Rouhani Heightens Rhetoric, Calls For Prosecution Of U.S. Officials

In an apparent sign of frustration as a result of his country’s ongoing economic problems, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has heightened anti-U.S. rhetoric in his recent speeches.

During the past two days, Rouhani called on Iranians to damn “those who created the current situation in Iran,” and urged the Iranian Judiciary to prosecute the US officials involved in imposing sanctions on Tehran on charges of “committing crime against humanity.”

The statements made by Rouhani could be an attempt to blame others for his government’s inability to solve the Islamic Republic’s long-standing economic problems which are mainly caused by structural flaws and mismanagement coupled with the impact of sanctions.

Speaking at the last cabinet meeting in the current Iranian year on Monday March 18, Rouhani said the “the United States, Israel and their regional allies have created problems for Iran in the areas of foreign currency and prices of goods,” and called on Iranians to strongly “damn the individual who has created this situation for Iran.”

This could be a reference to President Donald Trump who announced the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions that hit Iran’s ailing economy hard.

Rouhani also criticized his government’s critics, while inaugurating in recent days what he characterized as “infra-structure projects.”

At this meeting Rouhani once again said that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told him privately “to be the commander” of the ongoing, in his words, “economic and psychological war” between Iran and the West.

Khamenei has not yet said anything publicly about appointing Rouhani as “commander” in that “war,” and there is no indication yet that he has issued such an order to the other branches of the Iranian government to recognize Rouhani as such.

Rouhani first spoke about his role as commander on March 6, quoting Khamenei, but Khamenei has neither confirmed, nor denied making such a comment.

Meanwhile, in a related development on Sunday, Rouhani urged the Iranian Judiciary to prosecute U.S. officials and those who have designed or helped the implementation of sanctions against Iran, in Iranian courts and international tribunals on charges of committing crimes against humanity.

Rouhani made the comment during a visit to Bushehr in southern Iran on Sunday, adding that “The case should be made first at the Iranian courts against the U.S. and those who help the United States and its accomplices in crimes against humanity, and then we should ask an international tribunal to put them on trial.”

However, Rouhani, who likes to be identified as a lawyer, did not say how the case is going to be taken to “an international tribunal.” Previously, experts had said that indicting foreign officials in Iran could only have symbolic value.

In his speech to government officials in Bushehr, Rouhani said that preventing the flow of food, medicine and agricultural products is a crime against the nation’s health and Iran’s ecosystem.

In a recent video, Brian Hook, the U.S. State Department’s special representative on Iran, told the people of Iran that U.S. sanctions are merely aimed at changing the destructive behavior of the Islamic Republic, and that sanctions do not target humanitarian transactions involving food and medicine.

Food and medicine are not subject to U.S. sanctions, however, due to the sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, shipping and the banking system, many international banks refrain from working with Iran even when transactions are about purchasing food.

Meanwhile, Rouhani said on Sunday that the United States has violated the Hague International Court of Justice’s ruling about the sanctions. The Court had ruled in October that the US must make sure that its sanctions on Iran does not adversely affect the import of essential commodities or the safety of passenger flights.

An Iranian representative to the International Court of Justice notified his U.S. counterpart in December that essential commodities are not “practically” exempt from the sanctions. However, the U.S. rejected the court’s jurisdiction in this case, which could take years to resolve, legal experts say. On the other hand, if the U.S. refuses to accept the ruling, Iran may take the case to the UN Security Council, where the United States is entitled to veto any decision.

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