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Zarif’s Dialogue: Civilization and Agreement

Zarif’s Dialogue: Civilization and Agreement

Monday, 6 May, 2019 - 09:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was in New York, led a media attack, and I found in his speech to the audience of the Asia Society something worth the debate that I began Saturday. It was about what he called the Saudi-Emirati-Israeli plot to start a war with Iran.

Zarif: “This is the first time, to my knowledge — and I’ve dealt with the UN for the last 40 years — this is the first time this happens at the UN that a permanent member of the Security Council (the US) is openly calling on other countries to violate a Security Council resolution (the Iran nuclear deal) and threatening them with punishment if they didn’t (comply).”

– It is true that the US has resorted to sanctioning any party dealing with Iran commercially, but it has not acted like Tehran, which punishes its enemies with murder and destruction, as we see in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Zarif: “I don’t want to repeat and bring you back to history. We had an empire ruling the world for much longer than the US has existed, and it ends. Empires end. We need to know whether we want to establish a modus operandi that would last longer than our empire.”

– Zarif and other Iranian officials often boast about the history of Persia and its ancient empire. It is ironic that the current regime has no connection, neither civilizational nor cultural, with that empire. Moreover, the great ancient civilizations — Arabic, Islamic, Pharaonic, Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Chinese, Mayan, Persian etc. — should not be used as an excuse to attack states’ borders and sovereignty and to expand, as the ayatollahs in Tehran want. When Zarif reminds the Americans that they (Iranians) were a great civilization like them, he needs to realize that Iran today is one of the poor countries of the world, and that his regime is the one that brought poverty and destruction.

Zarif: “I negotiated that (nuclear) agreement, and I know that neither Iran nor the United States will ever get a better agreement. It’s not an agreement that I like … and it’s not an agreement that (former US) Secretary (of State John) Kerry likes, but it was the best agreement we could both reach with five other people in the room … We had competing interests — not just competing interests between Iran and the United States, but even competing interests between the United States and its own European allies, competing interests between the United States and Russia and China.”

– Tehran received money and gifts, and even got visas for the sons of the Iranian elite to stay in America. In return, the regime’s gifts to the world have been Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, the Houthis and the Fatimids, all of which are groups that devastated the region and threatened peace more than the world had seen before the agreement.

Zarif: “Sanctions certainly impact our economy. Sanctions target ordinary people … They came out in huge numbers to the streets when we signed the deal.”

– It is true that the Iranian people came out on the streets happy with the nuclear agreement, but there was anger when they found out that the regime was spending the money received from the deal on more weapons, recruitment, fighting, and supporting armed organizations outside the country. They returned to the streets to protest against the regime.

Zarif: “Sanctions will hurt, no doubt about that. But will sanctions change policy? They won’t. Never have, never will.”

– Although they have just started, the sanctions have affected Iran’s activities in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, to the extent that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had to address his followers on TV, urging them to get rid of servants, reduce their expenses and be patient because the party will reduce payments to them. We expect the sanctions to have more effect in a year and a half. The aim is to force Tehran to negotiate and compromise in order to end religious extremism, wars and chaos created by it regionally and globally over the past 40 years.

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