Iran's top diplomat said US 'cannot expect to stay safe' during Trump's 'economic war'

FILE PHOTO - Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim in Baghdad, Iraq May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-MousilyIranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim in BaghdadReuters

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday issued a vague warning to the US it can't "expect to stay safe" as the Trump administration continues to hit Tehran with economic sanctions.
  • This came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran that have led to discussions of a military confrontation or even an all-out war.
  • Zarif said the only way to deescalate the situation is for President Donald Trump to end his "economic war" against Iran.
  • Zarif added, "Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it."
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Iran's top diplomat on Monday blasted President Donald Trump for waging what he described as "economic war" against Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the US "cannot expect to stay safe" as the Trump administration continues to hammer Iran's economy with harsh sanctions amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran that have led to fears of war, The Associated Press reported.

Speaking during a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the Iranian diplomat said, "Mr. Trump himself has announced that the US has launched an economic war against Iran. The only solution for reducing tensions in this region is stopping that economic war."

Zarif added, "Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it."

These are uncharacteristic remarks from Zarif, who tends to take a more amiable tone than hardliners in the Iranian government. Zarif, who was educated in the US, played an instrumental role in the negotations with the Obama administration surrounding the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.

Read more: Trump's Iran strategy is failing to reduce tensions as a top general warns the threat to US troops is still 'imminent'

Zarif's stark warning to the US is a sign of how much more antagonistic relations have become between the two countries under Trump - especially in recent weeks following the Trump administration's deployment of B-52 bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Middle East to counter Iranian threats to US forces in the region.

Much like the vague nature of Zarif's warnings to the US on Monday, the exact nature of the threats the US has been responding to in recent weeks has been unclear.

The Trump administration has alluded to threats to US forces from Iran and its proxies, without providing much in the way of details beyond saying Iran was behind attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Read more: How the Trump administration got into a showdown with Iran that could lead to war

Meanwhile, Trump has sent mixed messages to Iran, ranging from a threat to "end" the country to proposing they sit down and hold talks. Iran has scoffed at the notion of holding dialogue amid an onslaught of sanctions from the US.

The top commander in the Middle East on Thursday warned the threat from Iran to US forces in the region remains "imminent."

The next day, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Iran, targeting its largest petrochemical company for supporting the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In a letter to the UN that was made public the same day, Iran complained that the US had "endangered international peace and security" by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions.

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