weeks.
"I was told in New York I would be sanctioned in two weeks unless I accepted that offer, which fortunately I did not," he said.
The New Yorker magazine reported on Friday that Senator Rand Paul met Zarif in the US on July 15 and had Trump's blessing when he extended the invitation to the Iranian minister.
The United States imposed sanctions against Zarif last Wednesday, targeting any assets he has in America and squeezing his ability to function as a globetrotting diplomat. It came after Trump last month imposed similar measures on Iran's Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. The sanctions are seen as part of a US maximum pressure campaign on Iran.
Zarif lambasted US sanctions against him, calling the move a "failure" for diplomacy.
He dismissed as disingenuous US "claims" it wants dialogue over the 2015 nuclear deal.
"They were the ones who left the table, sanctioned the foreign minister of Iran, sanctioned the highest authority of the Islamic Republic. Who do they want to negotiate with?" he said.
AFP, Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.