New York, Sept 24, IRNA – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said while Iran has stayed faithful to its commitments based on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US has made no real efforts to this end.
He made the remarks while addressing an elite gathering in Council of Foreign Relations on Friday. The discussion was hosted by the American media figure Farid Zakaria.
An excerpt of Zarif’s comments in the Council of Foreign Relations appeared on its website follows:
Commenting on the degree of each parties’ commitments to the nuclear deal, he said “Our requirements, what Iran needs to do, can be verified by the IAEA, and it has been verified several times by the IAEA. And interestingly enough, even the United States doesn’t contest it. Every member of the P-5 plus one and the IAEA have said repeatedly that Iran has lived up to every single comma in the—in the deal as far as Iran is concerned.”
While, he said, “on the part of the United States, to be fair to the United States, the United States has implemented its side of the bargain as far as the papers that have been signed by the president and the secretary of state are concerned. But as far as going out and trying to get it implemented actually—because it takes a lot to change the global climate that is afraid of the United States taking action against any bank that does any business with Iran—then it becomes a more difficult question to answer.”
The Iranian foreign minister went on to elaborate on his point, saying “well, some of you know that European banks have been fined exorbitance—amounts of money. I mean, sometimes even the numbers are difficult to say: $8.9 billion for Paribas; several billion dollars for HSBC. HSBC was so worried, that they went and asked Stuart Levey who used to be the undersecretary of the Treasury for these sanctions to become their compliance officer. That’s the… type of fear and terror that these fines created in European banks. So they want to come and start a new business with Iran, and they always have this Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC. We know OFAC better—we have heard of OFAC more than any American, I guess, has heard of the—of the name. OFAC goes out and tells these people that it’s OK to do business with Iran, but—and the buts and ifs are so long—I mean, there is one sentence that it’s OK to do business with Iran and about five pages of ifs and buts. So at the end of the day, these banks say we’ll take the safe road. We’ll forget about Iran. And that has been the outcome. No major European bank has started doing business with Iran now eight months after the deal. And we believe that’s a shortcoming.”
He continued: “there’s also a shortcoming as far as the U.S. government is concerned. Now, these are private companies taking private decisions. But the US government even took six or seven months to give the license to Airbus to sell 17 out of 118 planes they requested. Well, fortunately they gave a license to Boeing to sell 80 of the 88 planes they requested.”
Zarif also stressed that “still, the good majority of the Iranian people support the deal, and that has been proven by poll after poll. But what should be of concern to American decision makers is that a greater majority of Iranians today distrust the United States than they did before we entered the deal; that is, before we had this deal, a majority of Iranians believed that resolving difficulties with the United States would be effective. Now the majority of Iranians believe otherwise, and that should send a very strong signal.”
Underlining that “it’s the Congress that prevents US businesses from dealing with Iran,” he said “what is important is that we believed and continue to believe that the United States should not impede Iran’s economic interaction with the rest of the world. What we hear is that when the United States, both government as well as various organizations here in the U.S, the lobbies and all of the other organizations you all know about, when they go to Europe, they dissuade companies from doing business with Iran rather than give them comfort that doing business with Iran is OK.”
Moving to the Syrian conflict, Zarif said “I hope and pray that the ceasefire will hold. But it’s not, obviously. ……..The bigger-picture problem is that neither side, and there are not two sides, there are many sides in Syria, at least 70-some official groups fighting, nobody knows a clear perception, has a clear perception of what is to be expected in a future of Syria. All images of the future of Syria are based on a zero-sum approach: Assad stays, Assad goes, Assad stays for a year then goes, Assad doesn’t stay for a year. So it’s all about one person, focused on one individual and focused on yes or no. We do not have any gray scale in our perspective about the future of Syria.”
He stated that “I think the problem in Syria is that many players continue to believe there is a military solution. And many players continue to believe that they can play with these various extremist organizations to gain strategic advantage.”
Rejecting the Saudi Arabian policy of trying to exclude Iran from the Syrian peace process, he said “I say that Saudi Arabia should be a part of the solution. I believe that our region cannot have a solution based on exclusion.”
The American host of the event went on to note that “Donald Trump says that if Iranian soldiers were to make obscene signs at American sailors, he would shoot them out of the water—he would shoot the ships out of the water. What is your reaction? “
Zarif answered” First of all let’s talk about geography. Our soldiers and our sailors are a few miles away from our coasts. Yours, Americans, are several thousand miles away. And then they get upset when our boats tell them not to get into our internal waters, that you are approaching Iranian borders, that if you encroach upon our sovereignty—who knows? I mean, we don’t have a love affair with the United States. We have had 40 years of difficulty with the United States.
It’s the Persian Gulf….. But I have checked with our military and they tell me that no Iranian ship has come closer to a hundred meters from any American ship in the Persian Gulf.”
He went to stress that “we are not interested in any provocation with the U.S., period. And I don’t talk about the internal politics of the United Statesas I do not want the Americans to talk about my internal politics.”
Asked to elaborate on his earlier comments about Saudi funding of terrorist groups, he said: “I’m saying that a lot of money from Saudi Arabia initially went to the establishment of these organizations….These weapons are not guerilla warfare weapons. They have tanks, you know? They have missiles. They have antiaircraft missiles. They have antitank missiles.”