DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani predicted a “deluge” of drugs, refugees and attacks on the West if U.S. sanctions weaken Iran’s ability to contain them.
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a public speech during a trip to the northern Iranian city of Shahroud, Iran, December 4, 2018. Official President website/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
“I warn those who impose sanctions that if Iran’s ability to fight drugs and terrorism are affected … you will not be safe from a deluge of drugs, asylum seekers, bombs and terrorism,” Rouhani said in a speech carried live on state television.
Separately, Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying that the United States is selling more arms into the Middle East than the region needs, making it a “tinderbox”.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran in May and reimposed sanctions on Iran’s vital oil industry last month.
Drug trafficking is a serious challenge for Iran as it borders Afghanistan – the world’s largest opium producer – and Pakistan, a major transit country for drugs.
“We spend $800 million a year to fight drugs which ensures the health of nations stretching from of Eastern Europe to the American West and North Africa to West Asia. Imagine what a disaster there would be if there is a breach in the dam,” Rouhani said.
In 2012, Iran accounted for two thirds of the world’s opium seizures and one fourth of the world’s heroin and morphine seizures, a U.N. report published in 2014 showed.
“We have been just as determined in the fight against terrorism … sacrificing hundreds of valuable troops and spending millions of dollars annually,” Rouhani said.
“We don’t expect the West to pay their share, but they should know that sanctions hurt Iran’s capacity to fight drugs and terrorism,” Rouhani added.
Iran, a key supporter of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war, has sent military advisers as well as materiel and regional Shi’ite militias to fight militant groups.
In Iraq, Iranian-backed militias and their Iranian advisers helped Iraq defeat Islamic State.
“Economic terrorism means creating horror in a country and create fear in other countries that intend to invest (there). America’s withdrawal from the (nuclear accord) is undoubtedly a clear example of economic terrorism,” Rouhani told a meeting of heads of parliaments of China, Russia, and four other countries.
More than 700,000 undocumented Afghans have returned from Iran this year as the Iranian economy tightens, according to data from the U.N.’s migration agency, and Iranian media said some Afghans were seeking to enter Turkey to reach Europe.
Zarif warned about the dangers of large U.S. arms sales in the Middle East, where Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia is a major buyer of Western weapons.
“The Americans have turned the region into a tinderbox. The level of arms sales by the Americans is unbelievable and much beyond regional needs and this points to the very dangerous policies followed by the Americans,” IRNA reported Zarif as saying.
Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Alexander Smith