(CNSNews.com) – The Iranian regime has perfected “the art of evading sanctions” and is willing to teach other countries to do the same – “for a price,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said at the weekend.
Zarif told the Doha Forum conference in Qatar that Iran has survived since the Islamic revolution despite U.S. pressure, and would continue to do so.
He acknowledged U.S. sanctions have had an impact but added, “Will that lead to a change in policy? I can assure you that it won’t.”
“If there is an art we have perfected in Iran – and we can teach it to others for a price – it is the art of evading sanctions,” Zarif added with a smile.
He told his interviewer, Wilson Center senior fellow Robin Wright, that Iran would continue to sell oil, despite the U.S. sanctions reimposed last month after President Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal earlier in the year.
Zarif claimed there was “quite a bit” of interest in buying Iranian oil, but in response to a question declined to elaborate.
“If I’m going to tell you where we’re going to sell our oil, you’ll block it,” he said with a smile. “So we’re not going to tell you where we’re going to sell our oil.”
(The U.S. administration wants to end all Iranian oil exports but, citing worries about global prices, last month gave eight countries – China, India, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey – waivers allowing them to continue importing some Iranian oil without being penalized, for six months.)
Javad put a brave face on the restored U.S. sanctions.
“The United States will never be able to make the claim that we will not be able to survive without the United States,” he said.
“We’ve survived against the United States – against the will of the United States – for the last 40 years, and I believe we will survive for the next 40 years.”
On Trump’s decision to exit the JCPOA and reinstate sanctions, Zarif noted that the nuclear deal had been endorsed in a U.N. Security Council resolution. He accused the U.S. of violating that resolution and pressuring counties in Europe and elsewhere to do the same.
Those governments should be asking themselves, “Are they going to allow the United States to decide for them how they are going to conduct their own affairs?” Zarif said.
On the prospects of returning to talks with the U.S., he suggested no-one could accuse Iran of being unwilling to talk.
“Five years ago you could have said that Iran has never tried direct talks with the U.S.,” he said. “But then we did: two-and-a-half years’ worth of direct talks. Probably we compensated for the last 40 years that we didn’t have any direct talks, by having spent more times between myself and [then-Secretary of State] John Kerry than each of us spent with our wives.”
And those talks were successful, having produced a 150-page agreement supported by a U.N. resolution, from which the U.S. has decided to walk away.
In a sideways dig at Trump’s Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un, Zarif said any new Iran-U.S. talks would need to have an objective and not be just “for a photo opportunity and a two-page document.”
Zarif got fired up at times during the half-hour session, angrily fending off questions about Iranian arms supplies to the Houthis in Yemen and human rights abuses at home.
On the former, he denied that Iran arms the Houthis, charging that it is the U.S. that enables the Saudis to carry out airstrikes in Yemen that have caused a humanitarian catastrophe.
Regarding Iran’s human rights record at home, Zarif acknowledged that “mistakes” are sometimes made and “excesses” have been committed, but contested the right of the U.S. or others “to give us lectures about human rights.”