Zarif: Iran Achieved ‘Main Objectives’ in Nuke Deal; Ballistic Missile Activity Unconstrained

Patrick Goodenough | July 22, 2015 | 4:43am EDT
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was Tehran's chief negotiator in the nuclear talks. (AP Photo, File)

( – Briefing the Iranian parliament Tuesday on the nuclear agreement reached with the U.S. and five other nations, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran had achieved its “main objectives” in the negotiations – “maintaining Iran’s dignity and might, establishing the nuclear program, [uranium] enrichment and retaining the heavy-water reactor.”

The negotiators on the other side of the table, meanwhile, essentially achieved very little, he implied. Their main goal was to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but Iran had no intention from doing so in the first place, he said, pointing to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s purported “fatwa” outlawing them.

Zarif also took a swipe at Israel, the most outspoken critic of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal.

“The much-hated Zionist regime has never been this much isolated among its allies,” the Tehran Times quoted him as saying.

With regard to Iran having achieved its objectives, Zarif also pointed out to parliament that the U.N. sanctions, which are to be lifted under the JCPOA, include those that sought to prevent, in his words, “the enhancement of Iran’s missile capabilities.”

Included in the nuclear deal is a provision for a U.N. conventional arms embargo to be lifted after five years, and for U.N. sanctions relating to Iran’s ballistic missile program to be lifted after eight years.

The Obama administration has come under fire for agreeing to their lifting at all. In response, it asserts that it was a significant diplomatic achievement getting the lifting delayed for that long, given that Russia and China wanted it done immediately.

The JCPOA was enshrined in a U.N. Security Council resolution (2231) unanimously endorsed on Monday.

There is one main reference to missiles – not in the body of the resolution, but in an annex: “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology” – for eight years (or sooner, if the International Atomic Energy Agency certifies before “that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities.”)

The language used is noteworthy: While all countries “shall comply” with other paragraphs in the annex, when it comes to the paragraph on missiles the text says all countries are “called upon to comply.”

As Zarif pointed out to parliament, this makes the provision “non-binding.” He also said that, since none of Iran’s ballistic missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons, this provision did not apply in any case.

“This paragraph speaks about missiles with nuclear warheads capability and since we don’t design any of our missiles for carrying nuclear weapons, therefore, this paragraph is not related to us at all,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as telling lawmakers.

In a statement issued after the Security Council passed resolution 2231 on Monday, the Iranian foreign minister underlined that point.

“Iranian military capabilities, including ballistic missiles, are exclusively for legitimate defense,” it said. “They have not been designed for WMD capability, and are thus outside the purview or competence of the Security Council resolution and its annexes.”

Separately, Khamenei’s top international affairs advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister, said on Tuesday Iran would not stop manufacturing conventional weapons including missiles.

“Missiles like Shahab, Sejjil and the like, have never been used for carrying nuclear warheads, and therefore, are not subject to the paragraphs of the [JCPOA],” he said.

Velayati’s claim about the Shahab missile – developed with North Korean assistance according to the CIA, and with a range potentially threatening Israel, Arab Gulf states, and deployed U.S. forces in the region – remains unverified.

In a 2011 report, the IAEA said there was “credible” evidence that Iran had carried out “activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device,” including work on a project aimed at fitting a “spherical payload” into the payload chamber of a Shahab-3 missile. The fusion device in a nuclear warhead is typically spherical in shape.


In his parliamentary briefing, Zarif  sought to allay lawmakers’ concerns about the so-called sanctions “snapback” provision, portraying as unlikely the U.N. Security Council agreeing to reinstate sanctions.

It would not be an easy move for the Security Council to agree to restore sanctions, he said.

Sanctions “snapback” requires a month-long “dispute resolution” process involving a complaint of non-compliance being taken up by: a joint commission of which Iran is a member; a group of foreign ministers including Iran’s; and finally an advisory board, one of whose three members is appointed by Iran.

If that process fails to resolve the matter, the Security Council can then vote – not to impose sanctions, but to continue suspending them. The aim here is to prevent Russia from vetoing a resolution restoring sanctions. Instead, the U.S. could veto a resolution to “continue the sanctions lifting,” and the effect would be a halt to the lifting.

Zarif said that any Security Council decision arising from a veto would harm the council’s standing, as the international community had little regard for such decisions.

The parliament voted to set up a 15-member committee to review the JCPOA.

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