GENEVA (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, DPA) - The United States has started a "psychological war" in the Middle East, the commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said in a Parliament session yesterday, a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country would not surrender to political and economic pressure amid increasing tensions with Washington.
The US military has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East to counter what the Trump administration says are "clear indications" of threats from Iran to US forces there. The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month.
"Commander Salami, with attention to the situation in the region, presented an analysis that the Americans have started a psychological war, because the comings and goings of their military is a normal matter," said the spokesman for the parliamentary leadership, Mr Behrouz Nemati, referring to Major-General Hossein Salami.
Late last Saturday, Mr Rouhani told political activists that "surrendering is not compatible with our culture and religion, and people do not accept it, so we must not surrender and we must find solutions", according to a statement published on his office's website.
Last Wednesday, Mr Rouhani had said Teheran would begin to withdraw from key aspects of the 2015 nuclear deal unless major powers swiftly granted promised sanctions relief. That day marked one year since US President Donald Trump announced that his country would pull out of the agreement.
Following the announcement, Mr Trump said he would like to hear directly from Iran's leaders.
"What I'd like to see with Iran - I'd like Iran to call me," Mr Trump said. "We are not looking to hurt Iran. We want them to be strong and great and have a great economy," he told reporters.
Mr Rouhani compared his country's current situation to the one during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.
"Today, it cannot be said that the conditions are better or worse than the Imposed War (with Iraq), but during the war we did not have problems with banking, oil sales and imports and exports, and our only sanction was (over) arms purchases," Mr Rouhani said.
A top foreign policy adviser to Iran's supreme leader also rejected Mr Trump's offer to have talks as "irrelevant" and a propaganda stunt, the semi-official Iranian Students' News Agency (Isna) reported.
"Trump has not only shown that he has no respect for the signature of the previous US government but that he's willing to violate UN Security Council resolutions and other international agreements," Mr Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, which advises Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was reported as saying yesterday.
Hours earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC TV the White House would be prepared to speak with Iran to try to sort out differences.
A senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards said yesterday that the US' military presence in the Gulf used to be a serious threat but now it is an opportunity, according to Isna.
"An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now... the threats have switched to opportunities," Brigadier-General Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards' aerospace division, said.
He added: "If (the Americans) make a move we will hit them in the head."