Earlier, Washington designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a ‘terrorist’ group, and announced that it would allow sanctions waivers on Iranian oil exports to expire next month.
If the US wants to enter the Strait of Hormuz, they will have to talk to the IRGC forces protecting it, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said.
“We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil,” Zarif said, speaking in New York on Wednesday at the Asia Society. “If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences,” he warned.
Zarif accused Washington of pursuing a “very dangerous” policy toward Tehran. According to Zarif, President Trump was wrong if he thought tough sanctions could get Iran to change its policy. “[Trump] thinks through further pressure on Iran, the so-called ‘maximum pressure policy,’ he can bring us to our knees. He’s mistaken,” Zarif said, quipping that Iranians were “allergic to pressure.”
Zarif also shot down the Trump administration’s earlier proposals for “new” negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, saying the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement was “the best deal that we could achieve.”
The Trump administration officially designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organisation last week, prompting Iran to return the favour and designate the US military as a terrorist organisation as part of a “comprehensive plan” to retaliate against Washington’s “hostile policies.”
On Monday, the US announced that it would not renew exemptions on Iranian oil exports provided to countries including China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey once they expire on May 2. Tehran defied the sanctions threats, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei saying his country would continue to export as much oil as it needs to.
Earlier Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would be ready to negotiate with the US on reducing tensions, but only if Washington treated Iran with respect, lifted sanctions and apologised “for their illegal actions.”
Tensions between Iran and the US escalated in May 2018, when Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and imposed several rounds of tough sanctions, including oil sanctions meant to drive the country’s energy exports down “to zero.” The two countries have not enjoyed normal diplomatic relations since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
The poor relations between Tehran and Washington have sparked fears about the security of the Strait of Hormuz, a key strategic waterway through which roughly 20 percent of the world’s total oil and 35 percent of ship-based oil exports are transported. Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to close the artery if the US attempted to block Iranian oil exports.