Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to Fox News on Sunday. Screen grab: YouTube

Washington’s decision to cease issuing sanctions waivers for purchases of Iranian oil will backfire by angering America’s allies, Tehran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday.

Zarif said US policy is designed to make life hard for the Iranian people so they will “take action” against the Tehran government.

“They are wrong in their analysis. They are wrong in their hope,” Zarif told Fox News, insisting instead that the people of Iran will get fired up to resist such pressure.

In May last year, US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers, which had given the Islamic republic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Washington reimposed oil sanctions on Iran in November, but initially gave eight countries, including several US allies, six-month reprieves.

Five of the countries – Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – have already heavily reduced their purchases from Iran.

The others benefiting from waivers so far were China, India, and Turkey.

But the US announced last week that the waivers would end on May 2.

“This is coercion, pure and simple,” Zarif said.

“People are not happy. China is not happy, Turkey is not happy, Russia is not happy. France is not happy. US allies are not happy that this is happening and they say that they will find ways of resisting it.

“How they will do it, it’s up to them, and it’s up to them looking at their own future, if they want to have their lives ruled by the United States.”

Zarif said Washington’s allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia are pushing the US to bring about regime change in Iran.

“They want – they have all shown an interest in and dragging the United States into a conflict,” said Zarif.

In an interview aired minutes later, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said it was “completely ridiculous” to say that US allies in the region are pressing Trump into a conflict with Iran.

Bolton also downplayed any splits with US allies in Europe, saying that the “glimmer of disagreement that he said is mostly in his own eye.”

He added, “There have been statements by Chinese companies that have been importing Iranian oil that they are going to stop. I met … with the Turkish foreign minister some weeks back I was already talking about the steps they were going to take to avoid buying Iranian oil. We will see how it plays out. We made our position clear.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s top general warned Sunday that Tehran could close the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping route if it faces more “hostility,” news agency ISNA said, as the US tightens up sanctions.

“We are not after closing the Strait of Hormuz but if the hostility of enemies increase, we will be able to do so,” armed forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri told semi-official ISNA.

“Also, if our oil does not go through the strait, other countries’ oil will certainly not cross the strait, too,” he added.

Iranian officials have repeatedly warned that the Islamic republic could shut down the strait, a vital shipping lane for international oil supplies, should it find its national interests or security threatened.

– with reporting by AFP

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