Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Friday lashed out at Germany, the U.K. and France, calling them the “footmen of the U.S.,” days after the European countries moved to sanction the Islamic Republic for violating the controversial 2015 nuclear deal.
“The threat of the French & German govts & the vicious British govt to send Iran's case to the Security Council proved once again that they are the footmen of the US,” Khamenei said on Twitter. “These 3 countries are the ones who helped [former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein] as much as they could in his war against us.”
The three countries, which are members of the coalition that penned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) in 2015, on Tuesday had formally accused Iran of breaching the Obama-era nuclear deal, beginning a process that could result in the U.N. restoring sanctions on the rogue regime.
“We do this in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPoA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework,” the three countries’ foreign ministers said in a statement.
The ministers accused Iran of breaking “key restrictions,” including most recently a limit on the number of centrifuges and enrichment. Iran has been vocal in threatening to break the deal since the U.S. departure in 2018, leading to fears in Europe that the time needed by Iran to produce a nuke is getting shorter. The countries, therefore, referred the matter to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism.
“In doing so, our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran. Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA,” they said in the statement.
But Khamenei showed no sign of softening his stance. In response, he rehashed claims about how those governments helped Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq and accused them of being terrorists in different clothes.
“Even when these govts negotiate, their negotiations are mixed with deception. The same people who appear at the negotiating table – the same so called 'gentlemen' behind the table – are the same terrorists of the Baghdad airport. They just change clothes,” he said.
The European decision to trigger the dispute mechanism comes amid growing pressure from the U.S. on Iran. The Trump administration killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Forces, in a strike in Baghdad, days after Iranian-backed militia supporters stormed the U.S. embassy. Iran followed up with a strike on bases on Iraq housing U.S. troops, but it resulted in no deaths or injuries.
The U.S. subsequently responded with a fresh wave of economic and diplomatic sanctions against Tehran’s already faltering economy. Those are on top of the series of sanctions imposed by the U.S. since it pulled out of the JCPoA in 2018.
European countries objected to the U.S. decision to pull out of the compact, and have tried to keep the accord alive. But with Iran’s violations, that support has been wavering. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that the deal should be replaced by a new deal negotiated by President Trump.
The Ayatollah’s rant came hours after he conducted Friday prayers in Tehran for the first time since 2012, and used the platform to rip into the U.S. for its aggressive stance on Iran.
“These contemptible governments are waiting to bring the Iranian nation to its knees,” Khamenei said. “America, who is your elder, your leader, and your master, was not able to bring the Iranian nation to its knees. You are too small to bring the Iranian nation to its knees.”
He appeared to mock Trump and others who had backed the protesters marching in the streets against Khamenei, dismissing “these American clowns who falsely and despicably say that they are standing with the Iranian people.”
“You are lying,” he said. "If you do stand with the Iranian people it is because you want to stick your poisoned dagger into the back of the Iranian nation. Of course you haven't been able to do that so far, and you won't be able to do a damn thing.”
Fox News' Rich Edson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.