Iranians mock ‘ridiculous’ Trump speech, while Europeans stand by Tehran nuclear deal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 11:40pm

Iranians responded with anger and mockery on Saturday to the bellicose criticism of their government by US President Donald Trump who threatened to tear up a landmark nuclear deal.

Trump’s use of the phrase “Arabian Gulf” rather than “Persian Gulf” particularly hit a nerve in a country with a fierce nationalistic streak.

“Everyone knew Trump’s friendship was for sale to the highest bidder. We now know that his geography is too,” wrote Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Twitter, referring to the US alliance with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Most international bodies still use “Persian Gulf” as the conventional name for the region’s waterway.

In his White House speech on Friday evening, Trump reeled off a list of grievances he said were committed by the “Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.”

He also threatened to “terminate” the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and six world powers unless Congress passed stringent new sanctions.

The reaction from Iranians was often one of bemusement.

“Trump’s statements are so ridiculous that it actually works in Iran’s favour. Speaking about the ‘Arabian Gulf’ is taken very badly by people here,” said Abbas, a 40-year-old banker. “The reaction of the Europeans shows that the United States is isolated, and only Saudi Arabia and Israel have supported Trump.”

The other signatories to the nuclear deal – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – have called for its preservation, saying that Iran is clearly sticking to its commitments.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Deutschlandfunk radio that Trump had sent a “difficult and dangerous signal”.

“My big concern is that [it] will not remain an Iranian issue but many others in the world will consider whether they themselves should acquire nuclear weapons too given that such agreements are being destroyed,” Gabriel said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is considering visiting Iran, told Iranian President Hassan Rowhani that the US decision “will not put an end to the Iranian nuclear accord and that together all the parties in France and its European partners will continue to meet their commitments”.

Rowhani assured Macron that Iran in turn “will continue to carry out its commitments”, the Elysee presidential office said.

Rowhani took to the airwaves soon after Trump’s speech on Friday night, dismissing it as “nothing but the repetition of baseless accusations and swear words”.

Trump’s efforts to reach out to ordinary Iranians, who he referred to as the “longest-suffering victims” of the Islamic government, also appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, with many recalling the travel ban he slapped on them earlier this year.

His Instagram page was inundated by more than a million comments – most from jeering Iranians.

“Trump stopped Iranians going to the US. How can he say he’s on our side?” said Layla, 42, in her Tehran artisan shop.

Additional reporting by Reuters