Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has declared that Tehran will try to establish more relations with its neighbors once President Donald Trump is out of office, and claims that the government’s aggressive strategy to contain Iran has failed.
At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Rouhani told ministers that the US “maximum pressure” approach to Iran had suffered a “humiliating” defeat against the resistant regime in Tehran.
Rouhani – a moderate whose term of office ends next summer – said Iran would now try to build closer relations with other regional nations. The president said Trump has been an “obstacle” to such efforts over the past four years, according to state press television.
“We have established good relations in recent years with certain neighbors such as Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan, but also with other friendly countries such as Russia, China and others,” Rouhani said, according to Mehr news agency. “I feel that the atmosphere is better prepared for closer relations with all our friends”.
The Iranian leadership remains defiant in the face of the Trump offensive, even amid reports that the government plans to impose a new series of sanctions on Iran every week until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.
Trump’s sanctions – which were imposed piecemeal after he withdrew from the nuclear business of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 – have, in conjunction with the coronavirus pandemic, brought the Iranian economy to a standstill. The regime in Tehran has resorted to violence to suppress popular demonstrations against rising costs and persistently poor economic performance.
Iranian officials will have wanted Trump to draw the short straw last week against the president’s challenger, Joe Biden, in the hope that a democratic government led by a JCPOA supporter would bring much-needed sanctions relief. In fact, National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said last month that Iran was interfering in the election to undermine the incumbent president.
Iranian leaders have publicly claimed that it is irrelevant who is in the White House, but behind closed doors they know that is not true.
Biden has already said that he wants to rejoin the JCPOA, but has also said that he wants to curb Iran’s ballistic missile program and the use of regional deputies. Iran is open to revitalizing the JCPOA, but has repeatedly refused to negotiate on its missile research or regional activities.
It could become even more difficult to reach a new agreement this summer when Rouhani is to be replaced by a hardline candidate-perhaps even one from the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Such a president would be less willing to come to the table with the Americans.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Wednesday that Tehran is waiting to see what Biden actually does, not what he says. “The individual is certainly important, but what counts are the behaviors and actions,” Zarif said as he arrived in Pakistan for talks with his counterpart. “The Islamic Republic is waiting for these actions from the new US administration.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told the Islamic Republic News Agency that Tehran is open to rejoining the JCPOA, but only after negotiations with the new government.