March 8, 2019
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has rejected to lead the ‘economic war’, accusing the United States on Wednesday of plotting to use economic pressure to overthrow the Islamic republic’s clerical establishment, and ruling out the possibility of talks with Washington.
“Iran is in an economic and psychological war with America and its allies. Their aim is to change the regime but their wish will not come true,” Rouhani said in a speech in the northern province of Gilan as reported by Reuters.
Washington reimposed sanctions on Iran that were lifted in 2016 under the deal. The renewed US clampdown caused a crash of Iran’s currency, rampant inflation, and a flight of foreign investors desperately needed by Tehran to modernize its economy.
The other signatories to the deal – Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and China – oppose the reinstatement of US financial and oil sanctions and have sought to salvage the 2015 deal by finding non-dollar ways to conduct business with Tehran.
“There is no possibility of entering negotiations with America,” Rouhani said in a speech in the city of Lahijan, broadcast live on state television. “America wants to take Iran back to 40 years ago… to the era before the (1979) Revolution…They want regime change.”
Analysts say Khamenei guardedly backed the 2015 deal as he knew that Iranians, many of whom have periodically taken to the streets to protest at economic hardships, could not tolerate more pressure. Iranian leaders have warned that Tehran could drop out of the nuclear deal if the other signatories fail to secure the economic benefits to Tehran accruing from the pact.
“Our nation and the leadership are united against our enemies… We will continue our path of independence and freedom,” said Rouhani.
But if the deal collapses, Iran’s balance of power could tilt in favor of the pragmatist Rouhani’s hard-line rivals who oppose improving ties with the West and are close to Khamenei.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said in Vienna that Iran hopes a new trade channel with Europe aimed at cushioning the blow of reimposed US sanctions will be working within weeks.
“We hope that in the coming weeks Instex would become operational,” he said -referring to the mechanism’s official name – the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges which was launched in January by France, Germany, and the UK.
Araqchi said Instex was “a move in the right direction” but it was not yet clear how much it could achieve.
“But maybe it starts from humanitarian in order to set the patterns for doing business with Iran. And once the patterns are set then other kinds of goods including sanctioned goods and oil, of course, would be added to this mechanism,” he added.
“We decided today to create working groups on different areas such as trade, energy, transportation etc in order to find similar mechanisms like Instex in other areas so economic cooperation with Iran can be expanded,” Araqchi continued.
Instex was conceived as a way to help match Iranian oil and gas exports with purchases of EU goods, but those ambitions have been toned down. Diplomats say that, realistically, it will be used only for smaller transactions such as purchases of humanitarian products or food.
Araqchi disputed that, saying it could expand over time.