Photo: Reuters

Iran: U.S. missed ‘opportunity to apologize’

This morning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the United States had missed a historic chance to lift sanctions on his country in the midst of the continued spread and deadly implications of the coronavirus.

In a televised cabinet meeting, the Iranian leader was quoted as saying, “it was a great opportunity for Americans to apologize… and to lift the unjust and unfair sanctions on Iran.”

It is important to clarify that the comments by Rouhani came in response to reports over a statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which supposedly alluded to the possibility that Washington might consider easing sanctions that have effectively crippled Iran’s economy.

Nevertheless, the referred to statement by Secretary Pompeo, which was reported by major media outlets around the world, was evidently taken out of context. The American official clearly stated that “humanitarian assistance, medical devices, equipment, pharmaceuticals, things that people need in these difficult times, those are not sanctioned anywhere at any time that I’m aware of.  I mean, just read that whether it’s – it’s not always an American sanction.  In North Korea there are UN Security Council resolutions.  In other places they are, in fact, American provisions.  But in each of those, if you read them, it’s quite on its face that these items aren’t sanctioned. There’s no prohibition on moving humanitarian assistance into these difficult and challenging places.”

Secretary Pompeo further asserted that while the Islamic Republic – among other totalitarian regimes – wrongly accuses the United States for its domestic hardship. He argues that “Some of these countries continue to build bombs and missiles and nuclear capability, all the while their people are starving. So, when they make the claim that, boy, they just don’t have the money to feed their people, these are decisions that these people, leaders have often made, not in the best interest of those peoples.  It’s, indeed, quite sad to see those governments make those decisions which harm their own people.”

Secretary Pompeo also responded to a question about a surge in attacks, by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, which are directed against U.S. installations saying “So, we have seen attacks on Americans, attempted efforts in some cases as well inside of Iraq conducted by Shia militias.  Our response has been very consistent.  Two things:  One, we will always respond to protect and defend Americans.  Whether it’s our diplomats in our embassies and consulates inside of Iraq, or Department of Defense people who are serving or there are civilians who are contractors, we’ll always do everything we can to defend and protect them.  We will respond if they are threatened. We’ve also made clear that in Iraq in particular we know that those Shia militias who have attacked the Americans are trained, equipped, underwritten, by the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it’s been President Trump’s policy consistently that says that we will respond against all of those who facilitated, trained, equipped, and enabled those attacks on America.  That holds as true today as it did two weeks, four weeks, or back in the beginning of January, when we took a strike against Qassem Soleimani.”