In an NBC interview, Iran’s Foreign Minister said Washington must stop selling arms to the Gulf if it wants to discuss Tehran’s ballistic missiles.
Rabat – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has hit back at the US President Donald Trump’s call for new nuclear negotiations which would include discussions on Tehran’s ballistic missile programme.
In an interview that aired on NBC news on Monday, July 15, Zarif accused Washington of bringing the already volatile Middle East region to the brink of “explosion” through arms selling to its Gulf allies.
“If you want to discuss ballistic missiles, then we need to discuss the weapons sold to our region,” Zarif said.
“These are American weaponry that is going into our region, making our region ready to explode. So, if they want to talk about our missiles, they need first to stop selling all these weapons including missiles to our region,” he added.
Last year, the United States withdrew from the 2015 landmark multilateral accord. The US wanted to negotiate a new deal to encompass Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and support for armed groups in the region.
Zarif told NBC that it was the US and its allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who were responsible for the turmoil in the Middle East region due to selling arms and proxy groups interests.
“Last year Iran spent $16 billion altogether on its military, we have an 82 million population. UAE, with a million population, spent $22 billion. Saudi Arabia – with less than half of [Iran’s] population – spent $67billion, most of them are American [arms],” Zarif said hinting that Tehran’s missile programme does not add up to the escalating tensions on the Gulf region.
“Are we involved at all in North Africa? … Why do you have chaos in Libya? Is Iran involved in Libya? … in Sudan? … in Algeria? Why do we have all this turmoil? I believe if you want to look at the right place for those who have malign activity in our region, the US needs to look at its own allies, not at Iran,” he added.
2015 Nuclear Deal & US Sanctions
Zarif stressed that Iran would only proceed to negotiations with the United States if the US agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran. Iran also requires the US to reaffirm its commitment to the 2015 accord.
The Islamic Republic invested in its ballistic missiles and nuclear programmes for defense in the face of international sanctions. The country has been subject to a variety of sanctions since its founding in 1979.
“Once those sanctions are lifted, then … the door for negotiations is wide open,” Zarif said. “It is the United States that left the bargaining table. And they’re always welcome to return.”
The new US sanctions have plunged the Iranian economy into crisis and caused a shortage in crucial medicines, putting the Iranian population under huge humanitarian pressure.
“They are terrorizing our people,” Zarif said. “They are targeting ordinary Iranian civilians. That’s worse than war.”