Iranian President Demands Western Countries Leave Persian Gulf: 'Your Presence Has Always Been a Calamity'

Iran President Hassan Rouhani urged Western powers to "distance" themselves from the Persian Gulf, calling the ongoing presence of the United States and other military forces in the region a "calamity."

Rouhani and several other Tehran government leaders including Foreign Affairs Minister Javad Zarif continued to distance themselves from the September 14 Aramco oil processing plant attacks that Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration have repeatedly tied to Iran, the Associated Press reported. Speaking Sunday at a parade in Tehran, Rouhani declared Iran was ready to make peace with their Middle East neighbors but joined several other Iranian leaders in asking the U.S. and other Western countries to leave the region altogether.

The Trump administration has rebuked all Iranian denials that the country was behind the attack, and Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani labeled a U.S.-led coalition currently stationed to protect commercial interests in the area "a new means for plundering the region."

"Your presence has always been a calamity for this region and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region," Rouhani said Sunday at an event for the country's "Holy Defense Week," marking the start of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980. "Those who want to link the region's incidents to the Islamic Republic of Iran are lying like their past lies that have been revealed. If they are truthful and really seek security in the region, they must not send weapons, fighter jets, bombs and dangerous arms to the region."

Newsweek subscription offers >

The U.S. has military defense agreements with several Arab nations in the region to maintain tens of thousands of troops in order to protect energy exports. One-fifth of oil traded across the world passes through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Taking on a much more amiable tone, Rouhani said the Tehran government is focusing on improving regional relationships and wants to "extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood" to its Persian Gulf neighbors. He added Iran is "even ready to forgive past mistakes."

Newsweek subscription offers >

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday and dismissed any Iranian denials that Houthi forces used drones to attack the Aramco oil facility earlier this month. Responding to Iran Foreign Minister Zarif's most recent denial, Pompeo said the U.S. "already has" evidence Iran is behind the attacks but did not detail his department's findings.

"I don't know why anybody listens to the Iranian Foreign Minister. He has nothing to do with Iranian foreign policy and he has lied for decades ... It's beneath the dignity of anyone in the world to listen to someone who repeatedly makes the claim the Houthis launched this attack."

The Aramco attack was the worst strike against an oil facility since Saddam Hussein set fire to Kuwait's oil wells in 1990, prompting the first Gulf War. As a result of the September 14 attacks, oil prices spiked 20 percent. The drone attack was claimed by Yemen-based Houthi rebels, but the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of masterminding the sabotage.

Iranian president Hasan Rouhani
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani delivers a speech during the opening session of the new parliament in Tehran on May 28, 2016. Rouhani called on Western nations to leave the Persian Gulf on Sunday, dubbing their presence a "calamity." ATTA KENARE/AFP

Few U.S. political figures have taken a staunch stance against aggression toward Iran as Republican Party lawmakers continue demanding action against the Islamic Republic in the wake of the Aramco attack. But Hawaii Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has repeatedly urged the U.S. to avoid another never-ending Middle East war.

"Cost of Iran war? A region engulfed in bloodletting, countless lives, many trillions$, our ntnl security undermined, ISIS/AQ strengthened, massive immigration crisis, possible confrontation btwn US & nuclear Russia or China. War without end because 'victory' will remain undefined," Gabbard cautioned on Twitter last week.

Iranian President Demands Western Countries Leave Persian Gulf: 'Your Presence Has Always Been a Calamity' | World