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Iranians, US officials against 'ridiculous' Trump speech
Trump's threat to tear up Iran deal causes backlash in and out of US; 'Everyone knew Trump's friendship was for sale to the highest bidder,' tweets Iran Foreign Min. Zarif; US House Minority Leader Pelosi states, 'Trump's refusal to recertify is a grave mistake that threatens America's security'; US Sen. McCain supports Trump, saying Iran 'literally getting away with murder.'
Iranians and US elected officials responded with anger, mockery and great concern on Saturday to the US President Donald Trump threat to tear up the landmark nuclear deal.

 

 

Over in Iran, Trump's use of the phrase "Arabian Gulf" rather than "Persian Gulf" particularly hit a nerve, in a country with a fierce nationalistic streak.

 

"Everyone knew Trump's friendship was for sale to the highest bidder. We now know that his geography is too," wrote Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Twitter, referring to the US alliance with Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia.

 

US President Trump   (Video: Reuters)

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Despite pressure from the Arab Gulf monarchies, most international bodies still use "Persian Gulf" as the conventional name for the region's waterway, and many Iranians shared photos of US veterans' medals and graves referring to the "Persian Gulf conflict" of the 1990s.

 

House Minority Leader Pelosi   (Video: Reuters)

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In his White House speech on Friday, Trump reeled off a list of grievances committed by the "Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world."

 

He threatened to "terminate" the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and six world powers unless Congress passed stringent new sanctions.

 

Iranian reads about Trump's speech in local paper (Photo: EPA)
Iranian reads about Trump's speech in local paper (Photo: EPA)

But as Iranians headed to their offices on Saturday—the first day of the work week in Iran—the reaction was often one of bemusement.

 

"Trump's statements are so ridiculous that it actually works in Iran's favor. Speaking about the 'Arabian Gulf' is taken very badly by people here," said Abbas, a 40-year-old banker who only gave his first name.

 

"The reaction of the Europeans shows that the United States is isolated, and only Saudi Arabia and Israel have supported Trump," he added.

 

 (Photo: EPA)
(Photo: EPA)

 

The other signatories to the nuclear deal—Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia—have called for its preservation, saying that Iran is clearly sticking to its commitments.

 

Trump's efforts to reach out to ordinary Iranians, who he referred to as the "longest-suffering victims" of the Islamic regime, also appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, with many recalling the travel ban he slapped on them earlier this year.

 

Trump (Photo: AP)
Trump (Photo: AP)

 

Trump's Instagram page was inundated by more than a million comments, mostly from jeering Iranians.

 

"I was so angry last night. This person hates Iran so much that even if we don't support the ideas of the regime, we find ourselves supporting them and the Revolutionary Guards," said Layla, 42, in her Tehran artisan shop.

 

"Trump stopped Iranians going to the US. How can he say he's on our side?" she added.

 

For all the bluster, Trump's strategy was not as tough as many had predicted.

 

It placed new sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guards, but did not designate them a foreign terrorist organisation as trailed in the run-up to the speech.

 

The hardline Kayhan newspaper spun this as a victory, saying Trump had not "dared" to do so after the Guards warned the US would have to move its regional bases out of reach of Iranian missiles.

 

Rouhani
Rouhani

 

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani had pushed back against the Revolutionary Guards' deep involvement in the economy after winning re-election earlier this year.

 

But Trump's threats have brought a new solidarity among Iran's often fractious institutions.

 

"We have dissatisfactions, for example there are economic problems," said Bahram Siavoshi, 36, as he walked to work at a private finance firm in Tehran.

 

"But if it comes to it, we will stand together to the end, and will defend even the Guards. Their efforts cannot be ignored. If it wasn't for them we would be like Syria or Yemen."

 

Rouhani took to the airwaves shortly after Trump's speech on Friday night, dismissing it as "nothing but the repetition of baseless accusations and swear words."

 

"He has not studied international law. Can a president annul a multilateral international treaty on his own?" Rouhani said.

 

Nonetheless, the deal's future hangs in the balance as the US Congress has 60 days to decide how to tighten sanctions, or possibly introduce new red lines that would trigger a US response.

 

"If the Congress goes ahead with new sanctions, then the deal is dead and Iran will restart its nuclear programme and move forward full-steam ahead in all fields," Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, told AFP.

 

"Iran will probably invest even more than before in order to show the Americans that they can't get away with destroying the agreement."

 

US Democrats go after Trump, while Republicans support him

Back home, Trump's vow to strike a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers will likely give US lawmakers 60 days to decide whether to bring back sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the deal.

 

If Congress reimposes the sanctions, the United States would in effect be in violation of the terms of the nuclear deal and it would likely fall apart. If lawmakers do nothing, the deal remains in place.

 

The move has caused many elected officials to express dismay at its possible outcome.

 

Trump's speech has particularly raised criticism among Democrats. Chief among them was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who upported the original deal and still supports it.

 

"President Trump's refusal to recertify is a grave mistake that threatens America's security and our credibility at a very critical time. The president is ignoring the overwhelming consensus of nuclear scientists, national security experts, generals and his own cabinet—including, reportedly the secretary of defense (james Mattis—ed) and the secretary of state (Rex Tillerson)," Pelosi said in a statement following Trump's speech. "The fact is, iran remains in compliance with the nuclear agreement."

 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who opposed the deal two years ago, has more recently said it should be left in place but strongly enforced with efforts to clamp down on other activities like Iran’s ballistic missile program.

 

House Foreign Affairs Top Dempocrat Elliot Engel opposed the deal two years ago but said killing it now would be a "grave mistake." Engel remains an Iran hawk on issues such as Tehran’s ballistic missile program, human rights violations and its support for what Washington sees as terrorism.

 

Ryan (Photo: AP)
Ryan (Photo: AP)

 

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan congratulated Trump and said that "the nuclear agreement struck by the previous administration with Iran is fatally flawed.

 

"Not only did it codify Tehran's domestic enrichment capability, but once key restraints expire in the coming years, the regime will be free to pursue nuclear weapons under the guise of international legitimacy. All the while, Iran has continued to test-fire ballistic missiles and finance its terrorist proxies across the globe. Simply enforcing a fatally flawed agreement is not sufficient. I support President Trump's decision to reevaluate this dangerous deal, and the House will work with his administration to counter Iran's range of destabilizing activities."

 

Republican Senator John McCain, who has butted heads with Trump in the past, also stated his support of re-examining the nuclear agreement with Iran. "For years, the Iranian regime has literally been getting away with murder," McCain said in a statement. "Meanwhile, the United States has lacked the comprehensive strategy to meet the multifaceted threat Iran poses. The goals President Trump presented in his speech today are a welcomed long overdue change."

 


First published: 14.10.17, 20:21
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