Persian Gulf Tensions

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and his German counterpart Heiko Maas walk to a press conference after their talks, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 10, 2019. Iran's foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday that it "cannot expect to stay safe" after launching what he described as an economic war against Tehran, taking a hard-line stance amid a visit by Germany's top diplomat seeking to defuse tensions. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday that it “cannot expect to stay safe” after launching what he described as an economic war against Tehran, taking a hard-line stance amid a visit by Germany’s top diplomat seeking to defuse tensions.

A stern-faced Mohammad Javad Zarif offered a series of threats over the ongoing tensions gripping the Persian Gulf. The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s decision over a year ago to withdraw America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Trump also reinstated tough sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil sector.

“Mr. Trump himself has announced that the U.S. has launched an economic war against Iran,” Zarif said. “The only solution for reducing tensions in this region is stopping that economic war.”

Zarif also warned: “Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it.”

Zarif’s ramped up rhetoric marked a sharp departure for the U.S.-educated diplomat and signals that Iran is taking a harder line toward the West. His public threats, which came during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, were striking because Zarif was the one who helped secure the nuclear deal, alongside the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani. However, he does not make the decision on whether to go to war. That is left to the supreme leader.

For his part, Maas insisted his country and other European nations want to find a way to salvage the deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But he acknowledged there were limits.

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