Iran not interested in war with US: envoy

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/2 18:24:10

Mohammad Keshavarzzadeh   Photo: Yu Tianjiao/GT

Editor's Note:

Amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, Iran recently shot down a US military drone and Washington announced additional sanctions against the country. In an exclusive interview with Global Times (GT) reporter Li Aixin and Yu Tianjiao, Mohammad Keshavarzzadeh (Keshavarzzadeh), Iranian Ambassador to China, shared his views over concerns about the Iran-US relationship, including chances of a war breaking out between the two, Tehran's perspective about the future of the Iran nuclear deal and what Europe can do as a mediator.

GT: US President Donald Trump announced additional sanctions on Iran on June 24. How much impact will the new sanctions have on the country and on US-Iran ties?

Iran has been sanctioned by the US for a long time. Many countries have opposed US sanctions, hegemonism and imperialism nowadays. Very few countries worldwide have never faced sanctions from Washington. To be honest, US economic sanctions do cause some problems for Iran and its people. China was sanctioned by the US once, but it is now the second-largest economy. So, we believe Iran can also withstand unilateral US sanctions and hegemonism. 

The relationship between Iran and the US has been very tense since the Iranian Revolution. Washington has been yearning to interfere in our domestic affairs. Even before the Iranian Revolution, the US opposed the legitimate government of Iran and launched a military coup in 1953. We don't trust the US government and its tricks. So there is no logical reason for Iran to enter into negotiations with the US.

The talks between Iran, the administration of former US president Barack Obama, and other relevant countries were successful. That resulted in the Iran nuclear deal - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But Trump pulled the US out of the agreement. It revealed the US government cannot be trusted and the fresh sanctions only made ties between Tehran and Washington worse. 

GT: The US claimed it was prepared to negotiate with Iran with no preconditions. Will Iran talk with the US? Under what conditions will Tehran restart negotiations with Washington?

The potential negotiations with no preconditions attached, which is claimed by the US, do not exist. A series of US moves including its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, strict economic sanctions against Iran and an increasing US military presence in the Persian Gulf, all show that Washington has many preconditions over talks with Iran. If the US is being honest when saying it is ready to talk without preconditions, it would not have withdrawn from the nuclear deal at the very beginning. 

So, many preparations are needed before negotiations begin. During our previous negotiations with the Obama administration, a relatively good result was reached. Yet the new US administration overturned it. So, it does not make sense for Iran to engage in further talks with the US. 

The US withdrawal from JCPOA has destroyed any chances of negotiations. Only a return to the nuclear deal would pave the way for probable negotiations.

GT: Trump said US airstrikes against Iran were called off at the last minute on June 20 after he was told 150 people would die, which is not a proportionate response to shooting down an unmanned drone. How do you see on this?

This is nonsense. The US has already caused so many casualties in Iran and West Asia. On July 3, 1988, an Iranian passenger jet was shot down by the US Navy. Washington does not actually care about casualties in the region. US weapons are killing civilians in Yemen. US airstrikes have claimed many lives in Syria. The US stopped the mission not because it wanted to avoid casualties, but because it knows any strike against Iran will lead to strong retaliatory actions from the Iranian side. 

GT: Do you think a war could break out? How will Iran respond to escalating tensions with the US?

Iran is not interested in war with the US. But if a war is started by Washington, Tehran will retaliate strongly. Washington is well aware that Tehran will not flinch in the face of US pressure; therefore, the US dares not strike Iran. 

I think there won't be a war between Iran and the US. If a war breaks out, the US will also suffer long-term shocks, so I think it will not start a fight. The primary goal of the US is to reinforce economic pressure on Iran. Washington hopes to bring back Iran and the Middle East under its control.

While opposing US economic sanctions, Iran is developing and reforming its economy. It is a very strong country and can meet its own needs through domestic production. For example, under strict US sanctions, Iran has not obtained weapons and other military equipment from abroad for a long time. But recently Iran shot down a US surveillance drone with a high-tech missile, which was developed domestically. Washington must be surprised that Iran has such advanced technology.

GT: In May, Iran announced a partial withdrawal from the nuclear deal and set a 60-day deadline to renegotiate terms. If 60 days pass without an agreement, Iran will resume production of highly enriched uranium. How are negotiations coming along?

Iran is not withdrawing from the nuclear agreement but is exercising its own rights based on article 36 of the deal. Tehran has been sincerely fulfilling its commitments. But certain relevant parties are not. It will impact Iran's determination to comply with the agreement. If other signatory states of the nuclear deal can provide what Iran needs and lift the restrictions that Iran is facing in oil exports, why would Iran quit the deal? Our requirements are not too demanding - eliminating the restrictions on Iran's oil exports while allowing the country to purchase what it needs. European countries must consider fulfilling their commitments as soon as possible.

GT: July 7 is the deadline. Do you think Europe has done enough to save the deal? How do you think Europe could put in more efforts to save the deal?

It has been one year since the US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA. Iran had the right to quit the deal at that time, but instead, it has been exercising restraint. Over the past year, the US has imposed sanctions on our government officials and private companies. Against this backdrop, Iran can no longer export oil to European countries. And its banking channel has been frozen under US pressure. 

We hope to establish a financial system which could enable us to purchase what we need, such as medicine and food. But in this regard, Europe has not yet honored its promises.

GT: The current tension resulted from US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal and sanctions against Iran. For the moment, there is no sign that shows the US is willing to change its mind. Against this backdrop, what choices does Iran have now?

US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has been criticized by the international community. Iran will continue to expect members of the agreement to keep opposing US unilateralism. 

The most significant purpose of the deal is to provide Iran with economic benefits. If the aim cannot be met, we believe relevant countries have not made enough efforts to save the deal. 

GT: Do you think multilateralism can be a pushback against US policy?

One can see no sign of multilateralism in US policies. The US is adopting unilateralism not only in its Iran policy, but also on many issues worldwide. Such unilateralism is even opposed by Trump's compatriots in the US. Washington will eventually be politically isolated for it.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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