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'Engagement Is Losing Credibility': Iranian Foreign Minister

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives to speak at the United Nations on Wednesday.
Kena Betancur
AFP/Getty Images
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives to speak at the United Nations on Wednesday.

Iran would commit to permanent nuclear inspections in exchange for a permanent lifting of U.S. sanctions, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NPR's Steve Inskeep on Thursday.

"We can do it right now in order to make sure that people can be at ease that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons ... in exchange for a permanent lifting of sanctions ratified by U.S. Congress, exactly as envisaged for 2023. We can do it now," Zarif said. He was in the U.S. to attend a United Nations meeting.

The Trump administration says it's trying to force Iran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal because it isn't strict enough. Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions the U.S. had committed to lifting. The administration also says it has several other demands, including an end to Iran's support for militants in the Mideast and the release of some U.S. citizens it's holding.

In his interview, Zarif warned that engagement with the international community "is losing credibility" at home. He would not confirm whether he met with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky,who has offered to serveas a U.S. emissary to Iran, or any other U.S. officials.

The interview took place before President Trump announced that a U.S. vessel had destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has disputed the U.S. claim.

Interview Highlights

On economic consequences of the current sanctions

Right now our economy is suffering less than last year because the United States has continued [the sanctions] and we have gotten used to it. Our currency is stabilizing. The growth rate is improving. The jobless rate is improving. ...

We certainly can do without oil revenues forever, and that is our goal. The United States is simply expediting it for us.

On instability in the region and whether Iran is pressuring the U.S.

Well, we're not attempting to pressure anybody, because we simply do our job. It is clear that a country that has 1,500 miles of coastline on the Persian Gulf is instrumental for security in that region. We are the strongest country in that region. Without us, you won't have security in the region.

On engaging with the international community

Engagement has lost credibility at home. People don't look at engagement with the international community — the United States, for one reason, for not keeping its word; the Europeans for another reason, for not being able to stand on their word. So, yeah, engagement is losing credibility, and by extension, I am losing credibility.

On how close Iran and the U.S. have been to war

President Trump said 10 minutes. It would have been [a war in June]. The United States can start a war, can't end it. ... Nobody who starts a war ends the war. That's the reality of history. ... Wars are destructive for all participants and even bystanders. And it would be destructive, that's why we don't want to engage in war. But that doesn't mean we will run away from war.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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