Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations has branded President Donald Trump’s new sanctions a war crime and suggested that U.S. policy has thrust the two nations into an economic war.
Appearing on CNN on Tuesday, Majid Takht Ravanchi told host John Berman that the White House’s policy has made diplomatic engagement impossible.
Trump announced new sanctions on the upper echelons of the theocratic regime in Tehran on Monday. Those targeted included Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Iranian officials have been venting their fury at the new measures, with President Hassan Rouhani branding the Trump administration “mentally retarded” and suggesting the sanctions are evidence of Washington’s desperation.
Speaking on Tuesday, Ravanchi continued the regime’s attack on the White House, arguing that Trump’s administration is “not interested in real diplomacy” and asking, “How can we start a dialogue with an administration who is threatening Iran?”
“What they have been calling for is the submission—total submission—of Iran to the demands of the United States, which is unjust,” Ravanchi added. The introduction and escalation of sanctions, he claimed, “is a war crime in our judgement.”
Rouhani has described the U.S. sanctions offensive as an “economic war” on his country. Ravanchi echoed this interpretation, telling Berman, “Definitely we are at economic war with the U.S.”
Ravanchi admitted that American measures are affecting the country’s economy and its people, but warned that Iran would stubbornly resist the U.S. “The culture of Iranians does not accept intimidation, does not accept coercion, does not accept receiving pressure from anybody,” he told Berman.
The latest round of sanctions represents accelerated U.S. efforts to cripple Iran’s struggling economy and undermine the Islamic republic’s ruling elite. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—also known as the Iran nuclear deal—last May, demanding a renegotiation of the agreement to include harsher restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile research and regional influence.
America’s withdrawal from the deal allowed Washington to reimpose crippling economic sanctions. In May, the Trump administration began withdrawing waivers issued to nations allowing them to continue buying Iranian oil, including the remaining signatories to the deal. The U.S. hopes tighter restrictions will snuff out exports of Iran oil, which represents the country’s most valuable resource.
Tensions rose and relations deteriorated further thanks to U.S. military posturing, alleged Iranian sabotage of commercial shipping, Tehran-backed militia attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq, intensified attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Saudi infrastructure from Yemen, and the shooting down of a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
The U.S. also listed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, after which Iran reciprocated by designating all American troops in the Middle East as terrorists. On Monday, Trump argued that Khamenei was ultimately responsible for “the hostile conduct of the regime” in the region.
But Ravanchi stressed that Iran and the U.S. already had a deal, which was also supported by the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union. The ambassador said that the U.S. withdrawal created a “mess in our region,” and warned that any American military action would leave the Middle East “in a total mess.”