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Iran threatens to attack Israel if U.S. attacks Tehran

August 22, 2018

A leading hard-line Iranian cleric has warned Washington that if the U.S. attacks Iran, Washington’s allies in the Middle East, including Israel, would be targeted.

Addressing worshippers attending Muslim holiday prayers Wednesday in Tehran, Ahmad Khatami also rejected an earlier offer by President Trump to hold direct talks with Iranian officials.

“Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks,” Mr. Khatami said, the Mizan news agency reported. “So this is not negotiation, but dictatorship.”

A member of Iran’s powerful Council of Experts, which selects the country’s supreme leader, Mr. Khatami is known for extreme views, including supporting a death sentence for author Salman Rushdie.

His outburst Wednesday was the latest round in the escalating war of words between Washington and Tehran.

The diplomatic row reached new levels in May when Mr. Trump withdrew from the Obama-era Iranian nuclear deal that had curbed Tehran’s nuclear programs in exchange for lifting international economic sanctions.

Earlier this month, Trump administration officials began reimposing sanctions to block other countries from trading with Iran.

They have also targeted Iran’s precious oil exports, announcing that a wave of oil-related sanctions that had been in place before the 2015 deal will be reimposed beginning Nov. 5.

Officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have said Washington seeks to squeeze Tehran’s oil exports to zero.

The threat of sanctions has pummeled Iran’s economy, with its currency, the rial, losing half its value since April.

Iranians have also staged massive protests against sharp spikes in the cost of consumer goods, with some demonstrations morphing into anti-government rallies.

On Wednesday while visiting Israel, National Security Adviser John Bolton lauded the impact of the sanctions but added that regime change is not Washington’s policy.

“Just to be clear: regime change in Iran is not American policy,” Mr. Bolton said at a news conference in Jerusalem. “But what we want is massive change in the regime’s behavior.”

Washington has long called for Tehran to end all its nuclear activity, halt its support for extremist groups destabilizing the Middle East including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthi rebels in Yemen and cease the development of any nuclear-capable missiles.

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