Iran Slams ‘Genocidal Taunts’ by US, Quadruples Uranium Stockpiles

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London: The Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has hit back at Donald Trump’s “genocidal taunts” after a strongly worded warning from Trump that Tehran should not think of attacking the US.

The war of words on Monday came as the semi-official Tasnim news agency announced Iran has, in line with an earlier decision, scaled back some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal and quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity.

“Goaded by #B_Team,” Zarif wrote on Twitter, in an apparent reference to Trump advisers such as John Bolton, “@realdonaldTrump hopes to achieve what Alexander, Genghis & other aggressors failed to do. Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone. #EconomicTerrorism & genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran’.”

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He added: “#NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect – it works!”

On Sunday, Trump warned Iran not to threaten the US or else it would face its “official end”, shortly after a rocket landed near the US embassy in Baghdad overnight.

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Trump said on Monday provocations by Iran – which he called the “No. 1 provocateur of terror.” – would be met with “great force,” but that he was also willing to negotiate.

Hours later, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he favoured talks and diplomacy but not under the existing conditions.

“Today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only” state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying late on Monday.

Trump’s tweet came after he had seemingly sought to soften his tone on Iran following days of heightened tension sparked by his administration’s sudden deployment of bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf over still unspecified threats.

In the time since, officials in the United Arab Emirates have alleged four oil tankers sustained damage in a sabotage attack, Yemeni rebels allied with Iran have launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia, and US diplomats have relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran.

All these tensions are the culmination of Trump’s decision a year ago to pull the US out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. And while both Washington and Tehran say they do not seek war, many worry any miscalculation at this fraught moment could spiral out of control.

On Sunday a Katyusha rocket fell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, less than a mile from the US embassy, causing no injuries. An Iraqi military spokesman, Brig Gen Yahya Rasoul, told the Associated Press that the rocket was believed to have been fired from east Baghdad. 

Trump campaigned on pulling the US from the 2015 nuclear accord, under which Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since the withdrawal, the US has re-imposed previous sanctions and come up with new ones, and it has warned nations around the world they will be subject to sanctions too if they import Iranian oil.

Iran has announced it will begin backing away from terms of the deal, setting a 60-day deadline for Europe to come up with new terms or else it will begin enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels. Tehran long has insisted it does not seek nuclear weapons, though the west fears its programme could allow it to build atomic bombs.

There is an open debate in Tehran over whether Trump is seriously threatening war with Iran or instead using a form of psychological warfare to persuade the Iranians to renegotiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

On Monday, both the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported on the quadrupled production of low-enriched uranium, quoting Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency.

Kamalvandi told Tasnim that the United Nations atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has been notified of the move.

“It won’t be long until we pass the 300-kg limit of low enriched uranium. So it’s better for the other side to do what it’s necessary to be done,” he said, alluding to steps by other powers to shield Iran’s economy from US sanctions.

Kamalvandi said the acceleration of Iran’s centrifuge enrichment machines remained within the bounds of the nuclear deal, adding that Tehran has no intention to exit the accord.

“We are on a clock,” said Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, noting that Rouhani had given the pact’s remaining signatories 60 days to act on salvaging the nuclear deal. “If this path continues, then it is a clear sign Iran is serious about non-cooperation with the JCPOA and may eventually pull out entirely.”

 


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