Zarif: Iran does not want war and is ready to work on French nuclear deal proposals
Iran is prepared to work on French proposals to salvage the international nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers in 2015, but it will not tolerate U.S. interference in the Gulf, its foreign minister Zarif said on Thursday.
At a time of heightened friction between Tehran and Washington, Iran on Thursday also displayed what it described as a domestically built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defence system.
In an effort to prop up the agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Wednesday to either soften sanctions on Iran or provide a compensation mechanism "to enable the Iranian people to live better" in return for full compliance with the pact.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said he was looking forward to having a serious conversation with Macron in Paris on Friday.
"There are proposals on the table, both from the French and the Iranian side and we are going to work on those proposals tomorrow," he said
Zarif also warned against U.S. efforts to create a security mission, which so far Britain, Australia and Bahrain have joined, to guard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for global oil supplies.
"It's clear that the U.S.' intention..(of having a) naval presence in the Persian Gulf is to counter Iran.. Don't expect us to remain quiet when somebody comes to our waters and threatens us," Zarif said.
Several international merchant vessels have been attacked in the Gulf in recent months in incidents that have rocked global commodity trading. The United States has blamed Iran, which denies the accusations.
1953: The CIA and Iran's stolen democracy
Almost 65 years ago, the CIA overthrew Iran's first democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. Recently the U.S. State Department published documents showing the full extent of U.S. involvement in the coup. By Thomas Latschan
Glowing advocate of Iranian interests: Mohammed Mossadegh was Iran's first democratically elected prime minister from 1951 – with a brief interruption – until his fall in 1953. Educated, eloquent and charismatic, he also had many admirers in the West. Daring to nationalise the British oil industry in Iran, he quickly became an icon of anti-imperialism across the Third World
Oil for the Empire: the British had had a quasi-monopoly on Iranian oil since 1909. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) – these days British Petroleum (BP) – had negotiated contracts that gave the colonisers a distinct advantage, allowing the British Empire to skim off profits in their millions every year. In return Iran received meagre royalties
Labouring under a burning sun: the British shamelessly exploited their Iranian oil workers. In Abadan, the site of the largest Iranian refinery, those who worked for the AIOC lived in slums under catastrophic conditions. The company refused to contemplate any improvement in living standards. After the Second World War, Iranian politicians attempted to renegotiate business terms but their appeals fell on deaf ears
"Nationalisation or death!" In 1951 the situation came to a head. Mohammed Mossadegh, who had just become prime minister, ordered the nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry. The British reacted with outrage, withdrawing all British expertise and imposing an oil embargo against Iran. Over the next two years, the so-called "Abadan crisis" brought Iran to the brink of bankruptcy
American ambivalence: the British also turned to the USA for help. But U.S. President Truman was against any intervention. Truman was torn: on the one hand, he didn't want to alienate his British allies. On the other, he sympathised with Mossadegh and believed that only a free, economically strong Iran could resist the communist influence of the USSR
Dwindling stability: but Iran's continuing economic crisis was having an effect: slowly, more radical currents were gaining ground – such as the communist Tudeh Party. In several mass demonstrations it called for the expulsion of Americans and British and for the country to turn towards Moscow. Yet the U.S. still believed that Mossadegh had the domestic political situation under control
Two elections changed everything: Winston Churchill regained power in London at the end of 1951. And one year later Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced Truman in Washington. Churchill skilfully presented the risk of a communist revolution in Iran. Eisenhower, who had already worked effectively with the secret services during World War II, agreed to engage the CIA to overthrow Mossadegh
"Operation Ajax" begins: in July 1953, CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt travelled to Iran. He convinced the Shah (right) to dismiss Mossadegh and appoint General Fazlollah Zahedi, a straw man of Western interests, as the new prime minister. A courier would bring the signed release papers to Mossadegh; Mossadegh himself was to be placed under house arrest immediately upon receipt
Organised chaos: at the same time, the CIA created chaos in Tehran. Its operatives bribed politicians, clergy, journalists, and workers, thus outweighing Mossadegh's supporters and opponents. The agents didn't care who would get the upper hand on the street. The only important thing was to stage the Shah as the saviour of the people, who would use his loyal army to restore peace and order
Escape to Rome: the first coup attempt on 15 August 1953, however, failed. Mossadegh had got wind of the plans. He arrested several Iranian ringleaders of the coup attempt and paid a bounty to General Zahedi, who went into hiding. When the Shah learned that the mood had turned against him, he fled the country: first to Baghdad, then to Rome
Deceptive calm: on 18 August, 1953, Mossadegh looked like the sure winner. He assumed that the Shah and the British had plotted against him, but he did not know that the USA was involved as well. Mossadegh called on his followers to stay at home the next day to prevent any further escalation of violence on Tehran's streets. Mossadegh did not expect a second coup attempt
The mood turns: CIA agent Roosevelt mobilised the masses again. On 19 August, they took to the streets for the Shah – this time without resistance from Mossadegh supporters. The Shah's release certificates were copied thousands of times and distributed among the population. More and more police and military units joined the demonstrators, who stormed the Foreign Ministry and the police headquarters
Decision time in front of Mossadegh's house: supported by a column of tanks, a crowd of people broke into Mossadegh's private house. A street battle broke out between supporters and opponents of the prime minister, killing more than 200 people. When the Shah followers stormed the house, Mossadegh fled over the garden wall. Five days later he surrendered and was arrested by his adversary General Zahedi
Under Washington's thumb: on 22 August 1953, the Shah returned from Rome. In the period that followed he established a military dictatorship, which was massively supported by the USA. With American help he also established the infamous secret police SAVAK. The nationalisation of oil production was reversed – almost half of the proceeds now went to American companies
All hope gone: after his arrest, Mossadegh was tried for treason and sentenced to three years in prison. Released from prison in December 1956, Mossadegh retreated to his private home in Ahmad Abad, guarded by SAVAK secret service personnel. Mossadegh was no longer allowed to leave his home village. He died on 5 March 1967
In his speech in Oslo, Zarif said Iran would not start a war in the Gulf but it would defend itself.
Meanwhile Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attended an unveiling ceremony on Thursday for the mobile Bavar-373 system, a domestically built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defence system.
"With this long-range air defence system, we can detect... targets or planes at more than 300 km (190 miles), lock it at about 250 km and destroy it at 200 km," Defence Minister Amir Hatami told state television.
Tehran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June. It says the drone was over its territory, but Washington says it was in international airspace.
The event took place on Iran's National Defence Industry Day. Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.
Western military analysts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, though concerns about its long-range ballistic missile programme contributed to Washington leaving the nuclear deal last year. (Reuters)