IRANIAN Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has told Press TV in an exclusive interview that the Islamic Republic is open to negotiations on reviving the historic 2015 nuclear JCPOA accord – once all the other signatories start fulfilling their obligations.
The top Iranian diplomat also said US President Joe Biden has spurned his predecessor Donald Trump’s Iran policy in words, but still pursues the same course of action in practice.
‘Nothing has changed.
‘Biden claims that Trump’s policy of maximum pressure was maximum failure … But for all practical purposes, they are pursuing the same policy,’ he said.
The Trump administration unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, and unleashed what his team called a ‘maximum pressure campaign’ with the stated objective of forcing Iran to negotiate ‘a better agreement’.
The Islamic Republic refused to bow down to pressure and threats and responded to Trump’s maximum pressure policy with ‘maximum resistance’.
President Biden has expressed a willingness to bring the US back to the nuclear accord. However, his administration is demanding to see changes from Tehran first before Washington would consider lifting the sanctions, as demanded by Iran.
The Islamic Republic insists that, as it was the party that abandoned its international obligations, the US should take the first step by removing the unlawful sanctions in a verifiable manner.
Doubling down on Iran’s firm position in that regard, Zarif stressed that Washington cannot return to the JCPOA unless it removes the sanctions against Iran first.
‘Pressure never works with Iran, only respect,’ he declared.
‘The US is addicted to sanctions, bullying, and pressure. But it doesn’t work for a country with millennia of history. We have had a global empire that lasted longer than the United States’ entire history.
‘Therefore, with Iran, pressure does not work, and “maximum pressure”, in their own words, has led to “maximum failure”.
The Americans, he went on, have to ‘open their eyes, make a sober assessment of the past, not only with Trump, and realise that with this country only respect works.’
Zarif said that the United States has not gained any leverage against Iran through these unlawful sanctions, on the contrary, the restrictive measures have only helped Iran diversify its economy away from oil.
‘Trump left the nuclear agreement hoping that Iran’s government would crumble. Now, he’s gone, and we’re still here,’ said Zarif.
‘I think that’s a good lesson. Seven consecutive US presidents are gone. Every one of them wanted to get us out. All of them are out. We’re still here.’
And he reminded that Paragraph 36 of the JCPOA enables Iran to take ‘remedial action’ against failure by other sides to implement their obligations.
Iran, he added, is not violating the agreement, it is simply implementing the remedial steps it is entitled to under the pact.
He referred to a parliamentary law that obliges the Iranian government to take retaliatory steps, namely the planned suspension of the the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s (the UN nuclear watchdog) short-notice inspections of the country’s nuclear programme.
This Iranian law, he said, is not a threat or ‘warning to the world’, but a ‘domestic’ interaction between the government and the legislative body that holds the government responsible’.
Following the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran waited for an entire year for the European signatories to hold up their side of the bargain and secure Iranian business interests – guaranteed under the deal – in the face of US sanctions.
However, as the Europeans, under US pressure, failed to deliver Tehran began to scale back its commitments in several phases in retaliation as it was entitled to do.
The IAEA has confirmed that Iran informed it of its plan to cease the voluntary implementation of Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Zarif dismissed any assertion on the part of the US or its European allies in the JCPOA that ‘we signed a number of instructions’ as per the international agreement.
‘It’s not just signing, it’s the impact,’ Zarif said, noting how the US European allies have failed to implement even a single one of their obligations following Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement.
‘European companies listen to Washington more than they listen to their own governments. I believe these do have the ability to change the behaviour of their companies,’ he added, regretting the submissive nature of Europe’s behaviour towards Washington.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has asserted that Iran would only return to its commitments under the nuclear deal once the illegal US sanctions are removed.
Iran is obliged by law to continue its retaliatory nuclear steps if the US refuses to lift the sanctions Zarif said, adding that the country’s stockpile of enriched uranium will continue to grow.
He recalled that when Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran was in possession of no more than 300 kilogrammes of enriched uranium, but by the time Biden took office, the Islamic Republic had 3,800 kilogrammes of the material, and by June the reserves would probably rise to some 5,000 kilogrammes.
‘These are yardsticks for President Biden,’ he said.
Iran, he reiterated, is not threatening anyone, and is only exercising its right to reprisal under the nuclear agreement.
Referring to other political manoeuvering under Trump, which saw his administration trying to activate a so-called ‘snapback’ mechanism – to reimpose all UN sanctions against Iran – Zarif said the snapback is a US made-up term that does not actually exist within the JCPOA.
The US came up with the term so as to control public opinion concerning Iran and distort the facts, he added.
‘All the sanctions must be removed; the US must rejoin the JCPOA. It’s not automatic; it’s not a revolving door,’ Zarif said, adding the concept of snapback has nothing to do with the JCPOA and is ‘an American distortion.’
Acting US Ambassador Richard Mills told the UN Security Council last Thursday that the United States was withdrawing a Trump administration assertion that all UN sanctions had been reimposed on Iran in September.
However, the move was largely symbolic as Iran, along with the European signatories and the UN secretary general, have already dismissed the Trump administration’s claim as unfounded.
They argued at the time that the US was in no position to invoke a provision in the 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA that allowed the return of sanctions because it was no longer a party to the deal.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Zarif said that those claiming that the JCPOA should expand its remit to cover more subjects than it already does should be sure that it will ‘absolutely not’.
The US and some of its regional allies are now demanding that Iran’s missile programme and ‘regional influence’ be included in the nuclear talks.
Tehran has roundly rejected any such prospect, saying it will not renegotiate an already ‘done deal’ and that its defence and regional position are not open to any negotiation.
Zarif also slammed the occasional leaking of Iran-related information from inside the IAEA.
Such information must remain confidential, he said when asked how the leakage of secret data might have compromised Iran’s interests.
Zarif said he would raise the issue of confidentiality directly with the IAEA chief during their meeting (which was held on Sunday). ‘Anything between us and the IAEA should remain confidential,’ he noted, recalling how Iran’s peaceful nuclear sites had been attacked and its nuclear scientists assassinated in the past.
Iran has on several occasions submitted verbal and written protests to the UN nuclear watchdog about confidential information getting leaked to the media.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, who is currently in Tehran, made the visit after Iran on February 21 informed the UN watchdog of its decision to suspend voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement in line with the new law passed by the Iranian Parliament.
‘Mr Grossi, the director-general of the IAEA, requested to come here so that we could have a smooth transition,’ Zarif said. ‘We have nothing to hide. Iran does not seek to develop nuclear weapons. The decision is based on sound geopolitical facts and religious and moral grounds … and that decision stands without any ifs or buts.’
The Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has forbidden either production or possession of nuclear weapons by the Islamic Republic on religious grounds.
However, Zarif pointed out, the Israeli regime possesses the Dimona nuclear facility, – the only ‘nuclear bomb factory’ in the Middle East – yet a recent report by the British newspaper The Guardian about secret expansion of the facility was not even met by an ‘expression of concern’ on the part of the US or its European allies.
Therefore, while the Israeli regime is allowed to go ahead with such non-conventional activities, any talk of concerns about Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy programme is ‘nonsense’.
‘It’s hypocrisy,’ he said.
‘Because if they were really concerned about non-proliferation, Israel is not a member of the NPT, it’s proliferator number one.’
- The Russian Foreign Ministry has slammed as ‘puzzling’ the inclination of Western countries to resolve global issues of concern among themselves without inviting Russia and China.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the ministry, made the comment in a statement on Saturday following an exclusively-held online session of the Munich Security Conference in southern Germany.
‘Considering that the announced agenda had such global items as “Priorities for Global Action”, “Fighting the Pandemic” and “Tackling the Climate Crisis”, the list of participants is at the very least puzzling,’ she said.
‘Essentially, the problems faced by the whole of humanity are planned to be discussed in a very narrow format. The organisers invited the US and EU leaderships as well as the UN secretary general and the WHO director general to join the discussion – but there was no mention of inviting other countries, including Russia and China.
‘On the contrary, they were viewed in the discussions as threats and opponents who need to be countered.
‘We once again are forced to note the trend of the past few years when our Western partners seek to resolve issues in a narrow circle and advance decisions that they are comfortable with, which will later be imposed on other members of the international community through the prism of the “rule-based world order”,’ she added.
Zakharova stressed that Moscow is opposed to this approach and called for broader international cooperation on a common agenda within the framework of the universal democratic agencies of the United Nations.
However, speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Western allies and close partners to forge stronger ties and uphold the international order that he claimed Russia and China are challenging.
The NATO chief also told the virtual summit that the military alliance needs to update its decade-old strategic concept to take into account what he called Russia’s ‘aggressive attitude and the rise of China’.
Stoltenberg described ‘the rise of China’ as a ‘defining issue’, and urged Western allies and close partners to forge stronger ties.
Meanwhile last Saturday, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov called on the US administration to be more open in its foreign policy.
‘All we want is predictability and confidence in future, United States’ actions,’ he said in an interview with the Russia’s Solovyov Live YouTube channel.
Antonov expressed hope for ‘pragmatic cooperation’ with Washington in a number of areas, saying the Russian side has already requested first contacts with US President Joe Biden’s administration to outline possible spheres of cooperation.
‘The people who are now working in the Department of State and in the White House – we have already sent them requests to arrange first contacts and begin to see what we can do together,’ he said.
The Russian ambassador to the US also stressed that it would not be possible to ease tensions in relations until the sides begin dialogue.
‘It is high time to sit down at the negotiating table, to look each other in the eyes and start talking.’