What’s behind Iranian FM’s fresh moves?

Alwaght – Upon his return from New York on Sunday, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an interview said that Iran may consider leaving the NPT in response to the stepped-up US pressures against Tehran. He also talked about his imminent visit to Pyongyang and Moscow. A day after Zarif’s interview, North Korea’s official news agency reported that the North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Son-Hui, heading a high-ranking diplomatic delegation, will visit a couple of countries including Iran. The frequency of such diplomatic moves after the increased US pressure against Iran and the US ignoring of Iran’s proposal for prisoner swap as a first step for US reliability check have given rise to some questions. What is behind such messages sent from Tehran? And who is mainly addressed by these messages? 

Iran and NPT

The Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed by a number of countries in 1967 to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons across the world. The member states accept a commitment to allow an inspection regime by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in their nuclear facilities. Iran is an initial signatory of the treaty. Tehran implemented the NPT after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

According to article 4 of NPT, the member countries have a right for peaceful use of nuclear energy for power and research. This should be without discrimination, the article says, adding that the countries with the nuclear technology are encouraged to cooperate with those without it for technology transfer.

Pulled out of 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, the US is determined to put maximum pressure on Iran to prevent the country from peaceful use of nuclear energy, violating the article 4. Under this condition, Tehran’s continued commitment to the NPT could pose serious risks to the country’s vital interests. According to article 10 of the same treaty, any country feels that the treaty commitments are harming its essential interests can quit it. It needs to inform its allies and the United Nations Security Council and its allies three months before leaving, the article adds. So, any withdrawal decision by Tehran is in line with the international law and the principle of national sovereignty.

What does it mean to quit?

Tehran’s withdrawal will never mean movement towards nuclear weapons production. But the nation will no longer be committed to accepting the UN inspectors. So, one message of Zarif is to the West, telling it that when Iran is stripped of the article 4 privileges, it will revoke a permission of inspection.

The Iranian FM’s comments come while Iran, responding to Washington’s frequent calls for prisoners’ release, proposed a prisoner exchange. Washington declined to respond positively to the offer, however. The US declining of the offer indicates that the prisoner-related calls are simply part of a broader anti-Iranian media propaganda and that the Trump administration does not seriously seek freedom of the prisoners. Iran’s possible pullout from the NPT will indicate Iran’s seriousness in responding to violations against its interests, beside moves to show good faith actions and respecting the international law.

The comments also have a message especially for Europe: If you are serious about cooperation with Iran and want to do business with Tehran within the Special-Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a financial system designed by Europe to help avoid the US-dominated global financial system, you have to take practical and tangible steps. Prolonging the SPV initiation will strengthen the notion that Europe is party to a US-designed scenario against Iran where the EU plays the good police and the US and the Israeli regime play the bad ones.

Possible Iranian withdrawal from the NPT will give the notion that Tehran thinks it is illogical to stay committed to terms from which Washington benefits but is itself not committed to. Zarif, calling Washington unreliable in any talks, in an interview with Fox News this week said that the Americans are not committed to their pledges.

Having in mind that the US mobilized all of its energy and available options and played all of its cards in a campaign of pressure against Iran over the past year, Iran now can take its own delayed moves in reaction to the US treachery and Europe’s time wasting. This will mean that Iran will return to the home potentials to confront the economic, military, and political threats. The US and its allies are expected to immerse in bewilderment on how to face Iran’s retaliatory security options.

Upcoming trip to North Korea and Russia

The missile cooperation between Iran and North Korea has played a fundamental role for decades in promoting bilateral conventional defense capabilities. Still, Tehran-Pyongyang’s recent contacts should be deemed significant from diplomatic and symbolic perspective. Just a day after US re-imposed Iran oil embargo last year, North Korea’s Foreign Minster Ri Yong-ho visited Tehran. On the other side, the Trump-Kim negotiations have so far gone nowhere. Zarif’s trip to North Korea, a state with experience of quitting the NPT, can cause Trump’s pressures to miscarry. It will also give Pyongyang a position boost in the face of Trump’s one-sided demands.

The Trump government in its national security documents names China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea top threats. It will automatically open the doors to further convergence between the four countries. A consensus among the four countries on the need to deter the American unilateralism and interventionism brings them even closer in many international cases. The quartet is increasingly gaining strength as Trump continues his bullying approach.