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April 27, 2018 2:03 pm

The Duplicitous Diplomat: Seven Deceptions Iranian FM Zarif Told ‘Face the Nation’

avatar by David Gerstman

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attend a meeting with Muslim leaders and scholars in Hyderabad, India, Feb. 15, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Danish Siddiqui.

There’s a famous quote attributed to Henry Wotton: “An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif — who is not an honest gentleman — has taken the art of lying for his country to a new level.  Zarif’s serial dishonesty was on display on April 22, when he appeared on the CBS news show, “Face the Nation,” and answered the questions asked by the show’s moderator, Margaret Brennan.

Here are seven of his most egregious offenses:

1) “Well, first of all, it will lead to US isolation in the international community.”

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This was Zarif’s answer to what the “unpleasant” consequences would be to the United States for withdrawing from the nuclear deal. However, as sanctions expert Richard Goldberg explained in February, the nature of sanctions law would now mean that if the US were to re-impose its toughest sanctions and secondary sanctions, “banks around the world would immediately be at risk of losing their correspondent accounts in the United States.” So if sanctions of any kind — nuclear or ballistic missile-related — are imposed, the United States has the economic power to isolate Iran.

2) “What is important is for the Europeans to bring the United States into compliance because Iran has been in compliance with the deal.”

The fact is that Iran has not been in compliance with the deal. Iran has refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to enter military sites, so we don’t really have a complete picture of Iranian compliance or non-compliance. In Congressional testimony last year, the  head of the Institute for Science and International Security, David Albright, said that the IAEA had never judged Iran to be fully compliant with the deal. Albright described Iran as “flirting with violations in several areas.” These areas include Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges, twice exceeding its limits on heavy water, suspicious nuclear procurement efforts, and seeking to exceed the allowable cap on low enriched uranium.

3) “Well, note President Trump has made it very clear that he is trying to dissuade our economic partners from engaging with Iran and that’s a clear violation of the deal.”

The United States was obligated to lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran due to the deal, but is free to impose other sanctions targeting Iran’s support for terror, its destabilizing actions, and its human right abuses. President Donald Trump has, until now, renewed the waivers that allows the United States sanctions to remain lifted.

4) “We never wanted to produce a bomb.”

The IAEA, in 2015, prior to implementation of the nuclear deal in January 2016, determined that Iran was attempting to design a nuclear weapon at least until 2009. Iran has tried to develop nuclear weapons in the past, and no matter what’s written on a piece of paper (that Iran never signed), Iran can be expected to do so in the future.

5) “Our judiciary is an independent organ.”

This answer was given with respect to the five Americans currently being held in Iranian prisons. Zarif’s claim is bogus. Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was convicted of espionage in October 2015, but was released along with four other Americans in January 2016, after the United States released $1.7 billion in frozen Iranian assets as part of the nuclear deal.

6) “Who used the chemical weapons?”

Zarif got self-righteous when he was asked why Iran hadn’t asked Bashar al-Assad to stop using chemical weapons. A year ago, Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reported that Iran had helped build Syria’s chemical weapons program. Only Syria, which has a known stockpile of sarin, is likely to have used that toxic gas for attacks. Furthermore, only the Syrian regime has the helicopters that are capable of dropping barrel bombs filled with chlorine.

7) “Israel has continued its violations with international law.”

This statement was made in response to a question about whether Iran’s establishment of bases in Syria was a provocation. Zarif deflected the question by speaking of Israeli incursions into Syria. In addition to preventing Iran, whose leaders threaten Israel’s existence, from establishing bases in neighboring Syria, Israel also has struck in Syria to prevent Iran from giving Hezbollah “game-changing” weapons.

But Zarif’s self-righteousness here is misplaced. Iran is forbidden from sending arms to Hezbollah by UN Security Council Resolution 1701. In the absence of any enforcement mechanism, Israel is forced to defend itself from Iran’s serial violations of international law, and, specifically, its support of Hezbollah.

Zarif is quite adept at feigning indignation, but most of his responses in this interview were deflections of the questions about Iran’s record, not answers. He has no real answers for Iran’s aggressive and destabilizing behavior. But Zarif does possess the quality identified by Wotton: the ability to lie.

David Gerstman is currently senior editor of The Tower, the news blog of The Israel Project. From 2003 to 2010, he blogged as Soccer Dad, and currently is a contributor to the blog, Legal Insurrection.

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