Iranian President Hassan Rouhani looks on at a press conference on February 6, 2018 in Tehran (Iran).
Ali Mohammadi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – In an angry speech on state television, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States and Europe of being present in the Middle East and failing to comply with the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
US troops are "unsafe" in the region today, and EU troops "could be in danger tomorrow," Rouhani said, according to a Reuters translation. It was the first time that the Fiihrer was targeting the European armed forces in the region. He also accused the US of making the region unsafe and said it should "apologize" for "past crimes" in Tehran.
The United States has significantly expanded its presence in the Gulf last year as shipping and oil facilities have come under fire for attacking Iran, which Tehran rejects. The United Kingdom has approximately 400 armed forces in Iraq, spread across Irbil, Baghdad and Taji, all locations attacked by Iraqi Shiite militias supported by the Iranian Quds Force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps's external operations unit.
EU forces are also based in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and France and the UK have a small number of special forces in Syria. A number of EU countries have personnel in Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-IS coalition based in Iraq.
Former Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike on January 3, the most dramatic escalation between Washington and Tehran in a series of attacks. Western armed forces and embassies in the region have been on high alert ever since.
Rouhani also used Wednesday's speech to criticize the EU's "failure to deliver on its promises" under the Nuclear Agreement, the multilateral agreement signed in 2015 to restrict Iran's nuclear program while lifting economic sanctions.
"The EU should honor its nuclear deal commitments," Rouhani said, adding that the EU is not acting as an independent bloc and should apologize to Iran for failing to deliver on its promises. The US should return to the deal, he said.
France, the United Kingdom and Germany announced in a joint statement on Tuesday that it would trigger the nuclear deal's dispute mechanism to protest and "discuss" Iran's recent decision to completely cut compliance. Iran dismissed the European measure as ineffective and criticized the countries for failing to compensate for all the trade they had lost due to U.S. sanctions.
The United States left the deal under President Donald Trump in May 2018 and subsequently imposed severe sanctions on Iran that cut oil exports and weakened its economy.
After successive declines in compliance with the agreement's parameters last year in response to the sanctions, Iran announced on January 5 that it would fully suspend compliance and not limit uranium enrichment, storage, or the number of centrifuges more will be kept in operation. However, Tehran claims that it would continue to work with the United Nations nuclear inspectors and that the steps could be reversed if the sanctions were lifted.
Rouhani also mocked Tuesday's Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suggestion that Trump should offer a new nuclear deal, calling it "strange" because "the US President has always broken promises."
Trump has repeatedly offered to negotiate with the Iranians, tightening the screws with more sanctions, as announced on Friday. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Wednesday that his country was "not interested" in negotiating with the Americans, while senior leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last year that Tehran would "never" speak to the United States.