Zarif: Western Sanctions Useless, Only ‘Antagonize The Iranian People’


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Western sanctions against Iran didn’t force the country to the negotiating table for their nuclear program ambitions.

While in New York to deliver a speech as chair of the Non-Aligned Movement before the United Nations General Assembly, Zarif said all the member states shared the same view as Iran in opposition to the “production of nuclear weapons… and that the world must get rid of them.” Zarif met with Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday for the first time since the six states and Iran agreed on an April 2 initial understanding.

The countries set their own nuclear negotiation deadline for June 30.

“The sanctions didn’t change the mind of the Iranian government, the Iranian government actually went ahead with building more centrifuges. What the sanctions did was to create an atmosphere among the Iranian population that the United States doesn’t want to treat them well,” Zarif told Charlie Rose on his PBS show. “That the United States is trying to put pressure on them. That the United States is trying to prevent them from even buying medicine with their own money from abroad.”

Rose noted that the sanctions did in fact work because it allowed several international governments to put pressure on the Iranians to discuss their nuclear ambitions.

Zarif said that if the sanctions only served to “antagonize the Iranian people” and “create feelings and misgivings about the U.S. among the general Iranian population… then the sanctions have succeeded.”

But he denied that the sanctions drew Iran for nuclear program talks with Western powers.

“If the intention of these sanctions were to bring Iran to the negotiating table – that’s not what they achieved.”

“That’s not what they achieved,” said Zarif, although Rose insisted that’s “exactly” what did happen.

Zarif expressed hope that a nuclear agreement would lead to the building of trust and assurance between Iran and the U.S. and not to an agreement based on initial trust. And echoing sentiments from other Iranian leaders, he said the possession or use of a nuclear weapon would be “illegal” and “immoral.”

Zarif said political bickering within the U.S. could derail the talks and ruin a significant opportunity for the countries to build trust together.

“What we hear from inside Washington does not help gain Iran’s trust; of course, we do not intend to get involved in discussions on the U.S. internal affairs and will continue considering the US government in its entirety,” he said.

The Iranian foreign minister said such nuclear negotiations could have been achieved a decade ago.

“They did not listen to us then, and so it is not the sanctions that has borne fruit but the negotiations that will ultimately reach results.”

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