“Iran’s Foreign Policy Priorities”
London, February 22nd 2018
In a well-attended meeting at Chatham House, Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for political affairs who had previously served as the number two to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the nuclear negotiation talks with China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany (the P5+1), outlined his country’s foreign policy priorities in 2018 and beyond.
Although Abbas Araghchi’s remarks were on the record, the ‘Q&A’ session that followed was held under Chatham House rules and as such, was off the record.
Abbas Araghchi began his remarks by saying that there were three basic misunderstandings or illusions about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA), which was making both its implementation and continuation difficult:
- According to Araghchi, many people believe the JCPOA is an economic plan that was signed between Iran and the 5+1, whereas in fact JCPOA was a deal concerning non-proliferation, which peacefully settled a complicated problem through negotiation. It was assumed that Iran would benefit in the economic sphere as a consequence of this agreement because of sanction lifting. However, saving JCPOA was not a choice for economic markets but a choice between having security or insecurity and another crisis.
- JCPOA was not linked to any other issue. It was decided by all (i.e. Iran and the 5+1) to separate the nuclear issue from all other issues like missiles or regional matters. This decision had been made intentionally and as a result, a successful outcome was ultimately achieved. Araghchi said that it was a big mistake to try and link JCPOA to other issues given that it would not only work against all that had been achieved but would make the resolution of other outstanding issues more difficult. So it was best to stick with the JCPOA and try to deal with other issues separately. This, according to him, did not mean not dealing with other issues. It meant simply that they should be dealt with through their own channels.
- Abbas Araghchi said that the subject of there being ‘no sunset clause’ in the JCPOA, was a “point or mistake” that needed to be clarified. This was especially so, given the fact that President Trump was constantly asking why the deal was only good for a period of 10 years. Araghchi said this statement that was often made by President Trump was simply not true, given that Iran’s intention for not wanting to build nuclear weapons was a permanent one (as clearly stated in the provisions of the agreement). He said Iran’s only expectation was to be able to move forward in areas of peaceful use of nuclear energy and nothing more. However, there were some time limits set for the Islamic Republic in the JCPOA (for example, that it should not have stockpiles of enriched uranium exceeding 300 kilos or other issues relating to numbers of operating centrifuges). He said these restrictions were put into place on a temporary basis to build trust and confidence. They were never supposed to be permanent and so it followed that on the expiration of the time limits, Iran would regain the same status as any other signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, (NPT). He said it did not make sense that these restrictions should be imposed on Iran on a permanent basis, given that Iran would still be expected to carry out the same obligations as any other NPT member, ongoing.
Abbas Araghchi said that according to the JCPOA, Iran was currently implementing all of the provisions of the Additional Protocol, and it had been agreed that should the US and EU also remain faithful to their commitments under the same agreement, then in six years’ time, the Iranian Parliament would be tasked with formally approving and ratifying the Additional Protocol from which – unlike the NPT itself — there was no exit clause.
Araghchi added that everyone was aware that the demands for change and ultimatums made by the US President with regards to JCPOA could kill the deal, which had been a huge success story for the 5+1. He noted that Iran had been fully compliant to its obligations under the agreement and there were 9 different reports submitted by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) verifying his claim.
- However, Abbas Araghchi said that from an Iranian perspective, JCPOA had not been a success, given that Iran had failed to benefit from sanctions lifting. He said that the US was failing to comply with its obligations and had in fact violated the agreement on a daily basis in the course of the past year, since President Trump had announced his intention to destroy the deal. Citing paragraphs 26, 28 and 29 of the JCPOA Agreement, Abbas Araghchi claimed that various statements by US officials were direct violations of the text of the deal. He said that this was more than violating just, “the spirit of the deal, albeit this was not a spiritual deal”. He then read out the following text contained in paragraph 28 of JCPOA to make his point:“The E3/EU+3 and Iran commit to implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation. Senior Government officials of the E3/EU+3 and Iran will make every effort to support the successful implementation of this JCPOA including in their public etc.’.
- He then concluded by asking a rhetorical question: “Is what is taking place, a constructive atmosphere that confuses the world …?” He said statements by Donald Trump were clearly a violation of these provisions, and made reference to comments made by Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster at the Munich Security Conference on 17 February, who in clear violation of the agreement had asked all participating nations in the conference not to deal with Iran and not to resume a normalization of trade and economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic. He said it was evident that as a consequence of this destructive atmosphere, Iran was in no way able to benefit from sanctions lifting. He said, that even if JCPOA were to be recertified (on 12th May), the deal couldn’t survive if this state of confusion (in banking and other areas) were to continue. He said: “Iran could not remain in a deal from which it could derive no benefit”.
Turning to regional issues, Abbas Araghchi said that in general terms, Iran favored peace, stability and security in the region. He said Iran had a stake in reaching these goals and that was why it had been willing to help, especially in the crucial role it had undertaken to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
On all outstanding issues, Abbas Araghchi said that Iran believed that the current disputes in the Middle East did not have a military solution. He said it was Iran’s hope that other regional states should also come to that conclusion. Therefore, it was his view that all regional actors should try to opt for political settlements. He said that for its part, Iran had already proven the merit of such a course by acting in good faith and by arriving at a settlement over JCPOA.
Araghchi said Iran was also ready to engage in dialog with everyone in order to arrive at a political settlement, and felt that this process could begin by looking at resolving issues that were currently plaguing some of the states in the Persian Gulf. Here, Abbas Araghchi made reference to comments that had been made to this effect by the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the Munich Security Conference only days before in which he had said:
- “…The parameters of Iran’s proposed regional architecture are simple but effective: rather than trying to ignore conflicts of interests, it will accept differences. Being premised on inclusivity, it can act as a firewall to prevent the emergence of an oligarchy among big states, and importantly, it allows smaller states to participate and have their interests protected. Like the Helsinki process, the future security architecture in the Persian Gulf should be based on the “ticket principles” and “CBM baskets”. All countries around this strategic yet volatile waterway should be able to enter by committing to a series of common standards enshrined in the UN Charter, such as sovereign equality of states; refraining from the threat or use of force; peaceful resolution of conflicts; respect for the territorial integrity; inviolability of borders; non-intervention in the domestic affairs of states; and respect for self-determination within states. We also recognize that we need confidence-building measures in the Persian Gulf: from joint military visits to pre-notification of military exercises; and from transparency measures in armament procurements to reducing military expenditures; all of which could eventually lead to a regional non-aggression pact. We can begin with easier to implement issues such as the promotion of tourism, joint investments, or even joint task forces on issues ranging from nuclear safety to pollution to disaster management etc.…”
Abbas Araghchi ended his remarks by reiterating the point that there was now a need to move towards, “a strong region as opposed to a strong man,” to achieve regional stability by giving recognition to the interests of all stakeholders which, by definition, would lead to stability. He said it was essential that all parties accepted their differences by moving away from collective security and alliance propositions to more inclusive concepts such as security networking which had the potential to address a range of issues, from divergence of interest to power and size differences.
Key Responses to Key Questions
Abbas Araghchi interviewed by BBC’s Lyse Doucet
22 February 2018
DOUCET: The UN Secretary General has called on Iran and Russia and Turkey, who enforced the de-escalation zones to do something to stop the fighting in Ghouta. So what is your response as the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran in charge of political affairs?
ARAGHCHI: Well de-escalation of tension is very important for us and this is actually our policy and we have worked hard to achieve that. As you know, we started [the] Astana process together with Russia and Turkey, and the process was successful to the extent that it established some de-escalation zones. So it actually worked to de-escalate tension in many areas of Syria. So this is our policy and together with Russia and Turkey we follow that policy. On this particular case we would be in touch with the Syria government trying to see how we can actually evaluate the situation and work together for the de-escalation of tensions and death rate.
DOUCET: Are you are aware of that the Syrian security forces seem to have started an all-out assault on Ghouta, and United Nations is calling for an end to the bombardment because civilians are suffering?
ARAGHCHI: Well the fact is in Syria everybody’s attacking everybody, and now unfortunately –
DOUCET: But in this case it’s Ghouta.
ARAGHCHI: Yes, the problem is there are too much players and the situation has become very complicated in different areas of Syria. In this particular case we are in close contact with the Syrian government trying to see how we can actually de-escalate this tension and start sending humanitarian assistance to the people who are suffering in that city.
DOUCET: How worried are you about the situation in Syria in general? We were both at Munich last weekend, we saw Prime Minister Netanyahu warning Iran not to test Israel’s resolve, and the Foreign Minister of Iran, Javad Zarif, also warning that Iran was also resolved. Some people say a war is just a matter of time.
ARAGHCHI: Well as diplomats we shouldn’t talk about war.
DOUCET: But do you fear war?
ARAGHCHI: Fear of war is everywhere in our region unfortunately because of the, you know, interference by foreign powers and wrong policies and miscalculations of some players inside the region, and of course the hegemonic policies of the Israeli regime. For the time being the situation in Syria has become very complicated and we are in close contacts with, with other countries with whom we are working.
DOUCET: Which countries?
ARAGHCHI: Russia and then Turkey, which we have actually established Astana process. We are in close contact with them; we are in close contact with the Syrian government. The fact is that the Israeli jet fighter is shot down by Syrian forces and this is actually a very big blow to the, to the Israeli army, this is why they are so angry.
Doucet: But they’re angry about the drone, which they say you sent into Israeli airspace. What was its purpose?
ARAGHCHI: The drone also belongs to the Syrian army.
DOUCET: But it was Iran that sent it over into Israel.
ARAGHCHI: Well I cannot confirm that. The Syrian army has lots of capabilities. But the fact is that the Israeli army is also sending drones up on a daily, or hourly basis all around Syria and in other neighboring countries. So they shouldn’t be angry when they are faced with something that they are doing against others on a daily basis.
DOUCET: Was the drone to test Israeli resolve, was that why it was sent in? What was its purpose?
ARAGHCHI: Well I think you should ask the Syrian army men why they, you know, why they did that. But the fact is they were able to shut down a jet, Israeli jet fighter who actually entered into their airspace. So this is, this is a very important development and I think the Israelis should reconsider their, you know, their military policies.
DOUCET: Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed what others have noticed, that Iran seems to want to establish a land bridge, a corridor, from Iraq to Syria into Lebanon, connecting all of its allies. Is that your strategic ambition?
ARAGHCHI: Well we are in Syria fighting terrorist elements, and we have there by the invitation of the Syrian government to help them establish peace and, you know, stability and territorial integrity of Syria. We continue to be there as long as we are asked by the Syrian government to help them fighting the terrorist and terrorist elements, and to establish peace and order and stability in that country.
DOUCET: But it’s also – you saw the New York Times did a study of all the Iranian positions of Iran, you know the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) advisors, also your allies like Hezbollah, the other militias, giving the impression that Iran is establishing its own bridgehead in –
ARAGHCHI: Just imagine if we were not there. Now you had Daesh [Islamic State group] in Damascus, and maybe in Beirut and other places. So I think we have to actually don’t care about these kind of propaganda, which have some other objectives perhaps.
DOUCET: Some say this latest call is to make Syria a new front, between Iran, Hezbollah and Israel – an Axis of Resistance, as they call it.
ARAGHCHI: Well an Axis of Resistance is there for a number of years now.
DOUCET: But you’ve been, is that your ambition to strengthen it for Iran?
ARAGHCHI: This is actually to combat the hegemonic policies of Israeli regime in the region, and to, you know, stand firm against Israeli aggression. We all remember –
DOUCET: So it is an Axis of Resistance?
ARAGHCHI: Well the Axis of Resistance is always there, you know, when Hezbollah and the Syrian government actually combat it, Israeli forces when they attacked Lebanon in the past, we all remember Israeli attacks to the Lebanon territory, we all remember when they occupied Beirut, you know, as an Arabic, Arab captor. And we all remember 2006 when they invaded southern Lebanon. I think Lebanon, Syria and other countries in the region have every right to establish a kind of resistance against these aggressions by Israelis.
DOUCET: Now Prime Minster Netanyahu made it clear in Munich, and I quote: he says Israel will continue to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria. Do you take that threat seriously?
ARAGHCHI: I think Israel should find the root causes of its problems somewhere else. They always try to accuse Iran for the problems they are facing in the region and I think this is actually wrong perception they are creating and against Iran, and I don’t think they can achieve anything by this.
DOUCET: But so many people in Munich told me, even very senior people, that a war was just a matter of time. Is that what they told you?
ARAGHCHI: Well we are not afraid of anything. I personally don’t think that’s close, but of course we are prepared for every scenario, and we think that we are quite able to defend ourselves against any aggression by Israelis or any other country inside or outside the region that dare to attack Iran. And I don’t think Syria is place for another proxy war in the region, I think that the Syrian situation is already actually exhausted of these kind of aggressive policies and I don’t see any place for a new conflict in the region, and I think, I certainly believe that if a new conflict is started by Israelis in the region, they are the one who suffers most.
DOUCET: When you were in Munich I understand that you had meetings with European officials about the Iran nuclear deal, because you know President Trump has basically told Congress and European allies that they have to, in his words, fix the Iran deal by May or else the sanctions will be imposed again.
ARAGHCHI: Well we are in close contact with E3 and EU, External Service; we consult with them very closely. In the recent weeks I have visited Paris, Berlin and now London. I have been in different places meeting European officials, E3 officials, and of course EU officials, especially Helga Schmid and her colleagues to consult about the latest developments. JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is in a very critical moment, in the next three months I am sure we would have a big challenge. Of course this is a challenge President Trump has started more than a year ago, he tried to somehow destroy JCPOA because there is no role to fix or to change or to alter JCPOA, it’s a package, it’s not linked to any other issue, it’s a package of gives and takes, you cannot just change one piece of that. The whole package would collapse. So he has failed to do that in the past one year and now it is up to Europeans to see how they want to face the ultimatum from wider US. JCPOA is not an economic deal as one may think. It’s a very important deal in the field of non-proliferation regime and its importance is most related to non-proliferation. And if we lose that, we have only that a very complicated problem to the region that is already suffering from different kind of problems, being civil wars or tensions and conflicts and, you know, terrorism, extremism. A collection of everything is in our region. I don’t think to add a new crisis over the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons would be beneficial for anybody, in the region and outside the region.
DOUCET: But do you see as a compromise though, there was a state department cable was leaked and it said that the Americans wrote to the European partners and said we’re asking for your commitment to work together for a supplemental or follow-on agreement that addresses Iran’s development or testing of long range missiles, ensure strong IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspections and fixes the flaws of the sunset clause. Now I know you say you don’t want to touch the deal itself, could there be another deal or a Security Council resolution, a supplemental deal to deal with these other issues?
ARAGHCHI: Well, JCPOA has no connection linked to any other issue as we said. When we negotiated we decided to separate Iran’s nuclear programme from any other issue, and that was for a reason.
DOUCET: The ballistic missiles?
ARAGHCHI: Ballistic missiles, regional issues, you know, any issue. We decided to focus only on Iran’s nuclear, peaceful nuclear programme and find a solution for that.
DOUCET: But even now they’re asking to fix it to make it IAEA inspections tougher.
ARAGHCHI: We decided to do that intentionally for a reason, and the reason was actually to become to a successful solution. Otherwise I’m sure we would have still the negotiating if we wanted to link Iran’s nuclear programme with any other issue. Now, it’s quite clear JCPOA is not linked to any other issue, it cannot be re-opened, it cannot be re-negotiated, there is no supplement, there is no add-on, there is no follow-on, nothing.
DOUCET: You can’t even add another deal on the side?
ARAGHCHI: Well another deal on any other issue depends on how successful is the deal that we have already made, and we have remained fully comply to that, and the other side has not fully complied.
DOUCET: So what is the message they gave you in Munich, because you had some high-level meetings? What did they tell you?
ARAGHCHI: Well, as I said we have close consultations to see how we can keep the deal in place, but there are different ideas as you said. We don’t care about any consultation between US and E3, or US and EU. What we care is that the deal should be implemented in full. We are not quite satisfied with the implementation of the deal by the other side, let alone going to discuss about any other subject. You know, any other member of JCPOA, being Europeans of the US, can only come to us and ask for follow-on or an argument on any other issue only when they have fulfilled their commitments in the JCPOA. If the JCPOA becomes a successful experience for Iran, then they are allowed to ask us for any other issues to negotiate this.
DOUCET: So when will that be, how many years will that take?
ARAGHCHI: It can happen right now if they fully comply with their obligations. It’s a fact that the US is not complying; it’s the fact that the US is violating the JCPOA on almost daily basis.
DOUCET: You mean on the economic sanctions?
ARAGHCHI: On economic sanctions, on this negative atmosphere of uncertainty that is created by President Trump. You know, every time President Trump makes a public statement against JCPOA saying it’s a bad deal, it’s the worst deal ever, I am going to fix it, I am going to change it, all these statements, public statements are a violation of the deal. Violation of the letter of the deal, not a sprit, the letter. If you just see paragraph 28 it clearly says that all JCPOA participants should refrain from anything, which undermines successful implementation of JCPOA, including in their public statements of silly officials.
DOUCET: President Macron of France has made it clear he wants to keep the deal, but he wants to have a separate agreement on your ballistic missiles. Would you agree to discuss ballistic missiles?
ARAGHCHI: Well anybody, anybody can ask for a separate agreement, but any argument has two sides.
DOUCET: But would you discuss ballistic missiles?
ARAGHCHI: Well we, I, we would not negotiate on our missiles, ballistic missiles. These are a matter of our national security; nobody would compromise on their national security.
DOUCET: You’re under pressure though to negotiate.
ARAGHCHI: No, no, no.
DOUCET: In France they must have said that to you, in Paris?
ARAGHCHI: No, they are allowed to ask for negotiation but the fact is we cannot negotiate on our, you know, defence systems. Especially since that we have already negotiated on our nuclear programme and the deal has not become a successful story for Iran. Why Iran should negotiate on any other issue? Especially on an issue which is directly linked to our national security. So we are not prepared to negotiate on our national security but of course we, you know, are ready to explain why our missile programme has, has a, you know, defensive nature.
DOUCET: Do you always find that in your discussions with American officials, because I think you have met Secretary of State Tillerson –?
ARAGHCHI: We met him only –
DOUCET: Met Secretary Mattis?
ARAGHCHI: No, no, no. We met Mr. Tillerson only once, but in the framework of a ministerial meeting of Iran and JCPOA in September, that was the only time we sat with him around a table. It was all JCPOA participants at the ministerial level and we heard what he had to say and he heard what our minister had to say.
DOUCET: Because some have said that this State Department cable that was leaked was a bit softer than what President Trump says in public – is that your impression, that in the negotiations they’ll be softer then?
ARAGHCHI: No, we don’t care. First of all we don’t have any negotiation with the Americans, its only in the joint commission which has been at my level, every three months, and only once at the minister’s level. But we don’t care who is telling what, who is softer than who. What we care is for the United States to remain committed to its obligations in the JCPOA as Iran has been fully committed to its obligations.
DOUCET: You’re seeing British officials here; they have raised the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. There had been hope at the end of last year that she would be released. Did you come with any good news?
ARAGHCHI: Well I don’t have any good news for the time being. We, in the Foreign Ministry are trying to approach this, her case, on a humanitarian basis, but of course our judiciary is fully independent and they decide on each and every case based on the, you know, regulations they have. We actually tried, as I said, to make some humanitarian approach to our judiciary, we are still working on that and I hope that we come to the conclusion to a day that we can see, you know, a better situation for Nazaneen Zagari, but it is absolutely in the hands of our judiciary.
DOUCET: So this has been going, I think, since Boris Johnson visited last year, the outreach from the Foreign Ministry to the judiciary has been continuing. Do you see any progress? Do you see any light?
ARAGHCHI: Well we continue approaching the judiciary only on humanitarian basis because we don’t have any authority over the judiciary. We just try to, you know, explain, you know, the concern, which exists from the humanitarian point of view. Of course the case is a very complicated case and it has been in the courts, the court has already made its decision but we are trying to see how we can ease the situation for Nazaneen Zagari, but it’s not an easy job.
DOUCET: Have you brought any positive news, any signs that this could be resolved in the days to come?
ARAGHCHI: No. No particular news. Just what we are doing to see how we can help this, this file, but as I said it is completely in the hands of our judiciary.
DOUCET: And what about the case of the suicide – the so-called suicide in prison of Kavous Seyed Emami, the Canadian Iranian environmentalist – it’s the third suicide in prison since the beginning of this year. This must be causing concern.
ARAGHCHI: Well of course it causes concern. It’s under investigation. The president has already established a committee to work on it and we are waiting for the result of investigation.
DOUCET: And it’s two years since 81-year-old Baquer Namazi was detained, 81-year-old man, who’s also been ill-
ARAGHCHI: Well I think when, you know, regardless of this case, when you make, when you commit a crime it doesn’t make difference how old are you, but the fact is there are serious, you know, points about Mr. Baquer Namazi, but again from a humanitarian point of view, we are approaching our judiciary to make sure that he would receive, you know, health treatment.
DOUCET: He came out recently but then was brought back to prison.
ARAGHCHI: Yes, he came, he came out recently to go to hospital, and we extended his stay out of the prison once, so I think he stayed for six, seven days all together. He went back. We are still working, contacting our judiciary to see how we can help him come out of the prison for a longer period of time, but again it’s in the hands of the judge and he has to make decision based on the evidences and the regulations that he has to follow.
DOUCET: But it does put the Islamic republic in a harsh light to see these people, environmentalists, dying in prison.
ARAGHCHI: No, only one.
DOUCET: Well three committed suicide, I mean, people are beginning to wonder what’s wrong.
ARAGHCHI: No, the others who have nothing to do with the environment. They were two different cases. I think one of them was somehow, you know, connected to drugs and drug crimes. But as I said, all three are under investigation and we actually wrote the government, judiciary, everybody cares about these problems in our prisons before anybody announced these problems our own newspaper and media have reported these and that the society’s quite transparent about these things. People are expressing their views about these problem which has happened in our prisons and the judiciaries working on that, the President has ordered investigation and the, we should wait for the result of investigation.
DOUCET: When Iran faced the biggest protest in a decade in January, there were calls for economic reform, an end to corruption. How much of that was, do you think, about the lack of progress on the JCPOA?
ARAGHCHI: Well, it’s a fact that people’s expectations from the JCPOA are not met, it’s a fact. Most of it is because of this atmosphere of uncertainty which President Trump has created around JCPOA, which prevents all big companies and banks to work with Iran, it’s a fact, and it’s a violation lead by the United States. There are economy shortcomings, it’s a fact, and people have every right to express themselves, and to express their discomfort of their economic situation, and I think they exercise that right. We had incidents when peaceful demonstrations turned into violation, which is quite a not a normal thing in every, you know, democratic society. I think you have had London riots in the past, Paris riots, and in all other European cities.
DOUCET: There were calls to bring down the regime, you know, unprecedented attacks on photos of the supreme leader and the revolutionary leader.
ARAGHCHI: Not to that extent that you mention, but even if so, you know, I think people have every right to express themselves, even if they think that the whole system is has to be changed, they have the right to express it. But that was not the demand of the people.
DOUCET: Some people it was.
ARAGHCHI: Well some people in a country of 80 million people, you know, you may have a few thousands who have another opinion. You know, the whole number of people who engaged in those demonstrations all around Iran in different cities were not more than 30-35,000 people. So we have small, small, you know, gatherings of people in, in different cities, and we, our police forces showed maximum strength. They had no guns carrying with themselves, they approached people in a civilized way, and we had only few individuals who were unfortunately killed in remote cities in different accidents or incidents, all of them are still under investigation whose fault was that. But the policy is quite clear, when we face unrest first of all it’s the people’s right to express themselves. If it turns to violation then police have some regulations to deal with that without using any gun, and that was also the case just two days ago when we had some protests who one of them run a bus over police forces, killed three of them. But still police didn’t use a gun, and this is, this the doctrine of our police forces and I think they are doing a very good job. People are satisfied from the level of security that exists in our cities, in the country, and we admire our police forces but, you know, these kind of incidents are quite normal in every open society.
DOUCET: I’m going to ask you one last question about the Iran nuclear deal. You said it’s at a critical moment. You had warned earlier that it would collapse if the United States was not part of it. Do you worry it may collapse?
ARAGHCHI: Well we are concerned, yes, that the US may finally decide to walk away of the deal. We have prepared ourselves for each and every scenario that might happen.
DOUCET: And if they walk away it collapses?
ARAGHCHI: Well we are not convinced that the deal can survive without the US. It is up to the other participants of the JCPOA to show and to convince Iranians that they can deliver JCPOA even, even without the US. This is not our understanding for the time being. If the US is out we would also actually go out because there is no deal anymore. This is what we understand, and as we see Europeans are trying to prevent that.
DOUCET: That’s what you sense from talking to them?
ARAGHCHI: Yes, this is our understanding from what they are doing. I think they are seriously trying to prevent the collapse of the deal to prevent US going out of the deal. And what is important for us is we are prepared for every scenario, which may happen.
DOUCET: Including starting your nuclear programme again?
ARAGHCHI: Of course we are not the one who violates the deal first. Well if there is no deal anymore obviously there is no restrictions in our nuclear programme anymore. Don’t forget that we agreed in the JCPOA to impose some restrictions on our nuclear programme only for the sake of confidence building for a period of time between eight years to 15 years, and when these years are finished, it doesn’t mean that Iran is allowed to go for nuclear weapon. No, Iran would become a normal member of NPT by that time, after eight to 15 years of confidence building measures. These are confidence-building measures, it doesn’t mean that after these periods there is, you know, Iran would have the right to go for nuclear weapon. No, Iran would still be a member of NPT still committed to its obligations and still, you know, obliged not to go for nuclear weapons, this is our policy. And in that sense there is no sense of clause in the JCPOA, it’s like actually perception that Americans are spreading on others but this is absolutely wrong. Iran’s commitment not to ever seek or acquire or produce nuclear weapons is permanent.