LONDON (Reuters) – Iran sparked a new wave of criticism of US demands for far-reaching changes in its foreign policy and nuclear program on Wednesday, and Tehran's ally Damascus denied a call from the US to withdraw Iranian troops from Syria ,
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said the US government will be defeated in Iraq like the rogue leader Saddam Hussein if it attacks Iran, Iranian state television reported.
France, one of several European powers dismayed by the US withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal, said Washington's method of introducing further sanctions on Tehran would strengthen the country's dominant hardliners.
U.S. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on Monday with "the strongest sanctions in history" if it did not restrict its regional influence and accused Tehran of supporting armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Pompeo spoke two weeks after President Donald Trump withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Iran that had lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curtailing its nuclear program. The European powers see the agreement as the best chance to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Pompeo has reiterated old allegations against Tehran "only with a stronger and more indecent tone".
"Mr. Pompeo and other US officials in the current administration are prisoners of their false illusions, prisoners of their past, and were taken hostage by corrupt pressure groups," he told state television.
A senior Iranian military official, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, said Iran would not bow to Washington's pressure to restrict its military activities. The United States "does not have the courage to face a military confrontation and a direct war with Iran," he said.
The elite guard said in a statement, "The American leaders … have the message that if they attack Iran, they will experience a similar fate as Saddam Hussein."
"Endangering the region"
9659011] The deputy foreign minister of Syria has rejected the withdrawal of an Iranian military in Damascus.
In the seven-year Syrian conflict, Iran has provided critical support to President Bashar al-Assad's military. Its armed forces and militias supporting them from the region, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, helped Damascus regain control of big cities of rebels and rebels.
"Whether Iranian troops or Hezbollah are resigning or staying in Syria is not under discussion because it is the (business) Syrian government," quoted Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV Faisal Mekdad.
Pompeo told a House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that the government wants to work with "as many partners, friends and allies as possible" to stop what he called Tehran's nuclear and non-nuclear threat.
In Paris, the French foreign minister said the US decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and adopt a tough strategy for the country would strengthen Tehran's hardliners and jeopardize the region.
"We disagree with this approach because this collection of sanctions against Iran will not allow for dialogue and, on the contrary, will strengthen the Conservatives and weaken President Rohani, which could jeopardize the region more," Jean said Yves Le Drian to France Inter Radio.
He said that Paris will continue to implement the agreement if it agrees with the United States that Iranian ballistic missile activity and regional hegemonic ambitions must be contained.
He said that Paris shared concerns about Iran's "frenzy" and regional ambitions, but the 2015 nuclear deal was the best chance to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
The deputy foreign ministers of the remaining parties to the agreement – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – will meet their Iranian counterpart in Vienna on Friday.
The meeting will assess what can be done to maintain the deal and circumvent extraterritorial US sanctions that affect the appetite of foreign companies for Iran.
(For a chart on Iran's nuclear program, click tmsnrt.rs/2rvkaq6)
Additional coverage of John Irish in Paris and Paris Hafezi in Ankara, Ellen Francis in Beirut, edited by William Maclean, Janet Lawrence and Richard Balmforth