A senior Iranian cleric has called on Iran's Foreign Ministry to react decisively to what Tehran sees as American threats against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear weapons program.
“People expect the Iranian Foreign Ministry to give a crushing response to rants, lies, accusations and brazenness of the United States,” Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahhedi Kermani said in a sermon to worshippers at the weekly Friday Prayers in Tehran, according to Iran's official PressTV.
He was reacting to a recent reaffirmation by US Secretary of State John Kerry that the military option against Iran was still viable, and to a statement last week by the US's top nuclear negotiator with Iran, Wendy Sherman, who questioned Iran's need for a heavy water reactor.
“Mr. Kerry and Ms. Sherman behaved very impolitely, they expressed ugly words and this ugliness is” in their nature, said the Iranian cleric. Kermani added that the US officials “continue to threaten Iran” with the military option.
Iran and the six major world powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, the UK, and Germany – signed a nuclear deal in Geneva, Switzerland, last November to pave the way for resolution of the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.
If Iran does not execute the commitments it made with Western powers as part of the deal, “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do,” Kerry said in late January.
“It wouldn’t be a wise choice for Iran. We are convinced that we are on the right track because clearly the world would rather see us settle this peaceful rather than have a military confrontation,” he added.
In testimony to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Tuesday, Sherman, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the Obama administration’s top negotiator with Iran, questioned whether Iran needs some of its nuclear facilities, including the Arak reactor, in order to have a peaceful program.
She made similar comments in an interview with PBS two months ago, saying a final agreement with Iran would include “a lot of dismantling of their infrastructure” and would likely entail a demand that Iran dismantle the Arak reactor.
“Quite frankly, we're not quite sure what you need a 40-megawatt heavy water reactor, which is what Arak is, for any civilian peaceful purpose,” Sherman said at the time.
The next day, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rejected Sherman’s comments as “worthless.”
In addition, some 200 Iranian legislators slammed Sherman’s remarks on Thursday, calling them offensive and reflective of the US hegemonic character.
When asked about the reactor at Arak, Ali Akbar Sakehi, who heads Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said that it was "a scientific achievement,” and “a technological achievement... We see no point stopping the work on this reactor."
There has been some loud saber rattling between the US and Iran in recent days, with the US downplaying Saturday’s reports that Iran was sending warships to its maritime borders.
A U.S. defense official, speakingto the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, cast doubt on any claims that the Iranian ships were approaching U.S. maritime borders.
That same official added, however, that "ships are free to operate in international waters."
Earlier, the semiofficial Iranian Fars news agency quoted the Commander of Iran's Northern Navy Fleet Admiral as having claimed that “the Iranian Army's naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa.”
"Iran's military fleet is approaching the United States' maritime borders, and this move has a message," he claimed.