Iran crisis: ‘Peace is our priority,’ insists official – weeks after Saudi attacks

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs, was speaking on the same day US officials announced their conclusion that drone attacks on a Saudi Arabian oil pipeline originated in Iraq, suggesting the most likely culprits were Iran-backed militias. In comments attributed to her by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), she told the Women Political Leaders Global Forum by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Japan: “Iranian people have proved over the past 40 years that they are ready to pay for safeguarding national identity, territorial integrity, freedom, independence and Islamic establishment. ”Establishing peace and security in the region is the first priority of Iran’s foreign policy.”

Ms Ebtekar also sought to highlight what she saw as major Iranian achievements in education, health, research, sports, culture and elsewhere.

Her tone contrasted with that of Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who said: “We hope that enemies of the country will grasp that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will spare no efforts to defend its marine, land and airspace and will respond to all threats powerfully.”

He claimed the US was “the main cause behind the disruption of peace and security in the region and the whole world.”

Yesterday the country’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused US President Donald Trump of already having declared war on his country of plotting “genocide”.

He tweeted: “Whoever begins war will not be the one ending it.”

Mr Trump announced last week he had been minutes away from launching an airstrike on Iran in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned military drone, before calling it off over concerns about the number of casualties which would result.

The US has also imposed a series of economic sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports after last year pulling out of the Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JPOCA) deal aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking after talks in Vienna, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said European countries have offered too little at last-ditch talks on Friday to persuade Iran to back off from its plans to breach limits imposed by the deal.

Diplomats say Iran is days away from exceeding the maximum amount of enriched uranium allowed under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which Washington quit last year.

Mr Araqchi, said the talks were “a step forward, but it is still not enough and not meeting Iran’s expectations”.

He said it was ultimately up to his superiors in Tehran to decide whether to call off plans to exceed limits in the nuclear deal.

However, he did not believe the talks’ outcome was likely to change their minds.

He added: “The decision to reduce our commitments has already been made and we will continue unless our expectations are met.”

US Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook yesterday warned there would be “consequences” if Tehran breached restrictions on uranium enrichment set out in the JPOCA, even though the US withdraw from the deal last year.

Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal today reported the drone attacks which damaged pipelines last month originated in Iraq, not Yemen.

US officials familiar with the intelligence on the attacks say they originated in southern Iraq, suggesting that most likely pointed a finger at Iran-backed militias in that region.