The Sanctions, According to Iran

In an interview, Iran’s UN Ambassador Javad Zarif soberly evaluates the sanctions the Security Council leveled on his country Saturday.

Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif soberly evaluates the Security Council resolution leveled on his country Saturday. In an interview with National Interest online editor, Ximena Ortiz, the ambassador says he does not exclude the possibility of further sanctions, claims that unlike the United States, Iran does not consider the use of force a legitimate foreign policy option, and rebukes Washington for approaching the people of the Middle East as somehow less than human.

NIo: Was Iran surprised by the vote? What is the significance of the resolution for Iran and how will Iran now respond?

JZ: Whether we were surprised can be responded on two different levels. Of course we expected the Security Council to issue a resolution. That did not come as a surprise. We knew that the Security Council was not even interested in listening to Iran. It is astonishing that in the three sessions of the Security Council it adopted a presidential statement and two resolutions-1696 and 1737-and it did not allow Iran to speak until after the meeting. And so there was no way for the Council to have firsthand information about Iranian positions.

It wasn't a surprise for Iran that, having not heard Iran's positions, they would adopt a resolution based on a line that has been presented to them. On the other hand, we were surprised because the resolution ostensibly seeks to initiate a dialogue, but we believe that the resolution actually impedes dialogue. In the past three years, Iran has had no problem with dialogue and with finding a solution. But all through the three years of negotiation with the Europeans, the insistence has been on suspension, and if you see this resolution and the previous resolution, you see that the main crux of the resolution is a request for a suspension of Iran's enrichment activities.

Now, if suspension is a euphemism for Iran abandoning enrichment activities-that may be one reading. But if they mean suspension, then suspension should be interpreted as a temporary measure in order to allow time to find a solution.

We have to see whether the council will even listened to possibilities that were offered by Iran, by experts, on a multitude of technical and legal possibiites, so that Iran could exercise its rights, could have enrichment facilities, but at the same time every concern of proliferation could be allayed.

NIo: When you say that this resolution impedes dialogue, could you clarify that? Does that mean that Iran will withdraw from negotiation?

JZ: Iran is always ready for dialogue. We have to see whether tactics followed by one or another side of this dialogue in fact helps the dialogue or creates obstacles. But I can tell you that from the beginning of the negotiations between Iran and Europe, that the Security Council was used as a threat so that the dialogue could only have one outcome.

If one party in a discussion is always confident that it can resort to an extremist instrument with the dialogue, then the propensity to do whatever is possible and useful in order to achieve a mutually acceptable solution becomes more distant.

That is why I say the resolution impedes dialogue because it gives an artificial mechanism. The Security Council sanctions will not be able to stop the Iranian program. The sanctions that are requested will not satisfy proliferation concerns. Proliferation concerns-if there are any real, sincere proliferation concerns-can be addressed through mechanisms that would bring about transparency, international monitoring and other possibilities that would provide the assurance that Iran's program will always remain peaceful. The Security Council can impose sanctions but that does not provide that assurance.

NIo: What is the impact, then, of sanctions on Iran, if they indeed turn out to have no impact on the nuclear program?

JZ: Because Iran has been denied technology over the last 27 years and this resolution only officiates what has been the policy and practice, Iran has had to be discrete in its acquisitions of peaceful nuclear technology to the point that today Iran's nuclear program has been localized. Every element of that program is produced locally and our own scientists have developed the scientific know-how in order to be able to sustain the program without any external support.

That was not always the case. Our desire was to have international cooperation in order to have access to technology. But the option that was provided to Iran throughout the past 27 years-and now more officially in this resolution-is to either accept being deprived of this technology-which is assuming greater and greater significance-or to try to develop it based on our own. Between these two options, we certainly choose the latter.

If the option were to be provided to Iran to develop this technology through cooperation, than is we have suggested an international consortium: other countries, including Western countries, could own jointly with Iran the facilities, and also jointly operate them. That would give the greatest assurance that these programs are not diverted into any illicit activities.

NIo: You mentioned also that Iran did not have the opportunity to give a presentation ahead of the Security Council decision. Why do you think the Council countries supported the revolution, particularly Moscow and Beijing? Is it your feeling that they supported the resolution out of proliferation concers, or is it your sense that there were broader, geopolitical considerations in terms of wanting to oblige Washington? What does this mean for Tehran's relationship with Moscow and Beijing?