Iran's Khamenei Hits Out at Trump and 'Nonsensical' Pompeo, Says Americans Will Be Expelled From Iraq and Syria

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has hit out at U.S. foreign policy, mocking President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and warning that American forces will be "expelled" from Iraq and Syria.

Speaking at an annual Ramadan meeting with Iranian university students on Sunday, Khamenei accused the U.S. of warmongering and oppression in the Middle East, according to the state-backed Press TV.

The meeting was held via video call as Iran continues its battle against the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 120,100 people in Iran and killed at least 7,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Khamanei told students that the "long-term performance of the United States, including warmongering, helping notorious regimes, harboring terrorists, sparing no effort in supporting oppression, has caused this government to be hated in an important part of the world."

"Today, the American society and political system are not attractive, but are a subject of hatred in an important part of the world too," the supreme leader added. Much of this is down to the behaviour of its leaders, Khamenei claimed, including Trump and a "talkative, illogical and nonsensical" Pompeo.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington, D.C. remain high even though both nations are grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. Iran was one of the worst affected nations early in the crisis, with the virus claiming lives at the highest levels of the regime.

The epicenter of the outbreak subsequently shifted to Europe and then to the U.S. Trump has been widely criticized for his slow and confused response to the pandemic, though the president has claimed victory over the virus even as the number of cases and deaths continue to rise. As of Monday, there have been more than 1.4 million infections in the U.S. and almost 90,000 deaths.

On Sunday, Khamenei hit out at American foreign military deployments "in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria" which he said is "another reason why the U.S. regime is hated so much." He attacked Trump for deploying troops to Syria explicitly to secure oil fields there, and warned: "They will not remain long neither in Iraq, nor in Syria and must certainly leave them and will undoubtedly be expelled."

As before the virus, the U.S.-Iranian stand off has been focused in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. The U.S. and Iran are battling for influence in Iraq, where Tehran has established a vast network of powerful Shi'ite militias. These militias—some of which were formed to fight occupying American troops after the 2003 invasion—have repeatedly attacked U.S. personnel and interests in the country.

In the Gulf, Trump last month ordered the U.S. Navy to "shoot down and destroy" and threatening Iranian vessels after a group of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats surrounded and harassed American warships. In response, the IRGC commander vowed to destroy any "terrorist" U.S. forces operating in the strategic waterway.

Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran has continued. Tehran has struggled to deal with the re-imposition of economic sanctions following Trump's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018, while also suppressing internal unrest.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly called on the U.S. to ease sanctions to help the country fight coronavirus, but Trump administration officials have refused. The administration has noted that imports of medical products are not restricted by sanctions, though Iran has argued that other financial sanctions make it impossible to secure the equipment required.

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This file photo shows American soldiers patrolling on the M4 highway in the town of Tal Tamr in the northeastern Syrian Hasakeh province on the border with Turkey on January 24, 2020. DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images/Getty