It's None the Business of Anybody Other Than Syrian People to Decide Syria's Future: Zarif

TEHRAN-- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has reiterated that "it is none the business of anybody other than the Syrian people to decide the future of Syria, pointing out that from the very beginning, Tehran's political plan has been based on "supporting ceasefire, inclusive government, inclusive national unity government, constitutional reform and elections in Syria."

During an interview published by News Week on Friday and by Tasnim news agency on Saturday, Zarif stressed that Iran has presence in Syria at the request of the Syrian government to support the country in its war on terrorist organizations like Daesh, asserting that Tehran has had a consistent policy of opposing extremism regardless of where it occurs.

 "We will not stay in Syria any longer than we are welcome. We have this policy of not going anywhere uninvited, unlike others," he said, with reference to America and a few other countries.

Zarif regretted some Gulf countries' support for terrorist organizations.

"Unfortunately, people intervened in Syria. People supported, financed, armed extremist groups," he said, referring mainly to Saudi Arabia.

He noted the accusations that are floating in the Gulf among countries that are formerly allies. "You can see that each one is accusing the other of supporting extremist groups. You can see each one accusing the other of being on the wrong side in Yemen. What happened was people intervened on the wrong side and are now complaining; Iran’s influence is growing in the region because we never intervened on the wrong side,"" Zarif clarified.

On Iranian support for Hizbollah, Zarif said  "we never supported extremists. We never supported Daesh, Nusra, Al-Qaeda, Taliban. You’re talking about Hezbollah? Do you condone Israel’s occupation of Lebanon? It was the first time in Lebanese and Arab history that Israel had to withdraw, was pushed back from Arab and Islamic territory. So let’s see whether resisting occupation, resisting foreign aggression, would be tantamount to (being) an instrument of instability; or whether occupation, aggression, usurping other people’s lands—that is their definition of instability."

Iran is not a threat to anybody

He affirmed that "Iran is not a threat to anybody. I believe Israel’s threat comes from its own actions. I believe Iran has provided—or Israel has used Iran as a smokescreen to continue its expansion, its policies, its violations of the rights of Palestinians, its pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the region. Iran is not the problem. Iran is not an impediment to the resolution of these problems. Iran has never threatened to take military action against anybody except in self-defense. If anybody dares to attack us, they will receive a huge response."

JCPOA Renegotiation Would Open Pandora’s Box

 Iranian top diplomat urged Washington to carry out its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, noting that the idea of reopening negotiations on the deal would open Pandora’s box.

“Every aspect of the deal had been fully and repeatedly renegotiated before we reached an agreement. Everybody else who participated in…(it) knows that if we reopen the deal to negotiation, we would be reopening Pandora’s box, which would be impossible to close again," he said.

The agreement itself clearly indicates that the US should not do anything to undermine economic relations between Iran and other states. Unfortunately, it has done exactly that, particularly under the Trump administration. The agreement was not a ceiling, but a foundation, and if we wanted to reach that objective or aspiration with more than the spirit, it would've required the United States to, at least, faithfully implement its part of the bargain and it hasn’t.

He refers to the psychology which "considers sanctions as an asset for the United States and believes that whatever the US does, the primary objective should be to maintain the sanctions."  He said the other problem has been that...(the Trump) administration has tried...(its) best very explicitly to create the tense atmosphere, which would prevent Iran from benefiting from the deal."

Iran is not putting itself on a collision course with anybody

He stressed that Iran is not putting itself on a collision course with anybody, noting that "others may be putting themselves on that course. I believe they are putting themselves on a collision course with the international community."

" Every aspect of the deal had been fully and repeatedly renegotiated before we reached an agreement. Everybody else who participated in…(it) knows that if we reopen the deal to negotiation, we would be reopening Pandora’s box, which would be impossible to close again," clarified Zarif.

He stressed that  the nuclear deal only came about after everyone understood that it was the best course of action. Iran has lived with pressure and sanctions in the past. It has not broken Iran’s determination to pursue its interests, which are in line with international norms and international obligations. We will never pursue a nuclear weapons option, but we have options within international law that are available in the agreement; options that are available if Iran decides to walk away from the agreement in response to a US violation.

 Iranian ballistic missile program is defensive

On Iranian ballistic missiles tests, Zarif said "they're defensive. Iranian ballistic missiles are not designed to carry nuclear weapons. The reason we continue testing them is that we want to improve their precision. If a missile is designed to carry nuclear weapons, you don't need precision. You just need range because wherever they hit, they create the necessary deterrence. The range would be important, but the precision wouldn’t be important. Iran focuses on improving the precision because we want to use these missiles as a means of carrying conventional warheads. We  did not agree to anything limiting our defense capabilities for [the] very obvious reason that the United States is sending a lot of weapons to our region."

The Iranian top diplomat pointed out that Iran doesn't expect the United States to interfere in its internal affairs, and it, at the same time, doesn't not interfere in the US internal affairs.

He said he hopes President Trump realizes that negotiating international agreements is no fun like real estate deals.

Situation in Korean peninsula needs to be resolved diplomatically

On Iran's position on nuclear proliferation, Zarif said "it is very clear. We reject nuclear proliferation as we reject nuclear weapons generally. We believe the objective of the international community should be nuclear disarmament. We believe that pursuit of nuclear weapons doesn’t serve anybody’s security, but that is our view."

"We believe that the situation in the Korean peninsula...cannot take any further exacerbation and increase in tension. That is why we believe this issue needs to be resolved diplomatically around a negotiating table. We have our views on this issue. We share our views," he said.

"Our relations with Japan and South Korea are much, much more extensive than our relations with North Korea. But North Korea came to our assistance with defensive weapons during the war that was imposed on us by Iraq. We do not have short memories," he added.

Hamda Mustafa