0534 GMT January 23, 2020
The “intolerable” insecurity currently afflicting the region poses a menace to Asia, Europe, and even America itself, as it can lead to all sorts of incidents, Rouhani told the cabinet session on Wednesday.
American forces in the region are today faced with insecurity, which may come to threaten European troops there 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 [to do so],” he said. “You will stand to benefit from this [yourselves]. Go down the path that benefits the region and the entire world,” the president added.
He also touched on the Islamic Republic’s recent strikes against US bases in western and northern Iraq, which came in retaliation for its assassination of top Iranian commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, among others, in Baghdad on January 3.
“General Soleimani’s martyrdom will not go unanswered. The military response was given,” he said, noting that the strikes hitting the Ain al-Assad air base housing American forces in Iraq’s Anbar Province, showed that “we do not back down in the face of the US and will surely respond to their crime.”
Apart from military retaliation, Rouhani suggested, the real response would be a collective effort by regional countries towards the US departure from the region.
Plane crash error
Rouhani also addressed the human error that caused the downing of the Ukrainian passenger aircraft shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport last week.
The airliner was mistaken for an incoming cruise missile, while a communication breakdown prevented the operator from obtaining the permission required for the launch. It killed all 176 people on board.
“Our people and the world need to be assured that this incident will never be repeated,” the president asserted.
Rouhani said the General Staff of the Armed Forces acted appropriately in announcing the cause of the tragedy, but that the armed forces ought to follow it up with correctional measures.
“A final step,” he added, would be making sure that the mistake would never happen again.
However, efforts aimed at making up for the error should not serve to weaken the country's military, he said. “We need and will always need our armed forces.”
The president, meanwhile, said that the delay in informing the public about the circumstances surrounding the crash came due to the fact that the cause of the crash had not been initially “plausible.”
“No one could believe that an aircraft taking off from an international airport in the capital, and flying on its course would be targeted,” Rouhani said. The armed forces, he added, need to also apologize to the public for the belated dissemination of information.
He said a first compensatory measure could be to “diligently” follow up on the issue through legal channels with the participation of the Judiciary, the government, and the armed forces.
Iran nuclear deal
Elsewhere in his remarks, the chief executive urged the trio of European countries – France, Britain and Germany – and the US to live up to their obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear deal that they signed with Tehran in 2015.
The United States under President Donald Trump left the deal in May 2018 and restored the sanctions against Iran, which it had lifted before. The UK, France, and Germany also bowed to the sanctions and refused to meet Iran’s business interests under the deal despite an earlier pledge to do so.
Rouhani said Washington is responsible for killing hundreds of Iranians through sanctions it has imposed on the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, including the ones that have blocked the Islamic Republic’s access to medicine and medical equipment.
The president added that the countermeasures Iran has been taking in response to the US and the Europeans’ non-commitment are both reversible and taking place under the International Atomic Energy Agency's supervision.
The comments came a day after the European troika triggered a dispute mechanism within the deal that enables them to accuse Iran of violating the accord and could lead to the return of United Nations sanctions which had been lifted by the JCPOA.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even suggested that the JCPOA be discarded in favor of a “Trump deal.”
“What is he (Johnson) thinking about? Trump does nothing but violate international agreements,” the president said.
“If you take the wrong step, it will be to your detriment. Pick the right path. The right path is to return to the nuclear deal," he said of the 2015 agreement, which was brokered by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Rouhani said by continued betrayal of their commitments, the Europeans and the US would only exacerbate the situation in the region.
The US quit the JCPOA after Trump was told by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and radical American politicians that they would bring about regime change in Iran after the withdrawal, Rouhani noted.
However, the move was followed by America’s own defeat in the region, he said. “Today, it has become clear to everyone that you made the wrong move concerning the JCPOA.”
“If you return and act in the interest of regional security, we are prepared [for reciprocal measures,] too,” he noted.
The Iranian president also blasted the disqualification of thousands of applicants, including scores of incumbent lawmakers, from running in the upcoming Feb. 21 parliamentary elections.
Although hard-liners were also among those disqualified by Iran’s Guardian Council, most of those rejected were reformists and moderate candidates.
Rouhani said it is not possible to run the country with just one faction in power.
“Do not tell the people that for every seat in Parliament, there are 17, 170 or 1,700 candidates running in the election,” he said in a televised speech to the cabinet. “1,700 candidates from how many factions? 17 candidates from how many parties? From one party? This is not an election.”
He also compared the vote to a store placing 1,000 copies of the same item on its shelves and telling customers they have a diverse selection to pick from.
“People need diversity,” Rouhani said.
Press TV and AFP contributed to this story.