This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A senior commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has said Tehran will not hold talks with the United States, one day after U.S. President Donald Trump invited Iranian leaders to “call me.”
“There will be no negotiations with America,” IRGC deputy head Yadollah Javani was quoted as saying on May 10 by the hard-line Tasnim news agency.
Javani also claimed Washington would not dare take military action against Iran.
Tensions have been escalating between Tehran and Washington since the Trump administration withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions against Iran.
Trump has said the 2015 deal — under which Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief — was “fatally flawed” because it did not address Iran’s missile program or Tehran’s alleged support for terrorist organizations.
The United States has sent an aircraft carrier battle group to the region in response to what it has described as threats by Iran against American interests.
American B-52 bombers have also arrived at a U.S. base in Qatar, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said.
Speaking on May 9, Trump did not rule out a military confrontation with Iran. But he suggested he was open to talks with the country’s leadership.
“What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“I guess you could say that always, right? I don’t want to say no, but hopefully that won’t happen,” he said.
Asked about Trump’s comments, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said Tehran had been talking with all six powers that signed the nuclear deal — China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
“All of a sudden [Trump] decided to leave the negotiating table,” Takht Ravanchi said in a U.S. television interview. “What is the guarantee that he will not renege again?”
He dismissed U.S. allegations of an Iranian threat as “fake intelligence” and said it was “being produced by the same people” who did so in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Also on May 9, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran in a statement that said “our restraint to this point should not be mistaken by Iran for a lack of resolve.”
“The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against U.S. interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive U.S. response,” Pompeo said.
“We do not seek war,” he added.
“But Iran’s 40 years of killing American soldiers, attacking American facilities, and taking American hostages is a constant reminder that we must defend ourselves,” said Pompeo, in a reference to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in which U.S. diplomats were taken captive.
Earlier this week, Iranian President Hassan Rohani announced that Tehran would scale back some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal if world powers did not protect its interests against U.S. sanctions.
Rohani made the announcement on May 8, the first anniversary of Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the deal and reimpose tough economic sanctions, including on Iran’s oil exports.
Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union on May 9 reiterated that they remained committed to the nuclear deal but also warned that they would “reject any ultimatums” from Tehran regarding the terms of the accord.
“Iran must remain in this agreement and we must all work to make sure it remains,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.
“We must not get jumpy or fall into escalation,” Macron said. “That’s why France is staying in [the deal], and will stay in, and I profoundly hope Iran will stay in.”
Britain, France, and Germany have attempted to keep the deal alive, but they have also expressed concerns about Tehran’s continued testing of ballistic missiles. China and Russia also signed the accord and have vowed to remain part of the deal.