London, UK – The latest US sanctions against Tehran are an attempt by Washington to impose a vision of American nationalism upon the rest of the world, and are not just about Iran, a senior Iranian diplomat has said.
Seyed M Kazem Sajjadpour, deputy foreign minister, made the comments in London on Tuesday, a day after the United States reimposed sanctions that were originally lifted after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – widely known as the Iran nuclear deal – in 2015.
His comments echoed the defiant response of other Iranian leaders to the move by the administration of US President Donald Trump, who defied international opposition in May to unilaterally abandon the agreement.
“The JCPOA and the sanctions are not just about Iran but about a transformative process in the international community whereby you have either international law, organisations, diplomacy, negotiations – or you have imposition, you have American policy versus the rest of the world,” Sajjadpour said during in a talk at Chatham House think-tank.
“It is about Europe also: we all know what they think about Europe, even about their allies.”
His remarks provide an insight into Iran’s diplomatic response based on an effort to isolate the US by driving a wedge between it and European countries.
“Our policy is not just to aim at isolating the US; the US by itself is isolated, not economically – the US lacks legitimacy globally. What we are doing is practising a form of strategic patience.”
Sajjadpour said that a “political civil war” was under way in the US between an internationalist school of thought and supporters of Trump asserting a new and “narrow-minded definition of American nationalism which negates the interests of the rest of the world”.
He added: “Now you have a nationalist approach which thinks the United States should be at the top of everything and not just ‘America First’ but American interests, and no other interests, and also that the US achieves the re-establishment of US hegemony.
“American nationalism is very narrow-minded, it is based on xenophobia of the others – even of Europeans, he (Trump) is against Europe.”
Although commentators have suggested that the latest round of sanctions will hurt Iran, Sajjadpour suggested that they would have a limited impact.
He argued European leaders had now put behind them a period of “appeasement” of Trump in order to develop the special purpose legal mechanism that they hope will enable companies to get around the US penalties.
“It is an interesting procedure but what is lacking is speed and efficiency,” said Sajjadpour. “What we need is speed and a process which is result-oriented, because it is about results.”
Sajjadpour’s said his country remained confident that it would survive the latest setback, almost 40 years since the Iranian revolution, and had endured significantly harsher circumstances in periods such as during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
“Times are not as challenging as they have been … Sanctions are about psychology, that you want to dominate the other, but I can inform you that Iran is self-confident.”
The country had developed a “100 percent homemade” security system that was more independent than any other country in the world, and did not rely upon alliances.
“Our politics is very domestic – it’s not as if Washington coughs and we get a cold,” he said. “We are not worried who is in the White House.”
The Iranian official insisted the country had cooperated fully in the implementation of the JCPOA, but could not tolerate having to abide by the agreement but also endure sanctions.
“Cooperation has its own limits and frames – on the JCPOA we have been cooperating and we have been abiding with the regulations, but Iran cannot have both sanctions and cooperation together.”
Protecting the terms of the JCPOA was important not just for Iran but the global community, he added, making it necessary for other countries to counter not just the US sanctions but the ideas behind them.
“Resistance is not just a concept exclusive to Iranians – although we like this concept and we focus on it. It is a global concept.”
The diplomat suggested that countries were beginning to see through the frequent use of the Iranian threat by the US and its allies in shaping Middle East policy.
The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month had been a “game changer” because it exposed what has been going on in the region under the banner of the “Iranian threat”, he said.
For regional rival Saudi Arabia, the Iranian threat had become a “commodity” used to justify foreign policy interventions such as the conflict in Yemen, which Riyadh blames on Tehran.
Sajjadpour appealed to his audience: “Please, please don’t buy the Iranian threat, it is really a dangerous commodity which can be used for covering all the deficiencies which some of the players in the region have.”