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Thursday , January 23 2020

Trump could be lured to conflict: Iran


Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Asia Society, in New York, Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

LONDON, April 25, (Agencies): Iran will not allow any country replace its oil sales in the global market, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, after the United States told importers to halt Iranian purchases from May. Washington has decided not to renew its exemptions from US sanctions against Iran that it granted last year to buyers of Iranian oil.

A senior US administration official said on Monday that US President Donald Trump was confident Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would fill any gap left in the oil market. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not allow any country to replace Iran in the oil market. The United States and those countries will be responsible for any consequences,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. The spokesman, whose comments were reported by Fars news agency, condemned Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, and Bahrain for welcoming US sanctions on Tehran.

Mousavi called US sanctions “illegal, cruel and driven by bullying” and said “We are hopeful that those buyers of Iranian oil who stood against this unilateral move in their comments, also take action.” China, Iran’s largest crude oil customer, formally complained this week to the United States over its decision to end waivers on sanctions on Iranian oil imports.

Iran’s top diplomat said Wednesday Trump’s aim “is to bring us to our knees to talk” – but national security adviser John Bolton and key US allies in the Mideast want “regime change at the very least” and the “disintegration of Iran.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he doubts Trump wants confl ict because the president ran on a campaign promise “not to waste another $7 trillion in our region in order to make the situation only worse.” But Zarif said what he called “the B team” – Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – is trying “to push Iran to take action” as a pretext for “crazy” and “adventurous” US actions. “President Trump has a plan, but he’s being lured into not a plan but a trap,” Zarif warned in a question-and-answer session at the Asia Society. “It will cost another $7 trillion and even a greater disaster.” Zarif said “it’s not a crisis yet, but it’s a dangerous situation,” adding that “accidents, plotted accidents are possible.”

The Trump administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran, including on its energy sector, last November, after pulling America out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

The US designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group earlier this month – the first ever for an entire division of another government – added another layer of sanctions to the powerful paramilitary force, making it a crime under US jurisdiction to provide the guard with material support.

On Monday, Trump announced the US will no longer exempt any countries from US sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, a decision that primarily affects the five remaining major importers: China and India and US treaty allies Japan, South Korea, Turkey. The move is part of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran that aims to eliminate all of its revenue from oil exports which the US says funds destabilizing activity throughout the Mideast and beyond.

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