Zarif says US has ‘shot itself in the foot’ by leaving JCPOA

TEHRAN, Jul. 21 (MNA) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that the US has “shot itself in the foot” by withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the JCPOA.

“The US has basically in my view shot itself in the foot by withdrawing from this agreement,” he told Bloomberg in an interview aired on Thursday.

He also said, “there is a multilateral agreement and no multilateral agreement can be implemented unilaterally. Everybody has to chip in. The Europeans think it is important for their security. If it is important for their security, then you invest in your security. You don’t get your security by praying for it. You must invest. You must do what is necessary. The Europeans need to take the necessary action.”

“They [the Europeans] have made a commitment in the deal that Iran’s economic relations with the rest of the world will be normalized. They made the commitments after the United States left the deal. They knew that the US was leaving. They knew the US impact on their economy, but they committed themselves to allowing Iran to sell oil. Repatriate its money, have shipping, have insurance and we have none of that. So, they need to live by their commitments,” he said.

Commenting on Iran’s action in reducing its commitments under the deal, he said that Iran will continue its steps which are legal based on the JCPOA.

“If they don’t [live by their commitments] then we don’t have a quarrel. We have a mechanism within the JCPOA. We negotiated this deal with open eyes without trust in each other. Nobody trusted the other side. That is why we have mechanisms within the deal that we reduce our commitments until they comply. Once they comply, it can be reversed. But if we go beyond certain limits the reverse will be much more difficult and will much more cost. We will continue with the steps and these steps are legal, in line with the agreement,” he said.

‘Iran has never sought to build nuclear weapons’

Zarif also said that Iran has never sought to build nuclear weapons which is a religious commitment made by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

“We are not going to build nuclear weapons, because if we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we could have built it long time ago. Had we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we would have built it during the time that we paid the price of building a nuclear weapon. The Supreme Leader had made a commitment, a religious commitment which is not breakable. His religious view is that nuclear weapons are forbidden. Haram in Islamic terminology,” he said.

‘You don’t buy a horse twice’

Commenting on a possible negotiation with the US on Iran’s missile program, he said, “You don’t buy a horse twice.”

He said, “first of all, you don’t buy a horse twice. We’ve paid the money; we’ve invested in this deal. We also paid for that [missiles]. We paid for that accepting certain limitations, accepting certain sanctions, I mean the missile sanctions were not lifted by the United States and they were not lifted by the United Nations, because we were not prepared to discuss them. We changed the language in the resolution which is very clear. It’s been a very different language in 2231 than it was in the 1929. The United States has a lot to do before it can talk about our missiles. First implement the agreement that they first made. We didn’t have a revolution in the United States. A government of the United States elected by its people had an agreement with Iran and that agreement had been endorsed by the Security Council where the US was and is a permanent member. So, nothing is changed and they have to live up to their commitment. Then they need to start looking at what the problem is. The problem in the region is not the 16 billion dollars that we spend on defense. It’s the 67 billion dollars that Saudi Arabia spends on buying weapons from the United States and the other Western countries, the 22 billion dollars the Emirates spends. The United States is selling 50 billion dollars to our region. That has to stop. That is making our region flammable.”

He added that Trump seems to believe that “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable”.

‘We are not waiting President Trump to leave office’

Zarif also said that Iran is not waiting for President Trump to leave the office.

“No country in the right mind would make their foreign policy based on events that they don’t have any control over. We are not waiting President Trump to leave office. We don’t know what will happen in 2020. We don’t deal with other countries based on their domestic policies. We deal with other countries as their unitary players in the international relations. We know that no country is a monolith. We certainly are not monolith. We need to deal with other countries in international relations as a unitary player not as a player with various branches of government,” he stated.

‘UK was not in a position to seize a ship that was carrying Iran’s oil’

Pointing to seizure of Iran-operated supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar by Britain on July 4, Zarif said that the United Kingdom was not in a position to seize a ship that was carrying Iran’s oil.

He said, “That boat was not going to Syria. We cannot tell you where it was going because the United States with its policy of zero oil sale by Iran would go prevent us from selling that oil. The United States is preventing us from doing transparent oil sale. Unfortunately, because there are no EU sanctions that are applicable to non-EU member states. EU, unlike the United States, doesn’t impose its sanctions on third parties. That’s only what the United States does and EU has objected to that. So, the United Kingdom was not in a position to seize a ship that was carrying, it wasn’t our ship and it was a ship that was carrying our oil and it wasn’t destined to Syria. We were selling our oil. There were no sanctions on Iranian oil. No UN sanctions on Iranian oil. Nobody has the right to confiscate that ship. So, it’s piracy pure and simple.”

‘Don’t play with Iran.’

In another interview with the New Yorker on Thursday, Zarif said, “we always respond. Don’t play with Iran.”

“We say, ‘You may start a war, but you won’t be the ones who end it,” Zarif warned.

He added, “we will survive, we will prosper, long after President Trump is gone. Our time slots are in millennia.”

‘We are interested in substance’

According to the Guardian, Zarif told reporters on Thursday that Iran offers a deal with the US in which it would formally and permanently accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear program, in return for the permanent lifting of US sanctions, saying, “It’s not about photo ops. We are interested in substance.”

“There are other substantial moves that can be made,” he said.

He said, “if they [the Trump administration] are putting their money where their mouth is, they are going to do it. They don’t need a photo op. They don’t need a two-page document with a big signature.”

Zarif noted that in 2023, under the JCPOA, Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, was supposed to ratify the Additional Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a voluntary agreement that allows IAEA inspectors extensive access in Iran to ensure the country does not have a covert nuclear weapons program. As part of the JCPOA, Iran already observes the Additional Protocol. Ratification by the Majlis would make it a more permanent commitment.

At the same time, under the JCPOA, the US Congress was due to lift sanctions on Iran.

Zarif proposed that the Iran and US take those steps immediately.

“If Trump wants more for more, we can ratify the Additional Protocol and he can lift the sanctions he set,” Zarif said. “He has said that he will take any measure to Congress – fine. Lift the sanctions and you’ll have the Additional Protocol sooner than 2023.”


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