Iran-US war of words continues as tensions escalate

REUTERS
BEIRUT
Published

Iran's foreign ministry denied yesterday U.S. accusations that the Islamic Republic is playing a destabilizing role in the region, state media reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said on Tuesday that Iran is carrying out "destabilizing actions" by supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, supplying missiles to Houthi forces in Yemen and sending weapons and militia fighters to Syria.

"Repeating the groundless accusations and lies will not help solve the large and strategic mistakes America has made in recent decades against Iran and the region," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted as saying by state media.

"While there's time remaining, Mr. Tillerson should become more familiar with the realities and history of the region and American policies, and its effects which has led to serious instability and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent women, children and people."

Tillerson also said during a visit to Brussels on Tuesday that Iran must comply with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal under which the Islamic Republic agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of a number of sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Oct. 13 he would not certify Iran is complying with an international agreement on its nuclear program, and threatened that he might ultimately terminate the accord. Trump's action opened a 60-day window for Congress to act to reimpose sanctions on Iran's nuclear program that were lifted under the agreement, but there has been no move to do so in the House or Senate.

The Trump administration has vowed to confront Iran much more aggressively in the region, where it shares the Saudi view that Tehran is fomenting instability via a number of proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen among other countries. Tehran denies the allegations.

The U.S. and Israel are concerned over Iran's growing influence in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Lebanon. Israel is willing to resort to military action to ensure Iran never acquires nuclear weapons, the Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in October where he is seeking backing for President Trump's tougher line on Tehran. He wanted the nuclear agreement to be revised to remove an expiration date, and to impose tighter conditions to stop Tehran from developing new centrifuges used to make weapons-grade nuclear material. He also urged sanctions to stop Iran from establishing Syria as a military base to launch attacks on Israel and action to put a halt to Tehran's development of ballistic missiles.

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