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Iran warns ‘unpredictable’ Trump policies may prompt similar responses

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif answers journalists' questions during a June 27, 2017 press conference at the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin, Germany. (Wolfgang Kumm/DPA/Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran says it remains committed to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) but that the “unpredictable” policies of U.S. President Donald Trump may prompt similar responses from Tehran.

Speaking at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on August 21, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also warned his neighbors that a spending spree on Western weapons will do little to bring about stability for the Gulf region.

“Mutual unpredictability will lead to chaos. President Trump cannot expect to be unpredictable and expect others to be predictable,” Zarif said.

“Gulf Arabs cannot achieve security [in the region] by spending billions of dollars on purchasing Western weapons…. No amount of foreign military presence [in the Gulf] can prevent insecurity.”

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Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated since Trump withdrew from a 2015 international accord to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions and instead reimposed sanctions on the country that target the country’s oil and financial sectors.

Zarif’s comments come a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Tehran and its proxies of fomenting “terror and unrest” in conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen “with devastating humanitarian consequences.”

Pompeo also warned in a speech at a UN Security Council session on the Middle East against ending an arms embargo on Iran, likening every day until the deal’s October 2020 expiration as a “countdown to terror.”

“Time is drawing short to continue this activity of restricting Iran’s capacity to foment its terror regime,” Pompeo said.

“The international community will have plenty of time to see how long it has until Iran is unshackled to create new turmoil and figure out what it must do to prevent this from happening,” he added.

Despite an increase in rhetoric that has raised fears of conflict between Iran and the United States, Tehran has maintained that it does not seek confrontation with Washington and that U.S. moves against it are tantamount to bullying.

Trump, too, has said publicly several times that he is willing to hold talks with the Iranians even as he implements his campaign of “maximum pressure.”

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Zarif reiterated in Stockholm that Tehran continues to believe the nonproliferation treaty “is a cornerstone of international legality and we will continue to be committed to nonproliferation.”

In announcing the U.S. pullout from the nuclear deal, Trump said the terms were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and did not address Iran’s missile program or Tehran’s support for militants in the region.

Iran has denied it supports insurgent activity and said its nuclear program was strictly for civilian energy purposes.