Zarif Derides US Failure to Learn Lessons on Anti-Iran Sanctions
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his dismay that the United States has not learned that sanctions are ineffective as far as Iran is concerned.
"We felt that the United States had learned that at least as far as Iran is concerned, sanctions do produce economic hardship but do not produce the political outcomes that they intended them to produce, and I thought that the Americans had learned that lesson. Unfortunately, I was wrong," Zarif told CNN.
"I believe there is a disease in the United States and that is the addiction to sanctions," he said, adding that, "Even during the Obama administration the United States put more emphasis on keeping the sanctions it had not lifted rather than implementing its obligation on the sanctions it lifted."
Zarif retained a clear belief during the hour-long interview in the Iranian Foreign Ministry that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could be revived regardless of the Trump administration denunciation of it.
In May, Trump withdrew from the deal, known as the JCPOA, calling it a "horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made."
The first wave of sanctions that were to "snap back" under the Trump move hit the import of car parts and precious metals on August 6.
Zarif on Sunday tweeted criticism of the US State Department last week establishing the "Iran Action Group" to coordinate the US and its allies pressure on Iran. He wrote, "Now an action group dreams of doing the same through pressure misinformation and demagoguery -- never again."
He told CNN that the same '50s thinking embodied the current US approach. "I think the US administration still believes that it is working with the government it installed in Iran after the 1953 coup," he said. "As they say, they have to wake up and smell the coffee."
For much of the interview, Zarif dismissed the possibility of future talks with the Trump administration, and maintained the hope the deal can be revived. He said pressure from the European allies could persuade Trump to change his mind and accused the United States of "bullying" the European signatories to the deal.
"We do not want to revisit that nuclear deal," he said. "We want the United States to implement that nuclear deal. Today the closest US allies are resisting those sanctions. The US basically arm-twisting -- its attempt to put pressure. I don't want to use the term bullying ... (but) that's what it amounts to."
Asked whether Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could benefit from a one-on-one meeting with President Trump -- as Trump has preferred to tackle North Korea and Russia -- Zarif said the previous nuclear deal had to be respected first. "Not when the previous huge progress that we made was thrown out," he said of a one-on-one. "That (previous deal) was for us the litmus test of whether we can trust the United States or not."
Would a lasting pact ever be possible with the man who wrote about the "art of the deal"? "It depends on President Trump -- whether he wants to make us believe that he is a reliable partner," he said. "Now if we spend time with him and he signs another agreement. ... How long will it last? Until the end of his administration? Until he departs from the place where he put his signature on the agreement?"
Further sanctions are due to kick back in early November against the Iranian oil industry. Zarif said decades of pressure meant the Iranian people would be resistant to this pressure, yet it would have an impact.
"US sanctions have always hurt," he said. "What it's hurting, though, is people who want to buy medicine. People who want to buy food." The United States denies it is targeting money that affects health care or agriculture, and says internal mismanagement and corruption are also to blame for rising food prices.
"The economic upheaval that you see right now in Iran is because of the measures that needed to be taken to be prepared for those days, so we are prepared for the worst case scenario," Zarif said.
"We spent a lot of time" he said, of the yearslong, intense and detailed negotiations that he and then-US Secretary of State John Kerry led. "It was not an easy political decision for the Iranian government and for me personally and for President Rouhani. It may be a credit for some foreign ministers to spend hours upon hours with the US secretary of state but it's certainly not a credit in Iran."