Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a chilling warning in a speech broadcasted live on state-television on Tuesday.
“Peace with Iran is the mother of peace,” Rouhani said. “War with Iran is the mother of all war.”
Tensions with Iran have steadily increased since U.S. President Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Agreement and re-imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran.
Iran, according to Rouhani, is willing to talk with the United States – if all sanctions are lifted.
In the meantime, Rouhani suggested shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, arguably the most important oil passage in the world, is not safe.
“If you want safety for your soldiers in the region, security would be for security. You cannot blemish our security and then expect security for you. Peace for peace. Oil for oil,” Rouhani said.
The Strait of Hormuz is the chokepoint between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. One-fifth of the world’s oil passes through it, and of late, it’s been the location of numerous tense encounters between Iran and the West.
Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker and its crew of 23 on July 19, presumably in retaliation for the British Royal Navy’s involvement in the seizure of an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar, on July 4.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States has now asked more than 60 countries to join a U.S.-led mission, aimed at protecting commercial shipping in the Gulf.
In an interview with Sky News Australia, Pompeo called Iran, “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror,” and said Iran’s recent actions regarding shipping vessels are “wrong and [need] to be protected against,” with deterrence.
Meir Javedanfar, an expert on Iran and a lecturer at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya, told Fox News Rouhani’s speech was geared toward a domestic audience.
“I think [Rouhani] is trying to show his conservative rivals that, despite their accusations, he’s not going easy on Trump,” Javedanfar said. “[The Iranian] people say, ‘look, you said if we reach a deal with the United States, America is going to decrease its threats against Iran and America is going to abide by the deal. We have a deal, and then President Trump walked out of it, and now we’re being threated.’ So Rouhani is under a lot of pressure.”
Javedanfar argued Tuesday’s speech was part domestic politics, part deterrence.
“[Rouhani] knows that [Americans] do not have the stomach for another war in the Middle East, and he is trying to deter those in the Trump administration, whom he sees as wanting war with Iran, especially National Security Advisor John Bolton,” he said.
Speech or no speech – Javedanfar said tensions between the United State and Iran will not improve in the near future. In fact, he argued, things could get worse.
“On the one hand, Trump cannot show any compromise because he has the elections coming up in 2020,” Javedanfar said. "On the other hand, the regime in Iran cannot show any compromise because it feels that enemies at home and abroad will interpret it as a sign of weakness.”
Javedanfar added, “it could take just one incident for the situation to escalate.”