Iran’s FM on diplomacy, domestic politics and future (PART TWO)

If regional countries are in pursuit of peaceful relations and want to live in peace and avoid interfering in other countries’ affairs, Iran’s policy is completely in keeping with that goal, Zarif said.

Iran’s foreign minister says any measure he takes comes with a price for him. The head of Iran’s diplomacy machine weighs in on what the opponents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have done to counter his efforts at home, and says that the Worriers [opponents of the president’s policy of moderation and interaction] have one main objective: “to attack the diplomatic team of the Rouhani administration”.

For the Worriers simply “attacking” is important; and the content of JCPOA, the stroll with the US secretary of state in a Geneva street, or the unplanned handshake with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly are merely what they need to use as a pretext to target the most powerful part of the eleventh government: the Foreign Ministry and the diplomat at its helm.

Mohammad Javad Zarif has had different firsts during his two years in office, among them the appointment of the first spokeswoman of the Foreign Ministry and appointment of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s first female ambassador. Zarif has appeared in parliament to defend his performance more than all of his predecessors in post-Revolution Iran. He has held more than 50 meetings with his US counterpart.

Conducting an interview with Zarif is ironically an easy, tough task. It is easy since there are multiple questions – thanks to a barrage of criticism unleashed by his opponents – to ask him about, and it is tough since his response to a seemingly simple question may play into the hands of his opponents to launch a torrent of fresh attacks against the foreign minister.

Sharq daily’s Maryam Yousefi was given face time with the foreign minister on the day he was expected to induct the new spokesman of his ministry. Her questions covered a wide range of issues including the Worriers, their threats and JCPOA and Zarif answered all of them despite his busy schedule. The following is PART TWO of the full translation of what Zarif said in the interview (PART ONE):


Have measures of some countries like Turkey or the Saudi-led war in Yemen helped Iran secure more clout and bargaining power?

Yes, at the same time, some regional countries have undermined their roles in the region by adopting wrong policies. All these factors have contributed to Iran playing a more powerful role in the region. Of course, Iran’s role is intended to bring security to the region and reassure our neighbors that they should not be worried about Iran. Those who seek to stoke war and dispute in the region should be concerned, because they cannot pursue such a policy anymore.

If regional countries are in pursuit of peaceful relations and want to live in peace and avoid interfering in other countries’ affairs, we tell them that Iran’s policy is completely in keeping with that goal.

Let’s go back to JCPOA and the debates surrounding it at home. A JCPOA Oversight Commission is to be formed soon at the Supreme National Security Council. Its make-up and how it is supposed to be set up have provided a new excuse to the Worries [President Rouhani’s opponents] as far as the implementation of JCPOA is concerned. Has the Foreign Ministry proposed a list of commission members?

It’s for the Supreme National Security Council to make a decision in this regard. As a member, the Foreign Ministry will contribute to the decision-making process.

Under the Supreme Leader’s guidelines and decisions by parliament and the Supreme National Security Council, the Foreign Ministry has a duty to follow up on JCPOA. The negotiations that my colleagues and I held in Vienna were aimed at setting the stage for the implementation of JCPOA and we will forge ahead with our efforts to that end.

Does it mean that as the head of the nuclear negotiating team you have not proposed anyone as member of the JCPOA Oversight Commission?

No, I have made no suggestions about the composition of the commission. It’s a decision that the Supreme National Security Council must make and we will contribute to the process. We have not said anything about who should be named to the commission.

The number of threats against you by your opponents from across the political spectrum is on the rise. For example, you have been threatened to be impeached, buried in cement, or even be tried. There are even reports that you have been threatened with assassination. Is that true?

Maybe someone else has heard this threat, I haven’t. I think it’s unlikely of our friends and those who are critical of the government’s policies to get involved in such measures.

What was said in parliament over the past weeks was natural. We hear such remarks again and again. There have been some threats, but an assassination threat is unlikely to have been made.

How far do you think the opponents of JCPOA will go?

In a society where there are differences of opinion, disagreement is quite natural. We view the Supreme Leader’s word as final and we think that after he presented a framework for the implementation of JCPOA and approved the agreement in principle, all focus should be centered on its implementation to make the most of the deal.

Time and again, I have said that debating the strengths and weaknesses of JCPOA is history. [On a scale of 0-100], we might give a score of 5 or 95 to the nuclear deal. Whatever score we give to JCPOA, either 5 or 95, it’s time to tap into its positive aspects. Otherwise, the score of JCPOA will be zero, in other words, we will get zero, because the outcome will be zilch.

Regardless of factional leanings and interests, JCPOA is a national and not a factional matter; it belongs to the Leader and the whole nation, and it has to be used to advance our national interests.

The resistance-based economy relies on domestic potential and interacts with the rest of the world. In its implementation, our foreign policy can help people overcome their pocketbook issues. JCPOA creates such an atmosphere and we all need to make efforts to that end.