Speaking last Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rex Tillerson said Washington will support efforts of a regime change in Iran.
“Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop obviously nuclear weapons, and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know,” Tillerson said on June 14.
In addition to voicing Washington’s apparent support of a regime change, Tillerson also said the US could pursue sanctions on Iran’s entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Tillerson’s remarks sparked an avalanche of criticism and condemnation from Iran. In the latest development, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss charge d’affaires to Tehran to protest Washington’s policy. The Embassy of Switzerland represents American interests in the Islamic Republic after the US cut diplomatic relations with Iran in April 1980 in the wake of the 400-day US Embassy hostage crisis of 1979-1981.
“Following the interfering and meddling statements made by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson… the charge d’affaires of the European country was summoned to express Iran’s complaint about Tillerson’s anti-Iran remarks in the country’s House of Representatives,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement, Mehr News reported.
Earlier on Monday, Iran’s permanent envoy to the UN also delivered a letter of protest to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, accusing Washington of devising a “brazen interventionist plan.”
Tillerson’s remarks “is a brazen interventionist plan that runs counter to every norm and principle of international law, as well as the letter and spirit of UN Charter, and constitutes an unacceptable behavior in international relations,” Iran’s UN Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in the letter.
Tehran further accused the US of violating the 1981 Algiers Accords, a set of agreements signed by Washington and Tehran to end the Iran hostage crisis.
“The United States pledges that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs,” Point I of the Accord reads.
Prior to the diplomatic maneuvers, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said any US regime change game has always and will always fail in Iran.
“In the past 38 years, when has there been a time when you haven’t wanted to change the Islamic system?” Khamenei said according to the Tehran Times. “Your head has hit the rock each time and always will.”
“US officials should worry more about saving their own regime than changing Iran’s, where 75% of people just voted,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, referring to Iran’s May 19 election and the high voter turnout.
“American extremists and Daesh (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL)” are “two sides of the same coin, both seeking to negatively influence the country’s internal environment and make security issues a major concern for Iran,” the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said in reaction to Tillerson’s remarks, the Tehran Times reported.
Already strained US-Iranian relations have deteriorated in recent months after Donald Trump assumed office.
During his campaign, Trump promised to “dismantle the disastrous [nuclear] deal with Iran,” which the Obama administration lauded among its main foreign policy achievements.
While Tillerson acknowledged last week, that the State’s Department Iranian policy is still “under development,” and has “not yet been delivered to the president.”
Trump has also previously branded Iran as “the number one terrorist state.”
The frosty bilateral relations between the US and Iran has iced further after Tehran accused the US of sponsoring terrorism following the deadly terrorist gun and bomb attacks on the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s shrine in Tehran earlier this month. At least 13 people were killed and dozens injured in the twin attacks.
US coalition still owes explanation over downing of Syrian warplane – Lavrov
“There is a mechanism [to avoid Syria airspace incidents between Russia and US] that is now suspended after the US shot down that plane,” Lavrov told reporters. “We have requested a detailed explanation through the Ministry of Defense. We expect that it will be provided.”
The US-led coalition shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet over the province of Raqqa on Sunday saying it allegedly dropped bombs on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia. The Syrian government countered that it was carrying out operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
This incident, considered an act of aggression and a violation of sovereignty by Moscow and Damascus, led to the Russian Defense Ministry suspending cooperation with its US counterparts within the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria.
Lavrov added that he hopes the American-led coalition’s efforts in Syria will not undermine the Syrian government’s struggle against terrorism.
“We cannot but remember that throughout this crisis, starting with the process that we began with [former US Secretary of State] John Kerry with the participation of the military and intelligence services, there was a growing feeling that Jabhat al-Nusra, either intentionally or otherwise, was spared from any serious blows by our American partners.”
“We frankly talk about this with the Americans, and I will definitely put this question before [the current Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson in the very near future, I hope. But there must be a complete clarity.”
Lavrov and Le Drian discussed Syria among other issues and seem to have reached some level of mutual understanding.
“We paid particularly close attention to Syria,” Lavrov said. “We have a common understanding that this crisis can only be solved through an inclusive national dialogue with the active support of the international community, as stipulated by the UN Security Council’s decisions, maintaining an absolutely uncompromising struggle against terrorist organizations.”
“We have a common enemy,” Le Drian added. “Terrorist groups that want to use Syrian territory in order to organize attacks in our territories, and who are preparing militants, militarily and ideologically. We believe that a return to stability must go through a political transition process.”
“Neither Russia nor France is interested in the spread of terrorism on Syrian soil,” Le Drian said. He added,however, that “we are interested in the end of the civil war in Syria and the end to the mass killings for which the Assad regime is responsible.”
The conflict in Syria has been raging since March 2011 and according to the UN, more than 220,000 people have been killed as various armed militant formations and terrorist groups seized control of large swathes of land in the country.
The US-led international coalition openly intervened in the conflict in September 2014 under the pretext of fighting Islamic State terrorists. Since then, it has repeatedly been accused of targeting Syrian government positions, supporting rebel forces and occasionally bombing civilian targets in the process.
Russian Air Force and military advisors were deployed to Syria in 2015 following an official request from Damascus, which pleaded for Tehran’s and Moscow’s help in supporting their anti-terrorist operations and to facilitate the reconciliation process in the liberated territories.