Zarif Urges Europe to Work with Iran

December 11, 2017

On December 10, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged Europe to work with Iran and not follow in “lock step” behind the United States. In an op-ed published in The New York Times, he argued that the United States has proven unreliable on foreign policy since President Donald Trump took office.


Zarif argued that Washington’s focus on Iran’s missiles is unfounded because they are a defensive deterrent. Iran’s air force lacks the capabilities of U.S. or Gulf Cooperation Council forces in the region. Most of Iran’s aircraft were purchased before the 1979 revolution. Zarif also recalled how Saddam Hussein rained missiles on Iranian cities during the 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Iran’s missile program is controversial because it has multiple types of missiles that are inherently capable of delivering a nuclear payload. The Islamic Republic is also the only country to develop a 2,000-km missile without first having a nuclear weapons capability. But Zarif has long argued that these missiles “are not designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons.” For years, the United States has imposed sanctions on entities and individuals for supporting the missile program. Since Donald Trump took office in 2017, Washington has imposed missile-related sanctions on Iran seven times. The following are excerpts from Zarif’s op-ed.


Mohammad Javad Zarif: Europe Must Work With Iran

On a crisp morning in Vienna two summers ago, hours before concluding the nuclear deal with the United States, the European Union and five other world powers, I took to Twitter to write that the landmark accord was “not a ceiling but a solid foundation.”

Unfortunately, for the past 11 months, the response to Iran’s good faith has been tantrums from the Trump administration. But the unreliability of the United States — from climate change to Jerusalem — has become predictable. Our main concern now is cautioning European countries against wavering on issues beyond the scope of the nuclear agreement and following in lock step behind the White House. As the nuclear deal and the Middle East enter uncharted and potentially combustible territory, it is imperative that Europe helps ensure that we don’t soon find ourselves repeating history.

Let me reiterate: Iran’s military capabilities comply with international law and are entirely defensive. Our defensive posture stems from sober geostrategic calculations, as well as moral and religious convictions. Our military doctrine is also based on historical experience: During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein rained Soviet-made missiles on our cities, some of them carrying chemical components provided by the West. The world not only kept silent, but also no country would sell Iran weapons to enable us to at least deter the aggressor.

No Iranian administration will leave our people defenseless. The international community — and Europe in particular — should realize this and instead focus its efforts on tackling real threats to the world, like the wars engulfing the Middle East.

Iran is proud of taking the lead in trying to bring an overdue end to the bloodshed in Syria. In 2013, I presented a plan to end the conflict there through a cease-fire, the formation of a national unity government, constitutional reform and free and fair elections. But this plan fell on deaf ears. Still, we have continued our efforts. Just last month, our president, Hassan Rouhani, joined by his Russian and Turkish counterparts, took an important stride toward peace at their summit meeting in Sochi, Russia, paving the way for more aid, de-escalation and the convening of a Syrian people’s congress.

In the case of Yemen, only two weeks after Saudi Arabia began its brutal bombing campaign in April 2015, Iran put forward a plan urging an immediate cease-fire and humanitarian assistance, followed by national dialogue to establish an inclusive government. The perpetrators of the humanitarian crisis, and their Western allies, choose war instead.

As Iran and its partners labor to put out fires, the arsonists in our region grow more unhinged. They’re oblivious to the necessity of inclusive engagement. And yet, despite the huge stakes, important stakeholders remain reluctant to hold the arsonists to account. …

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