Dr. Javad Zarif in Wellington, New Zealand

Date: Monday, 14 March 2016
Venue: The Banquet Hall, Parliament Buildings
Hosted by: New Zealand Institute of International Affairs
Honorable Sir Doug Kidd, President NZIIA
Maty Nikkhou- O’Brien, Director NZIIA

Dr.Mohammad Javad Zarif is the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the administration of President Rouhani. He led the Iranian negotiation with the P5+1 countries, which produced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on 14 July 2015, lifting economic sanctions against Iran on 16 January 2016, and bringing Iran back to the international community. The Deal has been praised by some as the most important multilateral agreement in decades.  He also was instrumental in the negotiations for the Iran Nuclear Deal.

He is a career diplomat and served as Iran’s UN Ambassador from 2002-2007. He has written extensively on disarmament, human rights, international law, and regional conflicts. Javad Zarif and his American counterpart, John Kerry, Secretary of State, were top contenders for the 2015 Noble Peace Prize.

Excerpts from his talk: “Iran’s Role in the World”

Iran will always have a Nuclear Program, which will remain peaceful. Nuclear weapons will not led to security – they never have – they never will. The world should be free of all Nuclear Weapons. However, the US wants to keep the smoke screen of Iran as a threat, so that they can do their political agenda of war and regime change.

Sanctions  (and wars) are not the answer. The US has an  “addiction” with sanctions and needs to quit. Before the sanctions, Iran’s dependence on oil was 50%, now it is 34%. The sanctions only made Iran more self-reliant.

Talking with respect always works.  According to International Law, where is the justification of Israel saying that it is going to bomb Iran or Netanyahu threatening Iran on a daily basis. And why does the US say all the time “all options are on the table” when talking to Iran. This means war – and in a war – everybody loses. We still have people dying because of the chemical weapons used by Saddam in the Iran-Iraq War.

Furthermore, both the US and Iran must stop their rhetoric of “Axis of Evil” and “Great Satan”.  With globalization and for the human race to survive, we need to define our problems differently, and we must have shared objectives – especially now with, ISIS. We need to work together to fight ISIS together. Nothing is a gain for one and a loss for another.  The thugs and terrorists that make up ISIS are non-state activists and they are a problem to everyone in the region and the world. They must be stopped at the source. They are similar to a disease, such as, Aids and Ebola, and as a disease spreads rapidly and throughout the world so will terrorism.

Iran is an important force in the region and will not leave. It is an Old Country with a Young Democracy. 70% of the people voted in the election for Parliament last month, and contrary to what most people think, religious minorities are represented in Parliament. Jews with a population of about 20,000 have one seat in the Parliament; Armenians/ Christians with a smaller population have 3 seats; and Zorastians have 1 seat.

In regard to Iran’s military and launching missiles, Iran’s government doesn’t even spend 10 billion a year on weapons whereas other countries in the region spend much more. For example, Saudi Arabia signed a contract with the US for more than USD 100 billion for the purchase of weapons in the next 5 years. Iran has every right to protect itself and the right to test missiles, as long as they are not capable of carrying nuclear warheads.  Iran has not started a war in 250 years and is a peaceful nuclear-free country. However, Iran will defend itself if it is attacked. During the Iraq-Iran War, 1980-1988, Saddam launched missiles with chemical warheads, and not one country in the region or the world came to the defense of Iran. The government begged for 1 Scud Missile to defend its people, but no one helped. Iranians learned the hard way that they must protect themselves.

However, when Iraq and Saddam invaded Kuwait 2 years later in 1990, Iraq became the enemy of the West. The US led the Coalition of the Willing and US boots were on the ground to defend Kuwait from the monster Saddam. He was no longer the Darling of the West.