Saturday 25 May 2019

Sanctions pain will be worse than in 1980s, says Iran leader

Wary: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani fears new economic hardship. Photo: Sergei Chirikov/File Photo
Wary: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani fears new economic hardship. Photo: Sergei Chirikov/File Photo

Sara Elizabeth Williams

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has warned of a wave of approaching economic hardships that will be worse than during the 1980s war with Iraq as "unprecedented" pressure from international sanctions brings the country to its knees.

"During the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases," he said.

"But I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united."

The leader's comments, made to activists in Tehran, come as US-Iran relations, frosty since President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal a year ago, hit a new low.

Last week, the US deployed forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to counter what it says is a rising threat from Iran to US forces.

The presence of USS Abraham Lincoln, replacing a carrier rotated out last month, has been seen as a clear provocation by Iran's security establishment.

"An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now... the threats have switched to opportunities," said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Iranian Guards' aerospace division.

"If [the Americans] make a move, we will hit them in the head."

The commander of the Guards accused the US yesterday of starting a "psychological war" in the region.

The regional sabre-rattling is picking up pace, with Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz yesterday warning that Israel may be in the line of fire from Iran-sponsored Hizbollah if the stand-off escalates.

Back in Tehran, Mr Rouhani's warning of hard times to come appears designed to rally support for his embattled government, which has been criticised by hardliners since Mr Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal.

Despite the increasingly loud voices of hawkish members of his administration, Mr Trump appears open to discussion, saying he wanted to talk. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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