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US ‘warmongers’ should go, Iran says after Bolton firing

John Bolton speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
September 12, 2019

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

Iran has urged the United States to “put warmongers aside” following the departure of hard-line U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton, amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran in the wake of the unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on September 11, President Hassan Rohani said the United States “must understand that bellicosity and warmongering don’t work in their favor. Both…must be abandoned.”

“Thirst for war — maximum pressure — should go with the warmonger-in-chief,” Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif added in a tweet.

Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear agreement and began reimposing crippling sanctions.

In response, Iran has surpassed the limits set in the accord about stockpiles of enriched uranium and enrichment purity in recent months. Over the weekend, Tehran announced it would use more advanced centrifuges used for enriching uranium, which can be used to make fuel for reactors, but also nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region, the downing of a U.S. military surveillance drone by Iran, and other incidents in the Middle East have exacerbated tensions.

Trump on September 10 announced he had dismissed Bolton, who had served since April 2018, saying the two “disagreed strongly” on many issues.

Bolton had reportedly opposed the president’s recent suggestion that he was willing to talk to Tehran’s leaders, and advocated for a much tougher stance on Russia and Afghanistan.

Mahmud Vaezi, head of Iran’s presidential office, described Bolton as “an enemy of diplomacy,” “a proponent of war and unilateralism,” and “one of the most ardent enemies of the [Iranian] nation.”

Russian officials said on September 11 that Moscow did not expect any improvement in relations with Washington after the dismissal of Bolton.

“We do not think that the presence or resignation of any particular official, even such a high-ranking one, can have serious implications for an adjustment of U.S. foreign policy,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.

“As President Putin has repeatedly said, we still want to find a way out of the deplorable state of bilateral relations, but we cannot do the search by ourselves; this has to be a two-party job. We are hoping for reciprocity. We are also hoping to see a demonstration of such political will sooner or later,” he added.

A Rohani adviser, Hsameddin Ashena, said that Bolton’s dismissal was “a clear sign of the defeat of America’s ‘maximum pressure’ strategy.”

In an interview with state news agency IRNA, Iran’s representative at the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, said it was “too soon” to make any judgements about the impact of Bolton’s departure on U.S.-Iranian relations.

Asked about possible talks between Trump and Rohani, Takht-Ravanchi said that such a meeting could take place only if the United States ended its “economic terrorism” by lifting all of its “cruel” sanctions against Iran.

Any meeting must also be held in the framework of the group of world powers that negotiated the 2015 nuclear pact, the envoy added.

Speaking shortly after Trump announced he had fired Bolton, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated that the U.S. president was prepared to meet with Rohani “with no preconditions,” but he insisted that the United States would maintain its “maximum-pressure campaign.”

Mnuchin spoke at the White House alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who agreed that a Trump-Rohani meeting was possible on the sidelines of the 2019 UN General Assembly that begins on September 23.

In his remarks on September 11, Rohani said Washington “imposed ‘maximum pressure’ on us. Our response is to resist and confront this.”

The Iranian president said Tehran was ready to comply with the nuclear deal if the other parties to the pact did so too, and warned that it would further reduce its nuclear commitments to the deal “if it is essential and necessary.”