US, Iranian top diplomats spar online
Posted June 21, 2018 5:59 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Iranian counterpart squared off in a battle of strongly-worded statements this week, with Pompeo tweeting his apparent support for Iranian anti-government protestors, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lamenting a US foreign policy "in crisis."
Pompeo's tweets, which began Wednesday and continued into Thursday, include a series of colorful graphics highlighting a rise in protests since the start of 2017, Iran's unemployment rate, and the arrest of demonstrators, as well as criticizing Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
"Iranian people deserve respect for their human rights," one tweet states, in part.
"#Iran's corrupt regime has enriched #IRGC, #Hizballah and #Hamas, and plundered the country's wealth on proxy wars abroad while Iranian families struggle," he said in another.
Iran is a perennial target of Pompeo's Twitter ire, but the frequency of these latest Iran-focused missives has drawn attention.
Asked about the tweets on Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said they reflect "the frustration that regular Iranians feel and are expressing."
"I think the secretary was merely pointing out the fact that these protests continue," said Nauert.
Not to be outdone, Zarif issued a lengthy statement in English on Thursday, entitled "US Foreign Policy in Crisis," in which he criticizes the US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and other multilateral agreements.
"It is regrettable that in the past one-and-a-half years, US foreign policy -- if we can call it that -- including its policy towards Iran, has been predicated on flawed assumptions and illusions -- if not actual delusions," wrote Zarif in a statement linked to one of his tweets.
"The US President and his Secretary of State have persistently made baseless and provocative allegations against Iran," he added, "that constitute blatant intervention in Iran's domestic affairs, unlawful threats against a UN Member State, and violations of the United States' international obligations under the UN Charter, the 1955 Treaty, and the 1981 Algiers Accord."
Zarif zeroed in on a speech Pompeo gave in May, promising to "crush" Iran with economic and military pressure unless it changes its behavior in the Middle East, and listing 12 specific demands of Iran.
In his statement, the Iranian foreign minister called the remarks "baseless and insulting," and the demands "preposterous," as well as a "brazen contravention of international law, well-established international norms, and civilized behavior."
"His statement reflected a desperate reaction by the US administration to the overwhelming opposition of the international community to the persistent efforts by the White House to kill the (Iran nuclear deal), and the ensuing Washington's isolation (sic)," said Zarif.
The two top diplomats have not met or spoken since Pompeo took office, a State Department official confirmed Thursday.