Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that he would build up stockpiles of low enriched uranium and heavy water, used to create nuclear reactors, and end limits to uranium enrichment if Europe doesn’t adequately compensate Iran in the oil and banking sectors within 60 days, a move former CIA station chief Daniel Hoffman calls “nuclear blackmail.”
“It’s quite telling because our maximum sanctions have really taken effect and the Iranian economy is in freefall,” Hoffman, a Fox News contributor, said on "America's Newsroom." “The government of Iran is looking for some redress and this is how they seek to get it.”
Tensions between the U.S. and Tehran intensified when President Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on the nation that have continued to cripple Iran's economy. The original deal was brokered by President Barack Obama and ceased sanctions on Iran if the nation agreed to stop nuclear proliferation.
"If the five countries came to the negotiating table and we reached an agreement, and if they could protect our interests in the oil and banking sectors, we will go back to square one," Rouhani said in urging the U.K., China, France, Germany and Russia to collectively compensate for the damage U.S. sanctions have caused to the Iranian economy, according to Reuters.
The U.S. has responded to the threats by increasing patrols in the region on Sunday.
“We’ve sent the USS Abraham Lincoln to the Persian Gulf out of concern that the Iranians, who have in the past harassed our military shipping boats, may do so again and there’s concern that Iranian proxy militias in the region might attack us,” Hoffman said. “We’re being very clear right now about our message to Iran, that if they seek to attack us, we will respond. That’s what deterrence is all about.”
“Any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force," U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement Sunday.
House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff criticized Trump’s stance towards Iran.
“Recent statements and actions taken by the administration have heightened my concern of a cycle of escalation with Iran, one that could put us on the path to a war that would be destabilizing, costly, and contrary to our national interest,” Schiff said Tuesday.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during an unannounced visit to Iraq on Tuesday, justified the president’s decision to beef up military reserves in the Middle East in response to Iran’s looming threats as violence between Hamas and Israel continue.
“Let’s all remember that Iran is the state sponsor of terrorism, that they’re the ones responsible for aggressive military action throughout the region, destabilizing neighbors in the Gulf and attacking U.S. persons and our installations throughout the regions,” Hoffman said. “We are sending a clear message to Iran. We are seeking to deter their further aggressive action. If we did nothing, then we would be subjected to attacks because Iran would take that as weakness."