TEHRAN – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country would proudly defy sweeping sanctions implemented by the United States on Monday.
Rouhani gave a televised speech in reaction to US President Donald Trump’s confirmation of a second round of economic sanctions against Tehran that would target oil exports and the Iranian central bank.
“I have told leaders of all countries whom I met on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly that we will proudly break the sanctions,” Rouhani, who is seen as a moderate in the Islamic Republic’s theocratic political system. “Because these sanctions are unjust and illegal.”
He said Washington sought to reduce Iran’s oil exports to nil but pledged he would continue to sell crude oil.
Iran’s oil sales have plummeted since the new sanctions were drawn up as the US piled pressure on trading partners to cut imports but the punitive measures allow for several countries, including Japan and India, to temporarily continue buying from Tehran.
Rouhani said the US had instigated an economic war.
He insisted that the US was currently “isolated” as most countries in the world reject the sanctions and support the nuclear agreement signed between Iran and P5+1 (Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany) in 2015.
The US withdrew from the deal in May.
“Today, we are not the only one who is angry about US policies, even European companies and governments are angry about them,” he said.
The Trump administration has taken a hard line against Iran’s government, branding it a sponsor of terrorism.
Iranian forces are present in the Syrian conflict, fighting in support of President Bashar Al Assad and the regime has close ties, both militarily and financially, with Shiite militias across the region, most notably Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is also engaged in the Syrian civil war.
Iran and Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s closest allies in the region, have jostled for influence in the Middle East ever since the 1979 Iranian revolution, in which Shiite-led forces under the guidance of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew a US-backed king and install an Islamic Republic.
Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the region, also applauded Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.