The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA - also known as the Iran nuclear deal) was not based on trust, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an email interview with The New York Times. Instead, the deal was based “on explicit recognition of mutual mistrust,” which is why the deal is so lengthy and detailed.
Paragraph 36, which details a mechanism of dispute resolution and which also allows one side to stop complying with the terms of the deal if another side is out of compliance, is a prime example of the mindset behind the deal, Zarif noted.
“We are exercising that option within the deal right now, which can indeed prevent the deal from total collapse, which will be detrimental to the interests of all, including the United States,” he said.
Despite the deal’s current endangerment due to a unilateral exit by the US and its subsequent “maximum pressure” policy on Tehran, Zarif defended the treaty as the best possible solution under the circumstances.
“I believe JCPOA was and remains the best POSSIBLE agreement on the nuclear issue,” the Minister said.
He added that all sides of the JCPOA understood perfectly well that the deal will not solve all disagreements at once.
“We accepted the reality that we could not resolve all our differences in this deal and we agreed to leave them out,” Zarif said.
Still, he said, the deal addressed major concerns of all parties involved.
“It was negotiated by all with open eyes about what was possible and what was not,” Zarif said.
Zarif shrugged off notion that hard-liners in Iran criticize him for putting too much trust into the West and mockingly compare him with a hero in an old Iranian movie.
“I do not mind if people have a good laugh about me. That is another way of making myself useful!” he asserted.
When asked whether he believes the fate of the deal jeopardized his career, he evaded the question, saying he always wanted to be a teacher.
“I will resume that sooner or later, with more to share with my students,” he said.
Zarif dismissed the idea that Washington can impose sanctions on him personally, saying that he has nothing to lose.
“Everyone who knows me knows that I, or my family, do not own any property outside Iran. I personally do not even have a bank account outside Iran. Iran is my entire life and my sole commitment. So I have no personal problem with possible sanctions,” he said.
The deal was negotiated in 2015, during the administration of US President Barack Obama. It was signed by the US, 3 EU countries and the EU itself, China, Russia and Iran.
According to the deal, Washington would remove sanctions which prevent Tehran from engaging in free trade, and Iran would significantly restrict its nuclear program.
In 2018, the administration of US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the deal, but all remaining parties pledged to uphold it.
As the EU failed to provide Iran with a viable free trade mechanism in the face of US sanctions, Iran announced the suspension of its commitments under the JCPOA until the EU comes up with a workable solution.