Iran’s New Foreign Minister Signals to the US

by Jasmin Ramsey

There’s an interview up on IRDiplomacy with Iran’s newly appointed foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose speech at the nomination hearings last week was so stunning that it “literally quieted the cacophonous parliament hall“. The initial news of Zarif’s nomination was received positively here in Washington (where he’s well-known) among movers and shakers interested in a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. Add to that Rouhani’s appointment of former FM Ali Akbar Salehi — known as an experienced pragmatist — as Iran’s nuclear chief and things aren’t looking so bad.

In Zarif’s answers, which should be considered in their entirety, there’s a clear emphasis on moderation and moving away from radicalism, which Hassan Rouhani promised during his campaign and which seems to be the new president’s preferred modus operandi. Whether that will be enough to effectively battle Iranian and US hardliners who want to see the stalemate between the US and Iran continue (or perhaps something worse) remains to be seen. For now, the US is at least hearing the right things from the Iranian side, even if the Iranians continue to insist on staying true to something else Rouhani promised to maintain — their dignity and principles. For the always insightful Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University where he became well-acquainted with Zarif during the latter’s five-year tenure at the UN, it’s the US’ turn to send a positive signal now given that “Unlike the bluster and belligerence of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who did incalculable damage to his own country during his eight years of misrule — a fact that is finally becoming clear even to the radicals in Iran who originally supported him — Zarif’s words demonstrate a determination to alleviate some of the many problems facing Iran and the Middle East.”

Q: The issue of “moderation” was one of the main mottos of the “Administration of Foresight and Hope.” How do you define moderation in the area of foreign policy?

A: I personally believe that moderation means realism and creation of balance among various needs of a country for the advancement of the foreign policy and pursuit of the foreign policy goals through plausible and rational methods and a suitable discourse. Moderation does not mean to forget about the values or discard the principles. Moderation neither means to fall short of materializing the country’s rights. In other words, as I said in my address to the Majlis (Iranian parliament), moderation has its roots in self-confidence. The people who confide in their own ability, power, possibilities and capacities will tread the path of moderation. But those who are afraid and feel weak mostly go for radicalism. Radicals in the world are cowardly people and although their slogans may be different from one another, there are close and good relations among them. The world of today needs moderation more than anything else and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a powerful country, can push ahead with a suitable foreign policy approach through moderation.

Q: In his first press conference after the inauguration ceremony, President [Hassan Rouhani] said resumption of the nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 group will be one of his priorities. Do you have any new plan or proposal for the resumption of these talks?

A: There have been discussions inside the administration with Mr. President about how to follow up on the country’s nuclear rights and reduce unjust sanctions which have been imposed against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The basis for our work is to insist on the rights of Iran and do away with logical concerns of the international community. As the Supreme Leader and the President have emphasized, it would be easy to achieve this goal provided that the main goal of all involved parties is to find a solution to the nuclear issue. We believe that finding a solution to the nuclear issue needs political will. On the side of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the election of Dr. Rouhani – in view of his past track records with regard to this case – proves that the Iranian people are willing for the nuclear issue to reach a final solution with power and strength and within a reasonable time frame. We wish the opposite side will also have the necessary political resolve for the resolution of the nuclear issue. In that case, we would have no concern with respect to assuring the world about the peaceful nature of our nuclear energy program because according to the fatwa [religious decree] issued by the Supreme Leader and based on the strategic needs of Iran, nuclear weapons have no place in our national security doctrine and are even detrimental to our national security.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.



  1. This is becoming interesting. I hope it comes to a good ending. Of course, the saber rattling will go on from the usual culprits, which I need not mention by name here. That said, giving Iran the benefit of the doubt, the M.E. just might be on the cusp of change for the betterment of all. Of course, the naysayers will probably pull out all the stops to hinder/sabotage any rapprochement, for their own selfish reasons. One has to wonder just what it is that the warmongers expect? If certain elements get their way, the results may end up destroying the M.E., them included. It’s hard to believe that there aren’t any sane thinking people in a position that can counteract the plague that is upon the whole of the M.E. It’s almost as if there is a death wish!

  2. Jasmin: I am not aware that Ali Akhbar Salehi has been named as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, but that he’s returned to his old job as head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, which isn’t inb charge of the negotiations. The chief negotiator with the P5+1 is the secretary general to the Supreme national security council, who used to be Saeed Jallili. The rumor is that Khamenei obliging he will be replaced by Mohammad Forouzandeh.

  3. With total disregard to anything the new Iranian President or any members of his government have to say, the neoconservatives and the right-wing of Israel will continue to accuse Iran of having a nuclear weapons program. The ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ meme is essential to the right-wing of Israel and their supporters in the West because it is the one and only excuse they could ever have for launching an attack against Iran that might lead to regime change – and regime change in Iran is essential if Israel is to attempt to rid itself once and for all of its enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah, closer to home.

    Neoconservatives and the Israeli right have been accusing Iran of wanting to build a nuclear bomb for years and, as I have outlined at my blog, they have always told their audience that Iran is just ‘months away’ from have a bomb ready to launch against Israel.

    Both neoconservatives and the Israeli right remain obsessed with Iran and are desperate to keep the ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ rhetoric up front and center in US foreign policy in the Middle East because, when push comes to shove and the Israelis think the time is right, they’ll be wanting the US to follow up with finishing off Iran after Israel launches its ‘unilateral’ attack against Iran. Of course, there will actually be nothing ‘unilateral’ about it at all; it’ll just seem like it in order to placate an American people who at the moment aren’t in the slightest bit interested in attacking anyone. However, once Israel launches its attack, America’s involvement will be fait accompli.

    As usual, I hope I’m wrong because, if I’m right… well, the world doesn’t really want to go there.

  4. So Iran has 18,000 centrifuges with 10,000 of them spinning away. On top of that we find out that Zimbabwe has an alleged interest in selling uranium to Iran, which is consistent with the tendency of rogue nations to band together since they really can’t partake in the regular commerce of international trade. In Mugabe and Khamenei you have two kindred spirits who will stop at nothing to preserve their own power base and fiddle with election outcomes. Iran’s status as a pariah nation, hellbent on developing nuclear weapons creates significant instability to the Middle East and shows no let-up in this commitment. The international community should be extremely worried that Iran is seeking nuclear fuel outside of the approved avenues of low-enriched nuclear fuel rods, but is instead seeking raw mineral that it can enrich itself to weapon grade. The only real option for getting Iran off this course is to seek regime change. Hopefully it can be done by the ballot box if the people are given the opportunity for a free and fair election, but given what happened in 2009 and most recently in the elimination of over 680 candidates on the ballot, the odds are not good. If you want to see how Mr. Moderation, President Rouhani, is really a loyal hardliner, just check out

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