Perhaps motivated by the US primaries and upcoming elections, Iran has taken to the pages of the Washington Post to defend its position to Americans, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif explaining to readers why the Islamic Republic stands by its ongoing missile testing, despite being accused of violating international agreements.
Last month, Iran conducted ballistic missile tests, which it says do not violate a UN ban linked to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached last July with the P5+1 world powers. The agreement ended sanctions against Iran in exchange for a significant reduction in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, and went into force in January.
Not unlike the Biblical Gibeonites, who misrepresented themselves to the Israelites when they became nervous of Israel’s military might, Iran now wants to smooth things over with the West.
Zarif’s piece appeared in Wednesday’s paper. In it, he invokes the Holocaust to justify Iran’s continued disrespect for the JCPOA. Making Zarif’s comparison even more cruel is the fact that Iranian leaders repeatedly and consistently deny the Holocaust, which killed six million Jews and millions of others, not to mention the ongoing animosity expressed by Iranian leaders towards Israel.
“The words ‘never again’ resonate with Iranians, too,” Zarif writes, claiming Iran’s ballistic missile tests, decried by the US and other countries, are intended to protect the Islamic Republic from the military threats of its neighbors, many of whom have greater capabilities than Iran. As examples of such threats, Zarif cited the eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, during which the West backed Iraq, as well as repeated statements from the US that “all options are on the table” to pressure Iran into compliance.
“It is against this backdrop that we develop and test our indigenous defensive capabilities,” Zarif continues. “We have no other choice, as we continue to face major hurdles in fulfilling our military hardware needs from abroad, even as our neighbors procure such hardware in mind-boggling quantities. Indeed, our military budget, for all the alarm raised by the West whenever we test a new system, is a small fraction of what is spent by our neighbors, which have a fraction of our territory or population to defend.”
Zarif also suggests that “scare-mongering about Iran and its defensive capabilities” is a tactic being used by some to distract from their own failures to combat “militant extremism”, prevent the rise in power of Saudi Arabia or stop the destruction of Yemen.
The foreign minister goes on to boast that despite international efforts to demonize his country, “Iran is blessed”.
“At a time when bombs go off in public places throughout the Middle East and war is at our doorstep, we have a stable, safe and healthy environment for our citizens and for those visiting and doing business with us,” he continues. “This is due to both the vigilance of our government and the character of our people. We take pride in using our resources for universal health care and education and advanced science and technology rather than wasteful military spending. Our people want nothing more than peace and cooperation with our neighbors and the world at large.”
Zarif ends by inviting the world to work with Iran towards common goals. “A window has opened, and we hope our counterparts will seize on the opportunity it brings so that we may all return our focus to shared objectives and challenges.”
While the sentiment is encouraging, Iran’s actions belie the claim. In addition to last month’s missile tests, Iran continues to push the limits of the JCPOA through its nuclear program.