Iran’s Zarif Warns U.S. ‘Cannot Expect to Stay Safe’

On Monday, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, issued a stern warning to the United States that the U.S. cannot expect to stay safe amidst the rising tensions between the two countries.

According to Aljazeera, Zarif claimed that the United States started an economic war with Iran when Donald Trump decided to withdraw the United States from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran – specifically targeting the oil sector. The sanctions also ban Iran from accessing the U.S. financial system or trading in U.S. dollars.

The Associated Press reports that Zarif made two condemning statements regarding the situation. First, Zarif said, “The only solution for reducing tensions in this region is stopping that economic war.” He followed up that statement by warning the U.S. stating that “whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was at the press conference where Zarif made the comments. Maas insisted his country and other European nations will work to salvage the deal. The Associated Press quoted him saying, “we won’t be able to do miracles, but we are trying as best as we can to do prevent its failure.” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus provided a response from the United States. According to cnsnews, Ortagus claimed that “making threats, using nuclear blackmail, and terrorizing other nations is typical behavior for the revolutionary regime in Tehran,” and “tomorrow they will probably threaten once again to close the Strait of Hormuz. We aren’t impressed.” Ortagus continued that  “Iran faces a simple choice, it can either behave like a normal nation or watch its economy crumble.”

At this point it cannot be said that Iran’s threats will necessarily manifest into physical warfare. Currently, all of their threats are empty. This is supported by the lack of concern shown in Ortagus’s response. There is good reasoning behind the United States’ nonchalant response. The U.S. has great military superiority over Iran. Zarif may have threatened to end any way that starts, but U.S. leaders have no reason to believe such a threat. However, just because Iran is unlikely to dominate the U,S, on a battlefield, does not mean they are incapable of inflicting serious damage. Any violent act Iran may launch against the U.S. will result in damage to American property and life. The counterattack the US will launch will result in further damages. Violence between the countries is the least desirable outcome in this conflict. Rather than making military threats against each other, these two countries should be working towards a new deal that addresses the conflict. Cnsnews claims that the United States is using a “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran. However, Iran’s recent threat shows that this tactic may be exacerbating the problem, hence,  the US should consider reducing its sanctions over Iran.

This conflict can be solved with a policy that addresses the main concerns from both sides. According to Military Times, Iran is growing frustrated with Europe and the U.S. in particular.  Iran’s national currency is currently trading at 130,000 rials to a dollar. This has wiped away people’s earnings and driven up prices on nearly every good in the country. Consequently, Europe has pledged to create a program so Iran could trade for humanitarian goods, however, this program is yet to take off.

Currently, the United States and Iran are engaged in conflict consisting of threats and military displays of power. It is important that this conflict is ended before the conflict becomes violent. The United States is currently trying to use economic pressure to bring Iran to the negotiating table. However, this pressure is increasing Iran’s frustration and driving them into further conflict. Both nations need to reach a point of understanding and come together to diplomatically end these tensions.