Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has slammed the United States’ aggressive behavior towards the Islamic Republic, as characterized by Washington’s economic war against Tehran through the re-imposition of tough sanctions, noting that Iranians cannot be brought to their knees through such pressures.
Zarif, who is currently in New York to attend the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, made the remarks in an interview with the National Public Radio (NPR) on Sunday, whose text was published on the NPR’s website on Monday.
"Abandon the illusion that Iran can be defeated by pressure," Zarif said, adding, "We are resisting an unprovoked aggression by the United States."
Iran's top diplomat then emphasized, “I can assure you that the United States will not be able to bring us to our knees through pressure."
Tensions have been running high between Iran and the United States since May 2018, when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Trump is a stern critic of the deal, which was clinched in 2015 by Iran and six world powers, including the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia, and Germany. Under the agreement, nuclear-related sanctions put in place against Iran were lifted in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.
In response to the US move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments three times in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.
Trump’s goal has been to get another deal as he has already described the JCPOA as "the worst deal ever negotiated.” The White House position has been that maximum pressure will continue until Iranian officials accept to sit at the negotiating table.
Iranian officials, however, say it was Washington that left the JCPOA last year although the international and multilateral deal was endorsed by the UN Security Council in the form of a resolution. Tehran says talks with Washington are impossible as the latter is pressing ahead with its hostile policy and refuses to lift sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
In an interview with Malaysia's official news agency Bernama in August, the Iranian foreign minister said the country will not renegotiate its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but is open to talks on finding ways to implement the existing accord.
"We are ready to talk and consult with others on how to best implement this deal. We are talking about Europe coming to comply with its own obligations under the deal," Zarif said.
Elsewhere in his interview with the NPR, Iran's foreign minister said, “The United States can have a much better deal with Iran if they started talking to us based on respect, based on mutual respect and based on moving forward.”
Referring to a forthcoming meeting between Iran and the four remaining members of the P5+1 group – the UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany – next Wednesday, Zarif said, “Four of the five permanent members [of the UN Security Council] plus Germany will be seated around the table along with me and the High Representative of the European Union.”
He added, “There is an empty chair there for the United States, but there is a ticket for that chair and that is to be law abiding.”
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said last week that Iran will not engage in negotiations with the United States “at any level,” and that Washington's "maximum pressure" campaign against the Iranian nation has failed to achieve its goals.
Ayatollah Khamenei added that entering talks with the US under the current circumstances would be tantamount to surrendering to Washington's undue pressure campaign, saying, "Negotiating would mean Washington imposing its demands on Tehran. It would also be a manifestation of the victory of America’s maximum pressure campaign.”