The Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has said Tehran will continue to defy US sanctions by finding buyers for its oil and warned that Washington should “be prepared for the consequences” if it tries to stop it.
The US announced the sanctions in November but some countries got temporary waivers that allowed them to import Iranian oil. Washington now says those waivers, which mainly affect China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey, will expire on 2 May.
Zarif, seen as the moderate face of Iran and speaking in New York, said Tehran would also keep the Strait of Hormuz open for oil exports.
“We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil.
“It is in our interest, our vital national security interest, to keep the Persian Gulf open, to keep the Strait of Hormuz open.”
He added that if the US entered the Strait, they had to “talk to those who are protecting the Strait of Hormuz, and that is (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)“. The IRGC has been designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the Trump administration.
Zarif also insisted there was no need for Iran to reopen the 2015 nuclear deal with the west as demanded by Trump. “The US left the table. The table is still there. It’s not as if there’s no table. I negotiated all of that agreement and I know that neither Iran nor the United States will ever get a better agreement,” he said.
His remarks suggest Tehran appears to have decided the best course is to ride out Trump’s sanctions in the hope that the presidential elections in 2020 will bring a Democrat to office willing to revert to the 2015 deal. Most Democratic presidential candidates have said they will honour the Obama deal again, giving Tehran an incentive to keep its economy afloat by any means until then.
Zarif also lashed out at Trump for failing to condemn the mass execution by Saudi Arabia of 38 people in one day.
He said in reference to the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “After a wink at the dismembering of a journalist, not a whisper from the Trump administration when Saudi Arabia beheads 37 men in one day – even crucifying one two days after Easter.”
Saudi Arabia is co-operating with the US to increase oil production if the removal of 1m barrels of Iranian oil from the market prompts a shortage, Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran said this week.
Trump could ill-afford a petrol price rise in the run-up to the presidential elections brought about by his sanctions on Iran.
Commenting on the end of the oil waivers , Ali Vaez, Iran project director at Crisis Group, said “The intent is clear: bankrupt Iran into acceding to unilateral US demands or, even better, imploding its regime. But the campaign against Iran is more likely to fuel resistance and retaliation than capitulation.”
“Washington should heed past lessons lest it provokes a new nuclear crisis or a regional escalation.”