Javad Zarif’s controversial remarks before the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran Parliament – December 18, 2016

We devised a strategy, which was, if JCPOA was to go to the American congress, it would never pass because the American congress is controlled by Mr. Netanyahu, so we decided that JCPOA should be enforced through executive order by the American president. So, in 8 years when IAEA reaches its final decision and announces it, all the restrictions will be lifted. Then, we will bring the additional protocol before our parliament and they will bring it before their congress. So, we negotiated not to get congress involved, so congress would have a marginal role… In the negotiations, our colleagues had, this issue was raised that Iran Sanction Act will expire in 2016, and what should be done about it. (What we are saying here is not for the public, it is just for us). All these negotiations were over two years, not in two days. Some of the discussions were done before the Geneva agreement, and some started the day after the Geneva agreement.

In our colleagues’ negotiations with the American team, our colleagues told them that the extension {of ISA} is against JCPOA since it will be considered as new sanctions, and the American team disagreed.

Ms. Sherman said extending ISA is not against the JCPOA, we both agreed to separate the congress. Strategy has changed? The government could be obligated not to enforce ISA. Even if they pass it we will not enforce it. I said no. Our colleagues stayed tough until the meeting between Mr. Kerry and me. In the meeting, I insisted that if the congress passes ISA it will be against JCPOA. Mr. Kerry said I agree with him {Zarif}.

Ms. Sherman said I disagree, and Mr. Kerry reasoned with her and said I agree with him {Zarif}. Ms. Sherman said well, he is the boss and we must accept. And that was the basis of why the extension of ISA {was not mentioned in the manuscript}. We wanted it to be mentioned, and we agreed that it should be. But they argued that if it is mentioned, the congress would disagree. To be fair, Mr. Kerry kept his promise until Wednesday on their time. I will now tell you what we did after JCPOA. I wrote in a letter to Ms. Mogherini in September, and told her this {extension of ISA} should not happen. I also wrote to the U.N and I said if a law expires, its extension is against JCPOA.

It is not in the JCPOA manuscript though. This is our interpretation, based on an agreement we had with Mr. Kerry.

I am telling you this now, but I won’t say it publicly. I will tell you that I made a mistake based on the agreement we had. We put aside our strategy and based on that agreement we announced it, which became the official position of Islamic Republic. I accept that I made a mistake. But this is our doing. As I said, during JCPOA every time we brought it up, the American team would strongly refuse and say this is not against JCPOA. We would take it up with Mr. Kerry. Mr. Kerry {and} Mr. Moniz would say we have some measures in the senate and congress and we won’t allow it to pass in the senate. Just like they did with Boeing in the senate. Until Monday, a day before presidential election. Dr. Salehi had a meeting with Mr. Moniz in which Dr. Araghchi was also present but Mr. Takht Ravanchi was absent. Mr. Stephen Mull was present from the American team. Mr. Moniz said if it goes to the senate, we have measures to block it. Mr. Stephen Mull said that since it had passed in congress 400 to 1 – meaning a very large majority, and as you know the president’s veto can be overturned if two thirds of both houses vote against it- he said what happens if we veto it and our veto is overturned?

He asked this, meaning up to that point they admitted that they had made verbal commitment. {As} I said {before} the commitment is not in the manuscript. Well, they did not expect this election {results}. They expected to win the senate, which they did win some, and lowered the Republicans’ advantage from 4 to 2. And they also expected to win the presidency, which what happened was Mr. Trump won. They are now facing a problem which I said in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs meeting, that they will now prefer that the senate would pass it and they don’t veto it (the extension), but immediately remove the sanctions for two reasons. One, to stop a worse decision, and second, to remove them because if they don’t and instead veto it, the senate would overturn it, since the congress has passed it and senate has very strict rules. So if senate passes it, and Mr. Trump also signs it and no one removes it – in the first days in office Mr. Trump who has given so many promises will not remove the sanctions – it will become the law, and therefore it violates JCPOA. And it is an obvious and irrefutable violation of JCPOA based on JCPOA manuscript itself. In an analysis we did, I said since we wrote to the president ourselves, their position will probably change, and it did. I said based on the new events and conditions, Mr. Obama has set the stage in a way that Mr. Trump will not have an obligation to violate JCPOA. He can do something to abolish JCPOA.

He does not need to do anything positive to enforce JCPOA. What is their plan? Their plan, which we changed a bit, was that on January 19 which is Obama’s the last day in office, he will overturn all the laws, this overturn lasts 120 days for some and for some 180 days.

Meaning Mr. Obama wanted to make sure that 120 to 180 days after he leaves the office, Mr. Trump will not be forced to do anything that violates JCPOA.

He can take actions to violate it, but he has to take action as opposed to inaction. Meaning now he has to take an action to violate JCPOA, but before, he could violate it even by inaction. Mr. Obama made this happen. And in our reviews, we reached that conclusion, and the Americans said it in our negotiations and Mr. Kerry himself told me. Mr. Kerry in his discussions in cabinet meetings said they must veto it because I made a commitment. He said the same thing in the congress. He went to the senate and said there is no need to pass this law, it is not beneficial.

But that was their plan. I mean, I think Mr. Obama told Mr. Kerry that it doesn’t matter if you made a commitment. We want to devise a plan so JCPOA is not be violated by America first. That was what they came up with. We pushed strongly and said this is a violation. The second push was us saying we don’t care if you lifted the effects of sanctions. How long will it last? Because they might have lifted them a month ago, and if they have stopped enforcing it, they can wait until January 19. Mr. Kerry said he blocked its enforcement on Thursday because of our pressure.

He will do it once again on January 19. This is what he did.

He said once again that the conditions have not changed. He was talking with me until late at night, them he called on Thursday at 7:00 am our time and 12:00 am their time. He said I want to force Mr. Obama not to sign it, what guarantees can you give me? I said it’s 7:00 am here and it’s a holiday. I can’t give you any guarantees. The issue of nuclear-propulsion was also brought up, and they know it’s not against JCPOA. If nuclear-propulsion is under 3.5 it does not violate JCPOA. But they were worried about other things we can do. He wanted me to promise we won’t do anything, and I said I promise, but I don’t make the decisions. I can just make suggestions. But I can tell you we do not intend to violate JCPOA. The last time he called me was 8:25 which is 12 in Washington. And Mr. Obama had to either sign or refuse signing it. And the last time that a president didn’t sign a law and it went to national archive and became a law was 1995. Meaning twenty-one years ago, and after that they have all either signed or vetoed the laws. It would’ve looked good from our point of view if he had vetoed it and his veto was overturned in congress, meaning he had stood by his commitment. But they claimed they have reached an agreement with the congress not to veto.

This is the story of the extension of sanctions, meaning we had a conversation with Mr. Kerry, and based on the promises that Mr. Kerry made, we took an official position, and I was wrong. We should not have acted based on what that guy (Kerry) said and should have not included the congress in the process for the first 8 years, and we should have acted per our initial strategy, and I was not forced to do otherwise. Because the ISA issue was not an internal matter, and we were promised, and the Master (Supreme Leader Khamenei) had also mentioned it, so the things we did was to address this issue.

I was supposed to have a joint press conference with Kerry in Italy. I cancelled my trip and wrote to Mr. Kerry that after what you did I cannot be present in the same city as you.

Mr. Araghchi attended the meeting. Mr. Kerry came and explained things for Mr. Araghchi for half an hour.

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