New York – US President Donald Trump does not really want a war with Iran, but could be pushed in that direction by the negative influence of the ‘B-Team’, i.e. US national security adviser John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister “Bibi” Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaking before the Asia Society*, with president Josette Sheeran, on Wednesday in New York.
In his address, Iran’s top diplomat attacked US hawks. In his view, some people inside the Trump administration are organising an “accident” to escalate the crisis, but his government will act with “prudence” against the US’s dangerous moves.
For him, those who shape US policy towards Iran do not really want to negotiate a solution, adding that Iran does not seek confrontation, but will do everything to defend itself.
He told the Asia Society Wednesday that “it’s not a crisis yet, but it’s a dangerous situation” and warned that if the US tries to prevent Iran from selling oil, it should be prepared “for the consequences.”
According to Zarif, the Islamic Republic will continue to find buyers for its oil. And it has the means to circumvent sanctions; in fact, it holds a “doctorate” in the field. What is more, it will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz and warned that the if the US tried to prevent that, it would have to suffer the consequences.
As noted by the International Monetary Fund, this decision has negatively impacted Iran’s economy, especially its oil exports, which was the goal of the second wave of sanctions that came into effect on 4 November 2018.
Despite Washington’s hardline stance, the Islamic Republic continues to honour its commitments under the nuclear agreement, as certified by the IAEA experts.
At the Asia Society, Mr Zarif took repeatedly care to draw a distinction between Trump and his administration, especially hawkish John Bolton, a long-time advocate of regime change in Iran along with Netanyahu and the Saudis, whilst Trump has pledged to avoid another stupid, costly war in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, for the foreign minister, the US under the current administration is acting more like a “gangster” than as “the world’s policeman”, pushing other nations to “break the law” and UN Security Council resolutions. US sanctions against Iran are for him a de facto declaration of war, an economic one.
Against the backdrop, many analysts and experts have stressed that an aggressive US policy vis-à-vis Iran carries a double risk.
On the one hand, it could cut off oil supplies and upset global markets, pushing prices sky-high; on the other, “regime change” could favour the rise of more hawkish elements affiliated with Iran’s political and military hardliners.
* The Asia Society is an educational organisation “dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the United States”.