Middle East/North Africa

Former Iranian president calls on US to stop ‘meddling’ in Middle East

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Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday urged the U.S. to stop “meddling” in the affairs of the Middle East through continued arms sales. 

Ahmadinejad, who led Iran for two terms between 2005 and 2013, said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday that U.S. arms sales to countries like the United Arab Emirates “threatens the security of the region.” 

“When tens of billions of dollars of arms is sold to countries within the region annually, this causes major problems,” he said. “The U.S. government should not be seeking to control Iran, or the Middle East.” 

The U.S. earlier this year approved a sale of $23 billion in arms to the UAE, while weapons sales to key Iranian rival Saudi Arabia remain under review. 

Former President Trump first announced the sale to the UAE last year after the country agreed to open diplomatic relations with Israel, though the State Department said in January that it was pausing the transaction in order to review the package. The Biden administration announced in April that it would move ahead with the sale.

Democrats had condemned the sale of arms to the UAE and Saudi Arabia over their involvement in Yemen’s civil war against the Houthi rebels, which has killed thousands of people and fueled a severe humanitarian crisis. 

Ahmadinejad also told CNBC that he believed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), caused “more problems than it resolved.” 

The former leader said that while he believed a renegotiation of the JCPOA, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018, was possible, he added that the “two countries will need to change their perspectives and look at each other differently.” 

“If we base things in accordance with justice and mutual respect, then I believe that the problems can be solved,” he added. 

The Biden administration has said it would not rejoin the JCPOA or lift U.S. sanctions against Iran unless the country lowered its uranium enrichment levels, which Iran has worked to increase since the breakdown of the nuclear deal. 

Meanwhile, Iran has called on the U.S. to lift its sanctions against the country before it makes any moves toward negotiations on a new agreement. 

Ahmadinejad’s remarks come a day before Iranians are set to cast their ballots in the country’s presidential election, which Ahmadinejad was essentially barred from after his candidacy was rejected by Iran’s Guardian Council. 

The former president on Thursday expressed doubt in the legitimacy of the election, telling CNBC, “I made it clear on the day that I announced my candidacy that I will not participate in the elections if the will of millions of people is denied for no legitimate reason, like it has been in the past.” 

“Any decision that prevents the people from influencing the outcome is against the spirit of the revolution and the constitution,” he added.

Tags arms sales biden administration CNBC Donald Trump Iran Iran nuclear deal Israel Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Yemen

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