: The Americans have become addicted to imposing sanctions. Sanctions have turned into their main weapon in international interactions. And they are not only imposed against Iran, they are imposed against everyone. It is a tool in the hands of the US foreign policy to reach its goals.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): In his meeting with Air Force commanders and personnel, organized on February 7, 2021, the leader of the Islamic Revolution touched on the issue of the JCPOA, saying: “The side which has the right to set conditions for the continuation of the JCPOA is Iran. The reason is that from the beginning, Iran honored all its commitments. The Islamic Republic honored all its JCPOA commitments, but they violated theirs. Therefore, we have the right to set terms for the continuation of the JCPOA. Recently, we set a condition and no one will go back on it: the condition is that if they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments – some of which have been canceled – the US has to lift all sanctions. And not just in words and on paper, rather they have to lift them in practice. After that, we will verify and see if they have really been lifted. Then, we will return to our JCPOA commitments.” Khamenei News examines the Islamic Republic’s position on the issue of sanctions and the JCPOA through an interview with Dr. Sayyed Abbas Araghchi, Deputy to Minister of Foreign Affairs and a senior member of Iran’s negotiating team for the nuclear deal.
Q: As a senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, how do you explain the definite position of the Islamic Republic, on the issue of sanctions and the JCPOA, to presidents and officials in charge of foreign affairs in other countries?
Dr. Araghchi: The JCPOA has two parts: one is about Iran’s nuclear actions which have a specific timetable and the other is the sanctions against Iran which the other side should have lifted. Naturally, if each of these parts is missing, the JCPOA loses its function. When we speak about the lifting of the sanctions, we mean all the sanctions predicted in the JCPOA, the ones imposed after the US withdrew from the deal and the ones imposed recently under new names. This is completely rational. What we are doing currently – reducing our commitments – is a response to the actions taken by the US.
Q: In your speech, you have referred to new sanctions with new names that have been imposed on the Iranian nation. What are these sanctions? What are nuclear sanctions and the sanctions imposed after the withdrawal of the US from the nuclear deal? The Leader of the Revolution mentioned that if the Americans wish to return to the JCPOA without lifting the sanctions, that might even be detrimental to us. Please explain this matter to us as well.
Dr. Araghchi: If the nuclear deal is not supposed to lift the sanctions, then it is of no value to us whether the US returns to it or not. Naturally, if the US wants to be part of the JCPOA again, its membership should be followed by all its commitments. In other words, its membership becomes significant only when it honors its commitments as a member of the deal. If the US is to return without honoring its commitments, in our opinion, it has actually not returned and its membership has not been accomplished. The lifting of sanctions includes all the sanctions predicted primarily in the JCPOA – it was the US who should have lifted them – secondly the sanctions imposed after the withdrawal of the US from the deal and thirdly, the sanctions whose names and forms they have tried to change with legal subterfuges.
Q: At some point in time following the nuclear deal, the US temporarily lifted the sanctions, but later, it violated its pledges and even increased them by several times. If we want to verify the lifting of the sanctions, what measures can we adopt?
Dr. Araghchi: For verification, the effect of the lifting should be witnessed in practice. What is of significance to us is the effect of the sanctions being lifted, not just the mere act of lifting them. The act of lifting them is a signature on a piece of paper, but the effects take place on the ground. It is not important to us whether the US signs the documents allowing Iran to sell oil, or if it lifts its own sanctions on Iran oil, but what is of significance to us is that our oil be sold and the problems related to transportation, insurance and all related matters be resolved. In other words, what is important to us is that our oil reaches the hands of buyers and we receive the money through the banking system. This is the effect of the sanctions being lifted and it should show itself in practice.
The effects of lifting certain sanctions can be witnessed immediately. For example, banking transactions can be carried out rapidly. If this happens, it becomes clear that sanctions have been lifted. However, some sanctions take longer for the effects to be shown. For example, if the sanctions on foreign investments in Iran are lifted, the effects become tangible only when a foreign company is interested in investing in Iran and starting its work. Normally, companies conduct some studies on investment and they need to study for a few months in order to find an Iranian partner, reach an agreement and sign a deal. After that, they will transfer their investment to Iran.
Q: You pointed out that what happens in practice is important to Iran, but the Americans violated the body and soul of the JCPOA even during the Obama administration. That is, although they adopted some temporary and formal measures, even at that time, they were trying to disrupt foreign companies’ investment in Iran and to frighten European companies. What is your opinion in this regard?
Dr. Araghchi: The Americans have become addicted to imposing sanctions. Sanctions have turned into their main weapon in international interactions. And they are not only imposed against Iran, they are imposed against everyone. It is a tool in the hands of the US foreign policy to reach its goals. During the JCPOA, the Americans agreed to lift many sanctions. However, in practice, they created some obstacles in order to decrease the advantages that the deal had for Iran. This happened even during the time of the Obama administration. For example, they stated that those who want to travel to Iran should have a visa. A number of countries have an agreement with the US through which their citizens can travel without a visa for 90 days. However, the US Congress passed a law stating that if anyone has traveled to Iran, they cannot benefit from this advantage and they should apply for a visa and return to the US. This was not apparently an act of imposing sanctions on Iran, but in fact, it was an effort to frighten those who wished to come to Iran for economic and financial cooperation. Individuals were afraid of not obtaining a US visa if they traveled to Iran. These were obstacles and secret sanctions that were in opposition with the soul of the JCOPA.
Q: Recently, the Majlis and the administration have adopted certain measures to reduce some of the Islamic Republic’s JCPOA commitments. Moreover, one of the issues that the Leader of the Islamic Revolution highlighted was “commitment versus commitment” and actions in response to actions. In your opinion, how can these measures help our national interests?
Reducing the commitments is synonymous with national interests. Our national interests dictated that we press ahead with that. When the US withdrew from the JCPOA and restored its sanctions, we waited for another year due to certain reasons and we gave the other members of the JCPOA the opportunity to honor their pledges in order to compensate US absence in the JCPOA, but they failed to implement the solutions that they had promised. Therefore, our national interests dictated that we reduce our commitments in the face of the restoration of the sanctions. For us, the guarantee for the execution of the JCOPOA is that we put aside our commitments whenever we feel that the other side is dishonoring his.
The JCPOA gives us the option to reduce our commitments all at once or one by one. Therefore, we took the option and decided to decrease our commitments in phases. We did it in five phases – apart from the issue of supervision. In other words, in executive areas, we have abandoned all our commitments in terms of enrichment and other such matters and only the supervision part remains of the JCPOA. For this part too, according to the bill ratified by the Majlis, if our legal demands are not satisfied, it will affect that part too. In my opinion, the measures adopted have been completely in line with national interests and it was absolutely essential to go ahead with them.
Q: By the US return, do you mean its return to the JCPOA as well as lifting the sanctions?
Dr. Araghchi: Notice that when we speak about the US return, it means a return to the fulfillment of the commitments specified in the JCPOA. The return of the US without lifting the sanctions does not make any sense at all. Some people think that we are after the return of the US to the deal without the lifting of the sanctions. It is impossible to imagine this. The return of the US becomes significant only after that country has honored its JCPOA commitments – the commitments about lifting the sanctions which the US should honor.
Q: Due to the Americans’ history of violations and Europeans’ failure to honor their commitments, the Islamic Republic and the people have incurred a loss. Basically, what is the plan of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for demanding compensation?
Dr. Araghchi: The compensation issue will become a serious one in future negotiations. It was first the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that prepared a plan in this regard and sent it to the high-ranking officials of the country. The Leader of the Islamic Revolution referred to this issue as well in his statements, saying that the issue of compensation will be a serious one in our future negotiations. This is not a minor issue because we sustained huge economic losses as a result of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA. We paid a dear price for the maximum pressure policy and we defeated it in the end, but we should receive the compensations for the prices we paid for it anyway. Of course, this is not a prerequisite for the lifting of the sanctions.
Q: Another point that was witnessed in your statements as well is that our main policy should be to counteract the effect of the sanctions. The Leader of the Islamic Revolution reiterated that this policy takes priority over the issue of lifting the sanctions because the counteracting part falls on us and is therefore in our own hands, but the lifting part falls on others. In your opinion, what should we do to prioritize this policy?
Dr. Araghchi: We in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have the responsibility to pursue the policy of lifting the sanctions, but as His Eminence has mentioned many times, our economy should reach a point where it is resistant against every foreign pressure. It should be like a strong body that resists and refuses to be crushed no matter how many external pressures it receives. We should have an economy that is resistant against foreign pressures including sanctions and international monetary crises. In my opinion, counteracting the effect of the sanctions is possible in two ways. Of course, this is not only the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, rather it is the responsibility of the entire government. One is to benefit from and strengthen domestic capabilities. Let me cite an example in this regard: we have a project with Iraq through which we supply that country’s electricity. When the American sanctions were in place, they realized that they could not prevent it and therefore, excluded Iran’s electricity exportation to Iraq from their sanctions. Another example is the Chabahar port. Because of the Indians’ investment, the Americans had to exclude the Chabahar project from their sanctions. We should benefit from our transportation, energy and geographic advantages and establish firm economic links in the region.
Q: During the years that you were present at the highest levels of diplomacy and negotiations, you have naturally had certain meetings and interactions with the Leader of the Islamic Revolution. If you have any memory of his recommendations on negotiations and interactions with the world, please share it with us.
Dr. Araghchi: My sweetest and most important memory is the supports that the Leader offered to us in the course of the negotiations. He has never been optimistic about negotiations and the intentions of the other sides. From the first day to the last, he stated that he was not optimistic. Of course, it became clear later on that he was right and this became clear on all issues. Therefore, on the basis of the Leader’s guideline, we negotiated with pessimism. His Eminence always advised us to negotiate with pessimism and lack of trust in the other side.