Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – In his first press conference on Monday, newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi expressed support for the negotiations in Vienna toward restoring the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the United Nations, as long as, he said, they achieve benefits for the Iranian nation and do not drag on forever. He pointed out that the United States reneged on the treaty it signed and he called on Washington to begin immediately observing its obligations under the treaty and said it should lift all sorts of sanctions on the Iranian people. He also scolded Europe for not abiding by the terms of the treaty, which had required free trade and investment in Iran, and warned the European powers not to kowtow to Washington in continuing to violate their treaty obligations.
Referring to former President Donald Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran through a financial and trade embargo, Raisi said that the world has to recognize that it was not feasible.
The deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), limited Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program in return for sanctions relief, which Iran never was granted.
He said, “The next government will support the negotiations on the nuclear agreement in Vienna, but it will not tie the future of Iran to them, and we will not accept that the negotiations become exhausting.”
He added, “We will support negotiations that guarantee our national interests, but we will not permit them to be negotiations for the sake of negotiating. Likewise, we will work to abrogate all sanctions on Iran. This will be the test of credibility around which our foreign policy will pivot, and America and the Europeans must abide by their commitments; and we will pursue this seriously.”
Asked if he was willing to meet President Biden, he said, “No.”
He stressed that Iran’s ballistic missile program is not up for negotiation: “Iran’s ballistic missile program is non-negotiable, despite demands from the West and Gulf states that it be included in the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna.”
When CNN pressed him, according to BBC Monitoring, he pointed out that the US had not even observed the more limited JCPOA, and there was no point in negotiating a more extensive agreement with Washington. (Zing!)
He said that good relations with all neighbors, “especially Saudi Arabia” were a priority of his administration. He called for the restoration of embassies and full diplomatic relations between the two countries.
He said, “I announce here that we are determined to strengthen relations with all the countries of the world and especially neighboring countries. Our priority will be firming up relations with our neighbors. With regard to Saudi Arabia, we have no objection to reopening the embassies between the two countries, and, as we have announced earlier, we are ready to dialogue and strengthen relations with the Kingdom once again.”
He did, however, say that he wanted to see the Yemen War ended as soon as possible, and wanted to see Yemenis rule themselves and end the war themselves, and he criticized Saudi Arabia for launching it.
He also said that Iran would continue to support the oppressed Palestinians, and reiterated Iran’s position that the conflict should be settled by a referendum in which all Israelis and Palestinians can vote on the shape of their future.
Although the 5 million occupied Palestinians have their lives shaped by Israeli military dominance, they cannot vote in Israeli elections.
Raisi said that Iran has had good relations with China since its 1979 revolution and he thought that these can be made even more robust. The two countries have signed a 25-year economic deal that foresees extensive Chinese investment in Iran.
Domestically, he said his policy would be to improve the economy through reforms and an anti-corruption drive, and to improve the livelihoods of the people through increased productivity.
Raisi stands accused of war crimes in the past. When asked about these charges, he said he was just fulfilling his judicial duties. Yeah, that’s what the war criminals at Nuremberg said, too.