In a September 27 interview with Charlie Rose at the Asia Society in New York, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the US against cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal.
“I think the United States is making a strategic mistake by sending a message to the world that it is not reliable as a negotiating partner. In any deal, in order to reach a deal you give concessions and you take concessions from the other side. And no deal will be sustainable if you take the concessions and pocket them and then you ask for more after you conclude the deal. Nobody else would come and negotiate with the United States. The United States will become known as an unreliable partner even for others. Now I believe the Europeans are saying if the United States were to break the deal, nobody else would trust the West. I think the United States has to prove that it is a reliable partner.”
In response to a question about Iran’s reaction to Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Zarif said “we will make an appropriate decision based on the circumstances.”
The Iranian minister also ruled out a new agreement, as some US officials have called for.
“We need to be realistic in our expectations. We dealt with all these issues. It took us many years. It took us 10 years of posturing on all sides and two years of serious negotiations to reach this deal. I don’t expect that a new round will produce any better results. In fact, a new round will get us in a quagmire that nobody will be able to get out of.”
Charlie Rose also asked Zarif about his meeting with Tillerson during a recent meeting of JCPOA Joint Commission on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and Zarif said it was a civilized meeting. He went on to say that after the meeting, Secretary Tillerson said “we didn’t throw shoes at one another”, that was something certainly achieved.
About Trump’s statements at UN General Assembly, the Iranian FM said, “First of all, the United States is not in compliance with the letter of the deal. [The] statement by President Trump before the General Assembly … was a violation of paragraphs 26, 28 and 29 of the letter of the deal.”
Donald Trump believes Iran is a dictatorship, even though Washington’s allies in the region “haven’t seen a ballot box in their countries,” Iran’s foreign minister said, adding that Tehran derives its legitimacy and mandate from the people.
“Maybe President Trump likes to think of Iran as a dictatorship, but it is interesting that all of his allies [in the region] haven’t even seen a ballot box in their countries… Be it as it may,” Zarif said, answering a question about political processes in Iran and where the country was headed.
“What is important is that we derive our legitimacy and our power from our people, unlike our friends in the region,” Zarif told Charlie Rose. “We do not derive our legitimacy from the beautiful military equipment we get from the United States.” He also stressed that Iran does not buy its security from foreigners.
“Our society is not that different, we have the same processes,” Zarif explained. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I know the players, you know the players in the US. But if I ask you who will win the next presidential elections in the US, can you tell me?”
Turning to this week’s Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq, Zarif said that Iran was opposed to the vote. Zarif called the Kurds “our eternal friends,” noting that Iran came to their assistance when they were fighting ISIS extremists in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region.
“We believe that this referendum is dangerous for stability in the region and doesn’t serve the interest of our Iraqi Kurdish friends.”
Elsewhere in his statements, Zarif once again criticized Trump’s anti-Iran remarks at the UN General Assembly, saying that America has been unable to understand the realities of the region.
Referring to repression of people by the allies of the United States in the region, he said today they are celebrating granting of driving licenses to women in one of these countries. He also stressed that the United States ignores the realities of the region.
The Iranian FM also said that he is proud of the Iranian community in the United States adding that they are forerunners in the business and scientific fields and yet have been banned from entering the United States.
However, he added that the citizens of the country that blew up the World Trade Centre can travel to the United States with no problem.
Furthermore, Zarif reiterated that he will not accept the US President’s insults to Iran and the Iranians.
The Foreign Minister of Iran also responded to a question on the missile program of the country and emphasized that Iran’s missile program is a defensive one, and in order to understand it one must look at the Iranian history.
The Iranian top diplomat stressed that the facts must not be overlooked. Saudi Arabia spent $67 billion on arms last year. The United Arab Emirates spent $40 billion. But Iran spent only $6 billion in order to defend 80 million Iranian people.
Zarif referred to the 8-year imposed war on the Islamic Republic and said at that time everyone was supporting Saddam Hussein and no one was talking about Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons.
Regarding Tehran’s ties with Saudi Arabia, Zarif stressed that Tehran was hoping to work together with Riyadh to bolster security in the Middle East.
“We do not have the illusion that we can exclude Saudi Arabia from this region. We believe that Saudi Arabia is an extremely important player in the region whose role needs to be respected,” Zarif said.
“But we expect Saudi Arabia to also recognize that we are an important part of this region and they can never exclude Iran. As we will never try to exclude Saudi Arabia so Saudi Arabia has to abandon this illusion.”
Turning to Syria, the Iranian foreign minister added that Washington has apparently completely shifted its priority from battling the ISIS terrorist group to making sure Damascus does not regain control over its borders with Iraq.
“Today it seems to me that priorities have changed and for the government of the US it is more important to prevent the Syrian government from taking over the border with Iraq than it is to defeat ISIS,” he said.
Zarif also suggested his country could intervene elsewhere in the Arab world to fight extremists. Zarif said Iran has fought against extremists and terrorists in Afghanistan in the 1990s, in Iraq since 2003 and in Erbil.
In Syria, he said, “the government and resistance forces have been able to achieve military victory over the terrorists to a really important extent.”
“If we need to go to the assistance of any other government in the region in order for them to fight extremists and terrorists, we are ready,” Zarif said. “This is an open declaration that Iran is always on the side of those who fight extremism and terrorism.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister pointed out that four years ago he told the UN Secretary General that Iran is ready to cooperate to end the crisis in Syria. He said he presented a four-point plan for solving the Syrian crisis that was not addressed, but the passage of time proved that it was the right plan.
Zarif underscored that the solution to the Syrian crisis is the ceasefire, the formation of a national government and a reform of the constitution, which is proposed by Iran, but the other parties have neglected it.
Zarif also responded to a question about Iran’s stance on the Qatari-Saudi rift saying that the Islamic Republic is not involved in this issue, and this is the result of Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s mistakes to try to bring Qatar to its knees. He added that the stability of the countries of the region is in the interest of Iran.
Regarding the chemical attacks in Syria, Zarif mentioned that Iran is present in Syria to fight ISIS and not to take sides. He condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and urged that an independent international inquiry team should look into the case.