President Hassan Rouhani has called for unity among Iran’s political factions to overcome conditions which he says may be harder than those during the 1980s war with Iraq.
As Iran faces tightening US sanctions, US President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leaders to talk with him about giving up their nuclear programme and said he could not rule out a military confrontation.
Trump made the offer as he increased economic and military pressure on Iran, moving to cut off all Iranian oil exports this month while beefing up the US Navy and Air Force presence in the Gulf.
The US government approved the deployment of a Patriot missile defence battery and another warship to the Middle East on Friday.
The USS Arlington, which transports marines, amphibious vehicles, and rotary aircraft, as well as the Patriot missiles, will join the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which already passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Thursday, and is currently sailing in the Red Sea, according to CNN.
|The USS Abraham Lincoln was pictured while travelling through the Suez Canal on May 9 [Bud Kinsey/via Reuters]|
The US says the deployments of military hardware to the region comes in response to “heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations”.
Last week, a US air force bomber task force, including B-52 bombers, also arrived at the US airbase Al Udeid in Qatar, US Central Command said.
“The Department of Defense continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies. Due to operational security, we will not discuss timelines or location of forces,” the statement added.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region,” the statement added.
‘I do not despair’
“Today, it cannot be said whether conditions are better or worse than the (1980-88) war period, but during the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases,” Rouhani said, according to the state news agency IRNA.
“The pressures by enemies is a war unprecedented in the history of our Islamic revolution… but I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united,” Rouhani told activists from various factions.
Hardliners have criticised Rouhani after Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which Rouhani supported, and reimposed sanctions last year.
The pragmatic president has also been abandoned by some of his moderate allies.
Separately, a media court on Saturday suspended the weekly Seda (Voice), the semi-official news agency ISNA reported, after the reformist magazine published an issue that included articles warning about the possibility of war with the US.
“At the Crossroads of War and Peace, have moderates lost or will they again save Iran from war?” the main headline on the front page read against a photograph of US Navy warships.
On social media, hardliners attacked the magazine as “Trump’s voice”, suggesting its warning about the danger of war amounted to a call for talks with the US.
“At the height of America’s political, economic and media war against the Iranian nation, an Iranian publication supplements the enemy’s media operations inside the country,” the hardline-led news agency Fars wrote in a comment.
The commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said in a parliament session on Sunday that the US has started a psychological war in the region, according to a parliamentary spokesperson.
“Commander Salami, with attention to the situation in the region, presented an analysis that the Americans have started a psychological war because the comings and goings of their military is a normal matter,” the spokesperson for the parliamentary leadership, Behrouz Nemati, said.
Major General Hossein Salami was appointed as head of the Guards last month.