Iran Mocks Trump Threats, Sets Sights on Gulf Nation Deals

  • Republican U.S. senator says new Iran sanctions on the way
  • ‘We don’t respond well to threats,’ Iran’s Zarif says

Iran Says It's Focused on Building Persian Gulf Alliances

Iran’s foreign minister mocked being “put on notice” in a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump and said his country is focused on building Persian Gulf alliances. 

Mohammad Javad Zarif prompted laughter from a crowd of trans-Atlantic military and political officials at a global security conference on Sunday by observing that “tweet is now very fashionable’’ before answering whether his country was concerned about the possibility of more U.S. sanctions.

Mohammad Javad Zarif in Munich on Feb. 19.

Photographer: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

“We don’t respond well to threats, we don’t respond well to coercion and we don’t respond well to sanctions,” Zarif told the conference on Sunday. “Crippling sanctions produced a net total of 19,800 centrifuges.”

The Iranian ballistic missile test that prompted Trump’s Feb. 2 warning on Twitter resulted in renewed U.S. sanctions. They were imposed little more than a year after Iran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers went into effect. During the campaign, Trump called the nuclear accord “one of the dumbest deals ever” and said dismantling it would be a top priority.

International monitors report that Iran has stuck to its commitments and dramatically reduced its nuclear capacity. The U.S. Congress is seeking new sanctions strategies for Iran that don’t need a nuclear-deal violation to be triggered, according to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who serves on the armed services committee.

“Iran is a bad actor in the greatest sense of the word in the region,” Graham said at the Munich Security Conference, on a panel following Zarif’s speech. “I will introduce sanctions against Iran this year” that will “take Iran on directly,” he said.

Saudi Criticism

The U.S. and other Persian Gulf countries concerned with Iran’s foreign policy have “misplaced anxieties,” Zarif said. He said his country is ready to lead regional security talks among “Islamic brothers” and that President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Oman last week was a step in that direction.

“The Iranians talk about wanting to turn a new page and that’s great, but what can we do about the present,” said Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel Bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, who blamed Iran for fueling conflicts in Yemen and Syria. “It would be very difficult to deal with a country like this.”

Al-Jubeir said he’s “very optimistic about the Trump administration” and expects the U.S. to step up its role in the Middle East. International financial and trade restrictions could reduce Iran’s influence in the region, he said.

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