Iran’s Zarif: I Lobbied Influential Americans on Trump’s Nuclear Deal Decision

Patrick Goodenough | May 7, 2018 | 8:39pm EDT
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Then-Secretary of State John Kerry talks to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the nuclear talks, in Vienna on July 3, 2015. (Photo: State Department, File)

( – Ahead of President Trump’s announcement Tuesday on the Iran nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif confirmed he has lobbied influential Americans and made it clear a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement would result in its isolation.

Speaking to Iran’s ICANA state news agency, Zarif said these figures included former officials involved in the nuclear negotiations and “political elites and decision makers.”

ICANA cited him as saying he met with people from the Democratic and Republican parties “as well as the media and study centers.” None were identified in the news agency’s report.

It said the discussions “revolved around the negative effects of the Trump administration’s behavior on the United States’ international image.”

The Boston Globe reported Friday that Zarif had met with former Secretary of State John Kerry in New York a fortnight ago to discuss ways to preserve the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Kerry and Zarif were key negotiating partners in the marathon talks that produced the JCPOA in 2015.

Asked by ICANA about Kerry’s influence, Zarif said all influential American figures could affect the decision-making process.

Along with the administration in Washington, he said, were lobbies and pressure groups.

Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday confirmed the Zarif-Kerry meeting had taken place.

“During the trip [by Zarif to New York], a meeting was held with Kerry, although you know that at present, Kerry doesn’t hold any government post,” said ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi.

“We don’t see the U.S. just as Mr. Trump,” he said. “The United States is not just the current ruling administration and there are many figures who have different views on international and regional issues.”

Qassemi said Zarif had not met with any officials in the current administration.

Trump on Monday sharply criticized Kerry’s reported activities.

“The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal,” he tweeted Monday. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”

Several hours later, Trump indicated he will announce his decision on the JCPOA from the White House at 2 PM on Tuesday.

The agreement negotiated by Iran and the P5+1 group – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – lifted sanctions in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

The Obama administration and other deal supporters said it made the world safer by cutting off Iran’s pathways to an atomic bomb, but critics say it lays the groundwork for Iran to become a nuclear threshold state once key provisions expire, after 10-15 years.

Trump has named as major flaws the “sunset” clauses, “insufficient enforcement” and the fact Iran’s ballistic missile programs were left off the table.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act requires the president to certify every 90 days that Iran is meeting its commitments under the deal, and that the suspension of U.S. sanctions continues to be in U.S. national security interests. Last October Trump “decertified” Iran’s compliance.

The president is also required to waive nuclear-related oil and banking sanctions, and the last time he did so, last January, he warned that if its “terrible flaws” were not addressed, “the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.”

May 12 is the next deadline to waive the sanctions.

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani told officials on Monday that if the U.S. makes the “strategic mistake” of walking away from the JCPOA, it will be “the real loser.”

He said Iran would demand that the non-U.S. parties to the accord fulfill all its demands, in which case U.S. withdrawal would amount to the removal of a problem.

Failing that, however, Iran would resort to what he called “our legal and rational option,” he said – likely a reference to a speedy return to nuclear activities, as other Iranian officials have indicated.

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