Iran questions US pivot back to region as Europe embraces Rouhani

Al-Monitor | Saeid Jafari: US President Donald Trump’s torrent of controversial remarks on Iran and the Middle East has sparked a variety of reactions in Tehran. In his first speech abroad, delivered from Saudi Arabia on May 21, Trump attacked the Islamic Republic and said he “prayed for the day when the Iranian people would have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

His words came shortly after Iran held its 12th presidential election with a 73% voter turnout. The May 19 election saw President Hassan Rouhani be re-elected with some 57% of ballots. Indeed, voters formed long lines outside polling stations both within Iran and abroad. Turnout was so high in some areas that people were unable to cast their ballots before voting ended, despite having waited in line for hours.

Yet, two days later, Trump said in Saudi Arabia, “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”

Iranian officials did not hesitate to respond. In a tweet on May 21, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote, “Iran — fresh from real elections — attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation. Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?” Rouhani also responded one day later during his first press conference following his re-election and said, “The gathering in Saudi Arabia was just a show with no practical or political value of any kind. Saudi Arabia has hosted such gatherings before. You can’t solve terrorism just by giving your people’s money to a superpower.” He added, “Those who have been fighting terrorism in the Middle East are the peoples of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Iran has and will assist these two great nations [Iraq and Syria] and other nations through diplomats and military advisers.”

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