Tehran, Iran – The United States must lift harsh economic sanctions on Iran, the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has asserted less than two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden enters the White House.
In a televised speech on Friday, the supreme leader said Iran does not insist on and is in no hurry to see the US return to the 2015 nuclear deal with six big world powers. Khamenei instead demanded that the sanctions must be lifted immediately.
“Sanctions are a treachery and crime against the Iranian nation and must be lifted,” the country’s most powerful leader said.
“But we must also plan our economy in a way that we could run the country well despite sanctions,” he said in reference to his previous remarks that Iran must focus on “nullifying sanctions” in addition to lifting them.
Biden has promised to reverse the “maximum pressure” campaign adopted by the incumbent, Donald Trump, and restore the nuclear deal, which had seen the removal of sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Have you seen the situation in the U.S.? This is their democracy and this is their election fiasco. Today, the U.S. & 'American values' are ridiculed even by their friends.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 8, 2021
Since walking out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known, in May 2018, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Iran relentlessly that saw its oil export slid to near zero, thereby crippling its economy.
The latest sanctions came earlier this week and targeted Iran’s steel sector.
Khamenei defended a parliament bill that obligated the government to boost uranium enrichment to 20 percent, a move that Iran started on January 4, drawing sharp reactions from the European Union – a backer of the nuclear deal.
“When the other side implements almost none of its commitments as part of the JCPOA, it would be meaningless for the Islamic Republic to implement all its commitments under the JCPOA,” he said.
“If they return to their commitments, we will too.”
Germany, France, and Britain, the European signatories of the nuclear deal, have said the move is “deeply concerning” and carries “very significant proliferation-related risks”.
Biden and European powers have signalled that they also want Iran to negotiate on other issues including its regional influence and missiles programme. Tehran is engaged in a proxy war with regional rival Saudi Arabia in countries such as Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.
Khamenei reiterated Iran’s position that the country will not give up its regional influence or missiles, which it considers key pillars of its strategy of deterrence in a region with the US presence of its military assets.
“The Islamic Republic is obligated to act in a way that would strengthen its friends and supporters in the region,” he said.
“Our presence in the region creates stability and removes the causes of instability,” he added in response to US officials who believe Iran to have a “malign influence” in the region.
The supreme leader also said Iran cannot once more allow another country to invade it, as did Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1980, starting a deadly eight-year war.
“Today, our defence power is in a way that our enemies have no choice but to consider our power in their calculations,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Friday unveiled a huge underground missile base along the Persian Gulf coast, days after the Iranian army conducted its first-ever drill of locally made drones.
The spiritual leader also took aim at the US over Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol building, which was stormed by a mob encouraged by Trump. At least five people have been killed, including a police officer.
“Today you see the state the US is in. This is their democracy. This is the debacle of their elections. This is their human rights, where at least every few days they kill a Black person on the street without any reason or crime and the killer is not prosecuted,” he said.
Khamenei’s remarks come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington in the region around the first anniversary of the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani was killed in a Trump-ordered drone attack in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.