Trump’s nuclear talks offer rejected by Iran as tensions mount

Tehran threatens to stop abiding by nuclear deal’s limitations on uranium enrichment

An Iranian protester pretends to punch a mask mocking President Donald Trump during a rally after Friday prayers in Tehran. Photograph:  Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

An Iranian protester pretends to punch a mask mocking President Donald Trump during a rally after Friday prayers in Tehran. Photograph: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

 

Iranian officials rebuffed US president Donald Trump’s suggestion that they call him to try to defuse frictions as the US ratcheted up its actions against Tehran.

Several top Iranian aides and lawmakers predicted on Sunday that the current tensions wouldn’t lead to war, calling the US deployment of an aircraft carrier, warship, bomber jets and missile defences to the Middle East a propaganda stunt. Antagonism between the countries, already high, has worsened this month since Mr Trump eliminated exceptions to US sanctions on Iranian oil.

The Islamic Republic responded by threatening to scale back its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal. “Trump has not only shown that he has no respect for the signature of the previous US government but that he’s willing to violate UN Security Council resolutions and other international agreements,” said Kamal Kharazi, the head of a council that advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the Islamic Students’ News Agency (ISNA). Hours earlier, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo repeated Mr Trump’s offer to talk to try to sort out differences.

US claims

The US has claimed, with no details, that Iran has been mobilising proxies in Iraq and Syria to attack its forces, and its new deployments have stirred talk of war. “The Americans know that no other war will bring about their defeat to such an extent and that’s why there won’t be a war, because war is not part of the US strategy,” Heshmatollah Falahatpishe, the head of Iran’s parliamentary commission for national security and foreign affairs, said in a speech before lawmakers, according to the ISNA. “Nobody is going to call Trump, and eventually the Americans will be forced to raise the issue of negotiations with Iran in a serious way,” he added.

Economy pounded

Mr Trump has made confronting Iran the linchpin of his Middle East policy, and his withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposition of sanctions meant to choke off Iranian oil exports and access to international banks has pounded the Islamic Republic’s economy. Tehran responded to the US removal of sanctions waivers and the new military deployments by threatening to stop abiding by the nuclear deal’s limitations on uranium enrichment if Europe doesn’t remove obstacles to foreign investment into Iran and ease the flow of Iranian oil within 60 days.

While Iran has always denied its nuclear programme had a military component, its uranium enrichment activities had been controversial because western powers said it could potentially be used in bombmaking, so the threat to abandon limits drew another round of US sanctions, this time on Iranian metals. Mr Kharazi said Europe could show its willingness to keep the nuclear accord alive by making a trade channel for Iran operational. But the economic sanctions Mr Trump imposed last year have made it tough, if not impossible, for European companies and banks to risk defying the US and getting caught in its sanctions net. – Bloomberg