TEHRAN - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Tehran would “respond appropriately” to new US sanctions but that Iran remained committed to its nuclear deal with world powers.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will always stick to its international commitments,” Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting.

But if the US wants “to press forward with new sanctions under any pretext... the great nation of Iran will respond appropriately,” he said. “We will not forgive violations by the Americans and we will stand against them.”

His comments came a day after the US and Iran traded tit-for-tat sanctions over the Islamic republic’s ballistic missile programme.

The State Department slapped sanctions on 18 individuals and entities in Iran, hours after the White House admitted Tehran was adhering to the 2015 agreement. Iran hit back with its own sanctions against “American people and entities that have acted against the Iranian people and other Muslim peoples of the region.”

Rouhani on Wednesday accused Washington of “duplicity”. “On one hand they send official reports to Congress verifying that Iran has been completely loyal to the nuclear deal,” Rouhani said. “On other hand they seek new sanctions under various excuses against logic (and) the spirit and text” of the accord, he said.

Missile funding

Iran’s parliament on Tuesday voted to streamline a bill that would increase funding for the country’s missile programme and Revolutionary Guards in response to Washington’s “adventurism” in the region.

An overwhelming majority of lawmakers voted to prioritise the motion that would see an additional $260 million allocated to the missile programme and the same amount to the elite Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations wing, the Quds Force.

Rouhani accused his American counterpart Donald Trump of breaking international deals signed by his predecessor Barack Obama on Cuba, North Korea and climate change.

The Iranian president said Washington was pushing Iran to “abandon its commitments” and that the US was “worried over improved economic relations between Iran and Asia and Europe”. “We are happy that so far the 5+1 (world powers) have stood strongly to protect” the nuclear deal, he said.

Later in the day, Revolutionary Guards chief Mohammad Ali Jafari warned the US of Iran’s growing power. “Iran’s missile power is advancing at a great speed in air, land and sea and this is a cornerstone of our policy,” he said in comments on the force’s Sepahnews website.

Before imposing “sanctions on defence and the Revolutionary Guards”, the US should close its bases within 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) of Iran, he added.

Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbours to the west and Afghanistan to the east host several major US military bases.

Jafari warned US “miscalculation” could have a “high cost”. “The domain of the Islamic revolution’s influence has expanded so much” that Iran is active close to American interests in many parts of the world, he said. Such influence, he added, is partly the result of Iran’s military strength and “the roar of the missiles”.

Guards chief says US should move bases away if pursues sanctions

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday Washington should move its bases and avoid “miscalculations” over new sanctions against Tehran, Iranian agencies reported.

The Trump administration imposed the new sanctions on Tuesday over Iran’s ballistic missile programme and said Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East undercut any positive contributions coming from the 2015 nuclear accord.

Iran says its programme to develop ballistic missiles is defensive and does not violate the nuclear accord.

“If the United States wants to pursue sanctions against Iran’s defences and the Guards, then it has to move its regional bases to a distance of about 1,000 km (620 miles) around Iran and be aware that it would pay a high price for any miscalculations,” Tasnim and other news agencies quoted Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying.

The United States has bases in Qatar and Kuwait across the Gulf from Iran and the US Fifth Fleet is based in nearby Bahrain.

Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has repeatedly test-fired ballistic missiles, which Washington sees as a challenge to a UN resolution and the nuclear deal.

“Iran’s missile capability in the air, sea and land is growing rapidly, and this is an absolute principle for us,” Jafari was quoted as saying.

In February, Washington said it was putting Tehran on notice over its “destabilising activity” after Iran test-launched a medium-range ballistic missile that a US official said had exploded after travelling 1,010 km.

In June, Iran fired missiles into eastern Syria, targeting bases of Islamic State which had claimed responsibility for attacks in Tehran that killed 18 people.

AFP/Reuters