As the United States reportedly plans a flurry of fresh sanctions on Iran before Donald Trump’s presidency comes to an end, Tehran has told its rivals in the Middle East not to count heavily on Washington to help them in the future.
“Trump’s gone in 70 days but we’ll remain here forever,” the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Monday in what he called “a sincere message to our neighbours”.
In his tweets, one in English and another in Arabic Zarif urged the region to stop “betting on outsiders” to provide security and called on them to turn to dialogue to “resolve differences”.
Zarif’s message to his neighbours came a day after a media report said the US was planning a “flood” of fresh sanctions against Tehran.
On Sunday, US news website Axios, citing two unnamed Israeli sources, said the Trump administration intends to announce a new sanction every week for the next 10 weeks before president-elect Joe Biden assumes office on 20 January.
The report said the sanctions are being planned in coordination with several Arab states allied to Washington.
Axios said the US Special Representative on Iran Elliott Abrams was in Israel on Sunday, where he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the new sanctions.
Abrams is set to meet other top Israeli officials on Monday to brief them on the plan, the news website said.
On Saturday, the US Department of State said Abrams will travel to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after Israel “for consultations on Iran”.
Sanctions are a part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran that began after the US president in May 2018 unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear deal Tehran had signed with world powers in 2015.
Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark deal was followed by harsh economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
In the past year, faced with a potential Joe presidency, the Trump administration has been targeting entities and individuals for sanctions in a bid to make their lifting more difficult.
Joe is expected to pursue a different policy towards Iran, especially through a possible revival of the nuclear deal he had helped negotiate as vice president during the Obama administration.
In a news conference on Monday, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran’s neighbours should realise that it would be better for them and the region to stop relying on the West.
“Iran doesn’t think its policies are changed with people coming and going,” he said, referring to the US presidential election, which Trump has lost but not conceded yet.
“Perhaps the elimination of a delusion called ‘Trump security’ will help a few of our neighbours reach the rationality that they can’t always pay and lobby to buy security and arms.”
Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Zanganeh, who was sanctioned by Washington last month under terrorism-related charges, said on Monday more sanctions against Iran only signal a “vendetta” by the US.
“These sanctions will have no effect because there is nothing left to be sanctioned,” he said during a speech while inaugurating natural gas distribution projects in Fars province.
“They have sanctioned whatever there was left. Unless they want to sanction our colleagues in the services sector and their kitchen staff.”
Zanganeh was sanctioned alongside the petroleum ministry, the National Iranian Oil Company and the National Iranian Tanker Company on 26 October.
While all these entities were already sanctioned by the US after Trump reneged on the nuclear deal, they were targeted again for their alleged financial support to the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.