Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made an appearance on a state-run television station Wednesday, and in an angry rant he made some veiled threats against the United States and Europe’s occupation in the Middle East, and he especially targeted the EU for failing to maintain the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
Rouhani called U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East “insecure,” and he said EU troops “might be in danger tomorrow,” according to a Reuters translation of the speech. It was the first time Rouhani had made a direct threat against European troops occupying the region.
Rouhani has been calling for U.S. troops to leave the region, and he contests that their presence has made the Middle East less secure. He also demanded that the U.S. “apologize to Tehran” for its “previous crimes.” Those previous crimes could include a drone strike earlier this month that killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.
U.S. troop presence in the region over the past year has increased greatly following multiple attacks on oil tankers and facilities that have been blamed on Iran, but Tehran denies any involvement.
The U.K. has stationed 400 troops across Iraq, and Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite forces have targeted those locations with attacks recently.
New developments surrounding the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal has ratcheted up tensions between the EU and Tehran. On Tuesday, France, the U.K. and Germany said in a joint statement that they were engaging the deal’s dispute mechanism after Iran had said it was cutting all compliance of the deal on Jan. 5.
Rouhani protested the EU’s move in Wednesday’s speech, and called for more EU apologies since it had failed to keep its promises within the deal.
“The EU should fulfill its commitments under the nuclear deal,” Rouhani said.
He also called for the U.S. to return to the deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from in May of 2018. Trump has also slapped a multitude of heavy sanctions on Iran that are greatly damaging its economy.
The speech comes as massive protests have swept over Iran following the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet last week that resulted in 176 deaths, many of which were Iranian citizens. Videos from the protests have surfaced showing Iranian police using live ammunition against protesters who were chanting things like “we don’t want the Islamic Republic” and “death to the dictator.”
Tehran initially denied that it was at fault for the crash, but the Iranian Revolutionary Guard fessed up to the incident saying that two surface-to-air missiles struck the plane due to “human error” and “high tensions” between Iran and the U.S. following Soleimani’s death.
Rouhani called for further elaboration from the military in Wednesday’s speech, and that whoever was responsible should “apologize to the Iranian nation.”