Iran’s Zarif: Donald Trump’s behaviour ‘erratic, dangerous’

Iran’s top diplomat says Tehran cannot negotiate and entrust security of the Middle East to an ‘impulsive’ US leader.

Javad Zarif
Zarif said Trump's dismantling of international deals have inflicted 'considerable damage to multilateralism' [File: Reuters]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has renewed his call for a dialogue with his country’s neighbours, saying the region cannot entrust the security of the Middle East to the “dangerous” and “erratic behaviour” of US President Donald Trump.

Regional neighbours can reach a “non-aggression” pact and solve their own problems among themselves “without outside interference and patronage”, Zarif said in an article published on Thursday by the Iranian Mehr news agency. 

Zarif issued the statement in response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech in May laying out 12 preconditions for Iran to fulfil in order to achieve a new nuclear treaty with the US. 

“Impulsive and illogical decisions and behaviour of the US president…have already surfaced as the main feature of the decision-making process in Washington over the past 17 months,” he said.

In his speech in May, Pompeo demanded, among other things, that Iran end its ballistic missile programme and withdraw its troops from Syria, or else face “the strongest sanctions in history”. He also said that Iran must halt all its nuclear enrichment programme, which Tehran insists is within the limits of the Iran deal.

“The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations,” he said. 

Pompeo made the statement just weeks after Trump declared the US’ withdrawal from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal.

The US and its Middle East allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, accuse Iran of “exporting” violence in the region in pursuit of expanding its military influence.

‘US contempt for international law’

On Thursday, Zarif responded with his own list of 15 demands for the US to abide by, including putting an end to US “intervention in Iran’s domestic affairs” and its involvement in the war in Yemen.

He also said that the US must “compel” Israel to denuclearise and stop “gross violations of human rights” against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Zarif described Pompeo’s speech as “baseless and insulting”, adding that he “seriously” doubted the top American diplomat’s knowledge of Iran’s history and “struggle for independence”.

Zarif also said the Trump administration’s decisions to withdraw from international deals including the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal have inflicted “considerable damage to multilateralism, and the prospects for resolving disputes through diplomacy”.

“Contempt for international law and attempts to undermine the rule of law in international relations have been among the main features of the current administration’s foreign policy,” he wrote, adding that the US is becoming “increasingly isolated internationally”.

In recent days, there have been calls from within Iran and the Iranian diaspora for Tehran to engage in direct talks with Washington.

But Zarif pointed to the difficulty in dealing with an “irrational and dangerous US administration”, pointing to Trump’s actions during the contentious G7 Summit in Canada, where he feuded with his allies, and his statement following the historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

When asked by reporters in Singapore whether he made too many concessions to North Korea, Trump said, “I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong. I don’t know if I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse”.

Direct talks ‘pure fantasy’

Trump also said during that press conference that it is “too soon” to negotiate with Iran. 

Zarif said given Trump’s “erratic behaviour”, Iran cannot expect to negotiate with a US administration that could “change its mind in six months”.

On Wednesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, the top foreign policy adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, had also signalled Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s opposition to direct talks with the Trump administration, saying it is as good as “surrendering to the United States”.

Meanwhile, Maziar Motamedi, a Tehran-based journalist, told Al Jazeera that it is “highly unlikely” that the US will engage in direct talks with Iran as it did with North Korea.

“In addition to decades-long hostilities, the current US stance is to push for regime change in Iran, not to develop constructive dialogue,” he said. 

“As part of the current US vision advocated by likes of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, the Islamic Republic will have to concede many things that will undermine its very nature and long-term agendas.”

Ali Noorani, an Iranian journalist based in Tokyo, agreed, saying Iran “is already betrayed by America” after Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal.

“Maybe that would be possible if Trump reverses course and offers to lift all sanctions in exchange for something feasible within Iran’s foreign policy principles, which again sounds like pure fantasy,” he told Al Jazeera.

“This time Iran won’t waste time for a partial sanctions relief. Iran and at least a few other countries have proved sanctions, even if effective, are not short-term solutions.”

Source: Al Jazeera