Iran’s top diplomats are touring neighboring countries, including three Arab Gulf monarchies, to try to shore up support after the US announced plans to increase troop deployments in the
region and sell weapons to some of the Islamic Republic’s top rivals.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, for meetings about the frictions, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported. On Sunday, his deputy, Abbas Araghchi, started a tour of Gulf Arab neighbours including Oman, Kuwait, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
In Baghdad, Zarif told reporters Iran had proposed non-aggression pacts with all Gulf Arab neighbours, IRNA reported, in an apparent effort to limit any US-led regional front against it.
Tehran’s regional diplomacy went into high gear as President Hassan Rouhani hinted that the Islamic Republic could hold a public referendum over the fate of the beleaguered 2015 nuclear deal that’s been crumbling since the US quit it last year.
Asked by a journalist whether he’d invoke a constitutional rule on a vote, Rouhani replied: “When this article should be used or whether it should’ve been used before is another matter.”
Tensions between the two countries, already high over President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear accord that Iran had adhered to, deteriorated dramatically in recent weeks after the White House vowed to force Iran’s vital oil exports down to zero and revoked a series of key sanctions waivers.
Frictions escalated even more this month after the US claimed, without citing evidence, that Tehran was planning an escalated campaign against American interests in the region.
The US has made a show of military force in the region, including the announcement that it will send 1,500 additional troops and fighter jets to the region.
For the first time, US officials also said publicly over the weekend that they think Iran is behind recent attacks on tankers in the Gulf and a pipeline in Saudi Arabia.
Iran has responded by announcing limited steps to resume nuclear activity restricted under the agreement. It also set a deadline to start its own gradual withdrawal from the deal unless Europe can guarantee the agreement can function.
Zarif left for Iraq immediately after returning from a visit with officials in Pakistan.
Departing Islamabad, he called the planned US troop buildup “extremely dangerous and a threat to international peace and security.”
In Baghdad, Zarif’s Iraqi counterpart, Mohamad Alhakim, said his country was ready to act as a mediator between Iran and the US to help ease strains, Iraqi TV reported.