National Security Advisor John Bolton has called Iran a 'rogue regime', shortly after the US announced it is terminating a 1955 treaty over calls to end sanctions that impact the import of humanitarian goods and products to the country.
Mr Bolton, defending the policy decision announced on Wednesday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pushed back on comments from Iran's foreign minister earlier this week that the United States is bullying countries, in violation of international law, by asking that countries and companies discontinue trade and business with Iran.
"Iran is a rogue regime, it has been a threat throughout the Middle East ... So I don't take what they say seriously at all," Mr Bolton said during a press conference in the White House.
The United States terminated the 1955 treaty with Iran shortly after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled earlier in the day that the US must lift sanctions that limit the import of goods that are linked to the safety of civil aviation in Iran. The Iranians had said that the US sanctions violated the 1955 bilateral Treaty of Amity, which was signed at a time when the US and Iran enjoyed good relations. The treaty was written and signed in order to regulate and promote strong economic and diplomatic ties between the countries.
Mr Pompeo, during a press conference, called the accusations that the US violated international law "meritless" and said that Iran was "attempting to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions necessary to protect our national security and abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes".
The ICJ had said in a preliminary decision that the United States must "remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from" sanctions that limit the import of goods — including medicine, medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities — that are necessary for the safety of civil aviation.
The US, in response, had argued that the ICJ does not have authority to challenge its Iran sanctions because they are a matter of American national security. The ICJ has indicated that the US could challenge the Hague court's jurisdiction in the matter as the case goes forward.
Mr Pompeo, during his announcement, said that the decision to toss the Treaty of Amity was long overdue, and suggested that the limited scope of the ICJ's ruling was actually a "defeat for Iran".
"This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue," he said, implying that the United States should have walked away from the treaty after Iran's 1979 revolution.
"The court denied Iran's attempt to secure broad measures to interfere with US sanctions and rightly noted Iran's history of non-compliance with its international obligations under the treaty of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons," Mr Pompeo said.
Before the Wednesday decision, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that President Donald Trump's threat to bring sanctions against European countries that do business with Iran was an "unprecedented" step, and said that the US president was being a "bully" in his pursuit of strict sanctions against his country.
"The United States is asking countries to violate international law, and is telling countries and companies that if they observe the law they'll be punished," Mr Zarif told CBS in an interview at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. "This is probably unprecedented, even for a bully, in a town to go to the sheriff's office and tell them, 'If you try not to drop people you are going to be punished'".
Mr Zarif has also suggested that the US was isolating itself from the international community as a result of its approach to Iran, and that Iran would continue to do business with European partners.
"This policy is going to have a backlash. The international community is not going to accept somebody to come and just [give] orders," he said. "We will continue to work with the Europeans. Certainly some European companies have withdrawn from Iran because of the fear of punishment by the United States".
Mr Trump announced in May that he planned on withdrawing the US from the Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran, saying that the deal did not go far enough towards securing Middle East security even though international nuclear experts agreed that Iran had complied with its promise under the deal to halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons grade uranium. Mr Trump said that Iran's testing of ballistic missiles, and its alleged support for terrorist groups in the region, meant that a new deal with Iran was necessary for him to consent to continued sanctions relief. The US then reimposed sanctions on Iran.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies