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Iran’s ‘Only Crime Is We Decided Not to Fold’
Foreign Minister Zarif sketches Iran-US relations for diplomats, former presidents and analysts
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Just in time to shine a light on what’s behind the latest sanctions from Washington, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a speech at the annual Astana Club meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan delivered a searing account of Iran-US relations to a select audience of high-ranking diplomats, former Presidents and analysts.

Zarif was the main speaker in a panel titled “The New Concept of Nuclear Disarmament.” Keeping to a frantic schedule, he rushed in and out of the round table to squeeze in a private conversation with Kazakh First President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

During the panel, moderator Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, managed to keep a Pentagon analyst’s questioning of Zafir from turning into a shouting match.

Previously, I had extensively discussed with Syed Rasoul Mousavi, minister for West Asia at the Iran Foreign Ministry, myriad details on Iran’s stance everywhere from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan. I was at the James Bond-ish round table of the Astana Club, as I moderated two other panels, one on multipolar Eurasia and the post-INF environment and another on Central Asia (the subject of further columns).

Zarif’s intervention was extremely forceful. He stressed how Iran “complied with every agreement and it got nothing;” how “our people believe we have not gained from being part of” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; how inflation is out of control; how the value of the rial dropped 70% “because of ‘coercive measures’ – not sanctions because they are illegal.”

He spoke without notes, exhibiting absolute mastery of the inextricable swamp that is US-Iran relations. It turned out, in the end, to be a bombshell. Here are highlights.

Zarif’s story began back during 1968 negotiations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with the stance of the “Non-Aligned Movement to accept its provisions only if at a later date” – which happened to be 2020 – “there would be nuclear disarmament.” Out of 180 non-aligned countries, “90 countries co-sponsored the indefinite extension of the NPT.”

Moving to the state of play now, he mentioned how the United States and France are “relying on nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence, which is disastrous for the entire world.” Iran on the other hand “is a country that believes nuclear weapons should never be owned by any country,” due to “strategic calculations based on our religious beliefs.”

Zarif stressed how “from 2003 to 2012 Iran was under the most severe UN sanctions that have ever be imposed on any country that did not have nuclear weapons. The sanctions that were imposed on Iran from 2009 to 2012 were greater than the sanctions that were imposed on North Korea, which had nuclear weapons.”

Discussing the negotiations for the JCPOA that started in 2012, Zarif noted that Iran had started from the premise that “we should be able to develop as much nuclear energy as we wanted” while the US had started under the premise that Iran should never have any centrifuges.” That was the “zero-enrichment” option.

Zarif, in public, always comes back to the point that “in every zero-sum game everybody loses.” He admits the JCPOA is “a difficult agreement. It’s not a perfect agreement. It has elements I don’t like and it has elements the United Stares does not like.” In the end, “we reached the semblance of a balance.”

Zarif offered a quite enlightening parallel between the NPT and the JCPOA:

“The NPT was based on three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Basically the disarmament part of NPT is all but dead, non-proliferation is barely surviving and peaceful use of nuclear energy is under serious threat,” he observed.


“JCPOA was based on two pillars: economic normalization of Iran, which is reflected in Security Council resolution 2231, and – at the same time – Iran observing certain limits on nuclear development.”

Crucially, Zarif stressed there is nothing “sunset” about these limits, as Washington argues: “We will be committed to not producing nuclear weapons forever.”

All about distrust

Then came Trump’s fateful May 2018 decision:

“When President Trump decided to withdraw from the JCPOA, we triggered the dispute resolution mechanism.”

Referring to a common narrative that describes him and John Kerry as obsessed with sacrificing everything to get a deal, Zarif said:

“We negotiated this deal based on distrust. That’s why you have a mechanism for disputes.”

Still, “the commitments of the EU and the commitments of the United States are independent. Unfortunately the EU believed they could procrastinate. Now we are at a situation where Iran is receiving no benefit, nobody is implementing their part of the bargain, only Russia and China are fulfilling partially their commitments, because the United States even prevents them from fully fulfilling their commitments. France proposed last year to provide \$15 billion to Iran for the oil we could sell from August to December. The United States prevented the European Union even from addressing this.”

The bottom line, then, is that “other members of the JCPOA are in fact not implementing their commitments.” The solution “is very easy. Go back to the non-zero sum. Go back to implementing your commitments. Iran agreed that it would negotiate from Day One.”

Zarif made the prediction that

“if the Europeans still believe that they can take us to the Security Council and snap back resolutions they’re dead wrong. Because that is a remedy if there was a violation of the JCPOA. There was no violation of the JCPOA. We took these actions in response to European and American non-compliance. This is one of the few diplomatic achievements of the last many decades. We simply need to make sure that the two pillars exist: that there is a semblance of balance.”

This led him to a possible ray of light among so much doom and gloom:

“If what was promised to Iran in terms of economic normalization is delivered, even partially, we are prepared to show good faith and come back to the implementation of the JCPOA. If it’s not, then unfortunately we will continue this path, which is a path of zero-sum, a path leading to a loss for everybody, but a path that we have no other choice but to follow.”

Time for HOPE


Zarif identifies three major problems in our current geopolitical madness: a “zero-sum mentality on international relations that doesn’t work anymore;” winning by excluding others (“We need to establish dialogue, we need to establish cooperation”); and “the belief that the more arms we purchase, the more security we can bring to our people.”

He was adamant that there’s a possibility of implementing “a new paradigm of cooperation in our region,” referring to Nazarbayev’s efforts: a real Eurasian model of security. But that, Zarif explained, “requires a neighborhood policy. We need to look at our neighbors as our friends, as our partners, as people without whom we cannot have security. We cannot have security in Iran if Afghanistan is in turmoil. We cannot have security in Iran if Iraq is in turmoil. We cannot have security in Iran if Syria is in turmoil. You cannot have security in Kazakhstan if the Persian Gulf region is in turmoil.”

He noted that, based on just such thinking, “resident Rouhani this year, in the UN General Assembly, offered a new approach to security in the Persian Gulf region, called HOPE, which is the acronym for Hormuz Peace Initiative – or Hormuz Peace Endeavor so we can have the HOPE abbreviation.”

HOPE, explained Zarif, “is based on international law, respect of territorial integrity; based on accepting a series of principles and a series of confidence building measures; and we can build on it as you [addressing Nazarbayev] built on it in Eurasia and Central Asia. We are proud to be a part of the Eurasia Economic Union, we are neighbors in the Caspian, we have concluded last year, with your leadership, the legal convention of the Caspian Sea, these are important development that happened on the northern part of Iran. We need to repeat them in the southern part of Iran, with the same mentality that we can’t exclude our neighbors. We are either doomed or privileged to live together for the rest of our lives. We are bound by geography. We are bound by tradition, culture, religion and history.” To succeed, “we need to change our mindset.”

Age of hegemony gone

It all comes down to the main reason US foreign policy just can’t get enough of Iran demonization. Zarif has no doubts:

“There is still an arms embargo against Iran on the way. But we are capable of shooting down a US drone spying in our territory. We are trying simply to be independent. We never said we will annihilate Israel. Somebody said Israel will be annihilated. We never said we will do it.”

It was, Zarif said, Benjamin Netanyahu who took ownership of that threat, saying,

“I was the only one against the JCPOA.” Netanyahu “managed to destroy the JCPOA. What is the problem? The problem is we decided not to fold. That is our only crime. We had a revolution against a government that was supported by the United States, imposed on our country by the United States, [that] tortured our people with the help of the United States, and never received a single human rights condemnation, and now people are worried why they say ‘Death to America’? We say death to these policies, because they have brought nothing but this farce. What did they bring to us? If somebody came to the United States, removed your president, imposed a dictator who killed your people, wouldn’t you say death to that country?”

Zarif inevitably had to evoke Mike Pompeo:

“Today the Secretary of State of the United States says publicly: ‘If Iran wants to eat, it has to obey the United States.’ This is a war crime. Starvation is a crime against humanity. It’s a newspeak headline. If Iran wants its people to eat, it has to follow what he said. He says, ‘Death to the entire Iranian people.’”

By then the atmosphere across the huge round table was electric. One could hear a pin drop – or, rather, the mini sonic booms coming from high up in the shallow dome via the system devised by star architect Norman Foster, heating the high-performance glass to melt the snow.

Zarif went all in:

“What did we do the United States? What did we do to Israel? Did we make their people starve? Who is making our people starve? Just tell me. Who is violating the nuclear agreement? Because they did not like Obama? Is that a reason to destroy the world, just because you don’t like a president?”

Iran’s only crime, he said, “is that we decided to be our own boss. And that crime – we are proud of it. And we will continue to be. Because we have seven millennia of civilization. We had an empire that ruled the world, and the life of that empire was probably seven times the entire life of the United States. So – with all due respect to the United States empire; I owe my education to the United States – we don’t believe that the United States is an empire that will last. The age of empires is long gone. The age of hegemony is long gone. We now have to live in a world without hegemony. – regional hegemony or global hegemony.”

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
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  1. I see the article is dated 26th Nov. 2019, but I’m sure I read it a couple of days ago.

    If it wasn’t for the thousands who will die, I would like to see Israel and it’s lackeys i.e. F UK US go to war with Iran. This conflict will reverberate around the world and collapse the economies of Japan, Korea, India, China and others who depend on oil/gas imported from the Persian Gulf.

    The chosenites know this and false flags and regime change are their only options right now. Sooner than later, Israel will come to terms with Iran.

    Another real danger the zionists face is the awakening in the USA, where the clock is ticking.

    • Replies: @Cortes
  2. El Dato says:

    In a “zero-sum game” one party exactly wins the value that the other party loses. That’s the definition.

    If both parties lose, then it’s not “zero-sum”.

    It may be a Prisoner’s Dilemma with both players sitting on the worst outcome for both or some other game that’s being resolved in a less-than optimal fashion.

  3. Cortes says:
    @Rev. Spooner

    Does any Israeli lack another passport or maybe more than one?

    Easy to behave obnoxiously while you’re a tourist, like British people in Spain…

    Only here for a little bit so WGAF what the locals say.

  4. There is no forum for such words in the mainstream Western media. No ears which would hear them. More is the pity.

  5. joannf says:

    It’s probably a shrewd move to forge a journalistic career on defending the BRICS against the Socialist Zioimperialists, with lots of assistance available from obvious sides in case of need, but one should never overdo it. Iran is still a radical Islamist regime, that practises and tries to propagate a barely literal Iron Age Delusionality as the only possible truth, while Socialist Zioimperialists are doing exactly the same, with a just slightly, irrelevantly different flavor of the same Iron Age Delusionality.

    That doesn’t bode well for the future evolution of the species. One might get the idea all parties playing the game right now are trying to make sure humanity opts out of evolution. That’s a greatly clever and human-intuitive idea, and Islam has been comparatively successful at practising it over many centuries.
    Unfortunately, it’s impossible in the long run, but why would short-lived, semi-intelligent primates even be interested in that ? Eat while you can, huh ? It’s delicous !

    • Troll: Digital Samizdat
  6. Sbaker says:

    Zarif, suffering from his memory lapses, failed to mention here that Persia received a \$6 billion dollar–cash extortion payment–and the fact his government supports the mass murder and serial killing of soft targets. Persia is the #1 sponsor on the planet of targeted mass murder and serial killing of unarmed men, women, and children. Persian women were once treated as human beings and not goats, for a brief period several decades ago.

    • Troll: The Scalpel
  7. The Scalpel says: • Website

    The “6 billion” was Iran’s money earned from the sale of oil. The US was able to illegally keep the money from Iran because of its presence in US banks. Justified by unilateral “sanctions” (force)

    • Replies: @Sbaker
    , @Realist
  8. anon[222] • Disclaimer says:


    no soup for you

  9. If the Iranians had any intelligence they would ask the Russians to station some of their more advanced nukes on Iranian soil. If NATO can put US nukes on foreign territory, why can’t Russia situate theirs using the same logic?

    Killing Russian technicians / military personnel is risky business and would present an additional obstacle for Israel, et al to overcome. It would also allow the Iranian religious crowd to claim they have no nukes while having nukes.

    • Agree: Realist, dfordoom
    • Replies: @Willem
  10. Sbaker says:
    @The Scalpel

    I don’t visit Muslim sites. Stuff it.

  11. “…The disarmament part of the NPT is all but dead, non-proliferation is barely surviving…”
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

    This is perhaps the most succinct description of international relations today, as the human race moves steadfast towards Armageddon.

  12. Perhaps someone like Escobar should have the courage and ask Zarif and other minions of theocratic dictatorship why so many civilians,close to 200, protesting dictatorship and misery had to be shot in cold blood. And how about the young men and women in iraq being slaughtered by their colonial militias? Not a whimper there from Pepe about the almost 400 murdered so far.

    How pitiful can someone be to lend support to such brutes and corrupt criminals, The Mullas?

    The glorified “progressive” Mullas would not even allow the bodies of those they have murdered be returned to their families. Such wonderful government.

  13. @NegroPantera

    why so many civilians,close to 200, protesting dictatorship and misery had to be shot in cold blood

    Maidan snipers unemployment insurance ran out??

    • LOL: Half-Jap
    • Replies: @Hossein
  14. Chinaman says:

    “In the time of universal deceit, speaking the truth is a revolutionary act…”

    The silence is deafening. Few comments since he speaks the truth and there is nothing else to say.

    Americans can keep deceiving themselves that they are just and benevolent but there is no way to reconcile with all the war crimes that its government and military have committed in the middle east, and in Asia, ironically in the name of freedom and democracy. Founded on slavery and genocide, America is the great Satan.( in Iran ‘s own word).

    Everywhere you find conflict, destruction and death, you will find Americans and their bloody fingerprints. The world is not blind to these crimes and it is time to stand up against this tyranny.

    • Agree: MEexpert
  15. Hossein says:

    Nonsense. they were shot by the so called revolutionary guard. Give me a break, The Mullas are a cruel bunch and lending support to such barbarous and savage Mafia is immoral,

    • Replies: @Half-Jap
    , @MEexpert
    , @SBaker
  16. Half-Jap says:

    Iran’s a theocratic republic. It’s like a Islamic constitutional republic, but the monarch is just a “supreme guide” with defined powers, which is much more than what most other monarchs have today. Nobody has to like it, as much as one needs to like how another country in the region insists on being ruled of, by, and for, a certain religion.

    As to the reason for the fates of protesters, there are several justifications that one could proffer. Likely much better than the ones issued by the “most ethical military in the world,” after all the aggressive ‘self defending’ they do, or the most powerful country in the world with their humanitarian bombings worldwide. It’s not like Iran has shoved a bunch of people inside a wall and enforces a certain limitation to how much people can eat, or invaded other countries on the most flimsiest of pretexts. Granted, the killings of the protesters without clear evidence for valid justifications is intrinsically wrong and should be denounced.

    • Agree: The Scalpel, follyofwar
  17. Half-Jap says:

    Ah, you wouldn’t know a joke if it hit you in the face, eh?
    I’m sure we’re all very sorry about your autism.

  18. Realist says:

    Zarif, suffering from his memory lapses, failed to mention here that Persia received a \$6 billion dollar–cash extortion payment–and the fact his government supports the mass murder and serial killing of soft targets. Persia is the #1 sponsor on the planet of targeted mass murder and serial killing of unarmed men, women, and children. Persian women were once treated as human beings and not goats, for a brief period several decades ago.

    Great job of boot licking for Deep State.

  19. Realist says:
    @The Scalpel

    The “6 billion” was Iran’s money earned from the sale of oil.

    Yes, it was Iran’s money and the amount was \$150 billion.

  20. MEexpert says:

    Learn your facts.

    Zarif, suffering from his memory lapses, failed to mention here that Persia received a \$6 billion dollar–cash extortion payment

    The \$6 billion was Iran’s money illegally kept by the United States. It was not extortion by Iran but highway robbery by the US.

    and the fact his government supports the mass murder and serial killing of soft targets.

    Again your facts are wrong. It is your Israel that is master of targetted assassinations. The trail of murders by Israel/Mossad is very long that includes Irani scientists and engineers, along with many palestinians.

    Persia is the #1 sponsor on the planet of targeted mass murder and serial killing of unarmed men, women, and children.

    Again you are actually talking about Israel. You just have the name wrong. Furthermore, it is not Persia. I suppose this is your attempt to insult Iran. It is the cowardly government of Israel that is the number one in targetted assassinations and killing unarmed, and sometime sleeping men, women, and children. Israel is the biggest supporter of terrorism and the worst terrorist in its own right.

    • Replies: @SBaker
  21. MEexpert says:

    The protests in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon are the works of the MEK/CIA. There is a big American footprint all over the place. Why? To protect its masters; Israel and the Saudi Arabia. Common factor; Iran. The three jokers; the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia want to eliminate Irani influence in Iraq (Hashd al-arabi or the Shia militia) and Lebanon (Hizbullah). Hashd al-arabi beat the pants off of US/Israel/Saudi Arabia as did Hizbullah those of Israel in Lebanon and ISIS in Syria.

    The Mullas are a cruel bunch and lending support to such barbarous and savage Mafia is immoral,

    You must be craving for the days of Shah and the Savak?

  22. @NegroPantera

    It will never be reported objectively by the corrupt US MSM, but RT America (Rick Sanchez) covered the Iranian riots in considerable detail. Per their report, the peaceful “protests” occurred during daylight hours, and were about the abrupt doubling of the price of fuel, which proved to be a big mistake by the government. They were not protesting the “dictatorship” (your word).

    The illegal nightime “riots,” which burned down hundreds of banks and gas stations, were the work of the Usual Suspects, who have been out to destroy Iran ever since the Shah was deposed.

    As for the Iranian death toll, where did you get your figures? Who is there on the ground to do an impartial, unbiased accounting? Regardless of the actual numbers, surely the rioters are responsible for many. And if the rioters were caught in the act of burning down banks, gas stations, or other valuable property, then it was entirely justified to shoot them.

  23. SBaker says:

    Israel, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the endless list of semites–its one semite killing another.

    Here’s a tip for you: Iranians living in the US and elsewhere have called it Persia for more than a month. Actually, they’ve called it Persia for decades. You obviously have known few, if any, Iranians or Persians.

    • Replies: @anonymous
    , @anon
  24. SBaker says:

    Nonsense. they were shot by the so called revolutionary guard. Give me a break, The Mullas are a cruel bunch and lending support to such barbarous and savage Mafia is immoral,

    A couple of my best friends were Iranians (and one has remained in contact for many years) and your comment is consistent with the reality of Iran today.

  25. anonymous[222] • Disclaimer says:

    Persians are one of the half-dozen or more ethnic groups in Iran.
    Those groups include Arabs and Jews, who are Semites, but Persians are not Semitic (fact is, ancient Persians come from Scythian plane, not too distant from Khazaria).
    Neither are Mongols, Lurs, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Baluchs, Bakhtiari, Mazandarani, or Qashqai.
    In short, there are very few Semites in Iran.

    Assuming you are American, and that your Iranian aka Persian friends are ex-pats, Machiavelli warned against taking the word of an ex-patriate: if they loved their fatherland they would have remained and fought for it. What an expatriate wants is a return to a long-gone status quo, preferably without suffering any inconvenience.

  26. anon[113] • Disclaimer says:

    Iranians living in the US and elsewhere have called it Persia…. for decades.

    What a load of crap.

  27. Willem says:

    Good point! Interesting that the Iranians never asked the Russians to station nukes on their land.

    Or perhaps they did ask and the Russians said nyet

    It’s better for the Russians if Iran is threathened by war from the US or Israël then when Russia is threathened by war. And the sanctions (against Iranian oil) are not bad for Russian business at all.

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