NEW YORK (Reuters) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif does not consider U.S. President Donald Trump desires conflict with Iran, but he instructed Reuters on Wednesday that Trump could be lured into a conflict.
“I don’t think he wants war,” Zarif mentioned in an interview on the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York. “But that doesn’t exclude him being basically lured into one.”
The White House did not instantly reply to a request for touch upon Zarif’s remarks.
Zarif mentioned a so-called “B-team,” together with Trump’s nationwide safety adviser John Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could goad Trump into a conflict with Tehran.
“Those who have designed the policies that are being pursued do not simply want a negotiated solution. But let me make it clear that Iran is not seeking confrontation, but will not escape defending itself,” he mentioned.
In considerably cryptic remarks, Zarif additionally warned of the chance that individuals could attempt “to plot an accident” that could set off a broader disaster.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen because the Trump administration withdrew final yr from a world nuclear take care of Iran and started ratcheting up sanctions. Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and demanded consumers of Iranian oil cease purchases by May or face sanctions.
The U.S. blacklisting of the IRGC, Iran’s strongest safety group with large stakes within the economic system, was the primary time any nation has labeled one other nation’s navy a terrorist group.
Zarif mentioned Iran would act with “prudence” in response to what he noticed as harmful insurance policies by the United States. In one instance, he mentioned Iran would nonetheless permit U.S. warships to cross via the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most vital oil artery.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Zarif known as the choice on the IRGC “absurd,” but advised that Iran did not plan to reply militarily until the United States modified the foundations of engagement guiding the way it interacts with Iran’s forces. The U.S. navy has not advised it will change its habits after the blacklisting.
“We will exercise prudence but it doesn’t mean that if the United States changed the rules of the game, or changed the rules of engagement, it would be able to get away with that,” Zarif mentioned.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and a few senior navy commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf international locations if Washington tries to strangle Tehran oil exports.
Carrying one third of the world’s seaborne oil daily, the Strait of Hormuz hyperlinks Middle East crude producers to markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and past.
When requested if U.S. warships could nonetheless cross via the Strait of Hormuz, Zarif – a veteran diplomat who has been international minister for greater than six years – mentioned: “Ships can go through the Strait of Hormuz.”
“If the United States wanted to continue to observe the rules of engagement, the rules of the game, the channels of communication, the prevailing protocols, then in spite of the fact that we consider U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf as inherently destabilizing, we’re not going to take any action,” Zarif mentioned.
The United States has accused Tehran of destabilizing the Middle East and serving to to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a civil conflict that started in 2011.
Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, the pinnacle of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the abroad arm of the IRGC, appeared on frontlines throughout Syria.
Zarif mentioned Iran would stay “vigilant” in Syria and in Iraq after investing assets to combat there. “And we will not simply abandon that, that fight,” Zarif mentioned.
‘PHD’ IN SANCTIONS BUSTING
Zarif, the U.S.-educated architect of the 2015 nuclear deal who got here beneath assault from anti-Western hardliners in Iran after Trump pulled out of the settlement final yr, signaled Tehran would be resilient within the face of U.S. sanctions.
“I mean there are always ways of going around the sanctions. We have a PhD in that area,” Zarif mentioned.
The United States on Monday demanded consumers of Iranian oil cease purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight largest consumers, most of them in Asia, to proceed importing restricted volumes.
Zarif acknowledged that oil sanctions damage unusual Iranians and the federal government would do no matter it could to promote oil to offer for its residents.
When requested who else Iran would possibly take into account promoting oil to, Zarif mentioned: “If I told you, we won’t be able to sell it to them.”
Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Lesley Wroughton, Phil Stewart; enhancing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool
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