US President Trump’s administration has taken a tougher line with Iran, threatening to tear up an international accord on its nuclear program. However, according to Tillerson, the United States would not block “legitimate” business activities with Iran by India or any other ally.

What US actions plan to limit, is Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in the Middle East, such as its ballistic missile development, “their export of arms to terrorist organizations” and Iran’s involvement in conflicts in Syria and Yemen, claimed Tillerson. “Our fight is not with the Iranian people. Our disagreements are with the revolutionary regime.” He added, “We are taking actions to impose sanctions on the regime and in particular the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It is our objective to deny financing capacity and to disrupt the activities related to these malign behaviours.”

Tillerson clarified that the United States desires to give “support for modern voices inside of Iran” in a bid to bring about an eventual change of government. “We know there are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government. They live under this repressive revolutionary regime and we do not want to harm the Iranian people. Our fight is not with the Iranian people,” he said.

Tillerson responded to questions regarding India’s India’s planned investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the Iranian port of Chabahar, a deal made in 2016 when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Tehran. The port is located in southeastern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman. It serves as Iran’s only oceanic port, and expands a trade route for landlocked countries in central Asia that bypasses Pakistan, India’s arch-rival.

Tillerson said he saw “no contradiction” in the US call for sanctions and India’s deal in Chabahar, and Washington did not aim “to interfere with legitimate business activities that are going on with other businesses whether they be from Europe (or) India”.

“The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region,” Mr Tillerson told the news conference.