General Shirreff, Michael Morell should see psychotherapist: Russian diplomat

August 16, 2016

TEHRAN - Moscow’s ambassador to Tehran says General Richard Shirreff, former NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander in Europe, and former CIA acting director Michael Morell should undergo psychotherapy for making startling remarks.

“I am very worried about the health condition of this person (Richard Shirref) and I recommend that he see a psychotherapist. This holds true of the ex-CIA official whose interview was published by the CBS news agency,” Levan Dzhagaryan tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview. 

In his new book, “2017 War with Russia”, General Shirreff has claimed that Russia, in order to escape encirclement by NATO, will seize territory in eastern Ukraine, open up a land corridor to Crimea and invade the Baltic states. In a recent interview, Morell also said U.S. policy in Syria should be to make Iran and Russia “pay a price” by arming local groups and instructing them to kill Iranian and Russian personnel in the country.

Following is the full text of the interview with Ambassador Dzhagaryan:

Q: How do you see the prospect of economic and political ties between Russia and Iran?

A: I am and have been very optimistic. Soon, it will be five years that I have been serving as Russia’s ambassador to Iran and seeing that the two countries have made many efforts to expand cooperation. The two countries’ presidential-level meetings have played an important role in this respect, especially the recent meeting in Baku (August 8). We have some very important projects and we hope the projects would be implemented before the end of the year. The issue will be discussed in the future meeting of the joint economic committee.

Q:  Can it be expected that Russia will sell Sukhoi SU-30 to Iran?

A: The two countries have military cooperation, but Russia observes both Russia’ law and commitments based on the UN Security Council resolutions as we are meeting our obligations regarding S300 (S-300 surface-to-air defense system). I hope that system will be delivered to Iran completely by the end of the current year.

Q:  Have any steps been taken to use “rial” and “ruble” for payments?

A: We have discussed the issue a lot. Some of the Russian small banks are working on the issue and there a branch of Bank Melli Iran (The Central Bank of Iran) in Moscow which is, to some extent, active in this area. I think that we have many capacities far beyond the current situation.

Q: Is there any plan to waive visa for tourists visiting the other country?

Currently, tourists face no difficulty to obtain visa. We issued 35,000 visas last year. It is not necessary for Iranian tourists to come to the embassy in person to put in a visa request. An operator from the tourism agency can give the embassy passports and visas would be issued in a few days. There are many Iranian tourists in a city like Saint Petersburg who have received visa without any problems. 

Q: Ali Akbar Salehi, the chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has said that his organization is waiting for presidents of the two countries to okay starting construction of two new nuclear plants in Bushehr. What are the impediments?

A: Russia sees no obstruction in this respect. Nikolai Spassky, Rosatom’s deputy head, visited Iran a few days ago and met with Salehi and Behrooz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Rouhani and Putin discussed the issue during their meeting in Baku. There are some important and sensitive issues that should be resolved and I do not go into the details.

Q: Putin has welcomed creation of a free trade zone between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union. Is it possible to imagine that a new economic and political bloc is taking shape in the region?

A: I am very upbeat about the issue. Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi visited Moscow and Astrakhan a few weeks ago and held talks with Minister of Trade of the Eurasian Economic Commission Veronica Nikishina on the issue. A delegation from the Union may take a trip to Iran this year. However, the Union has five member states, so the issue is not something bilateral.

Q: How do you assess the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Russia?

A: This was a turning point in bilateral ties after Erdogan’s written apology call to Russia. We are optimistic about the continuation of bilateral cooperation. We will continue cooperation in providing Turkey with gas and transfer gas to third countries through Turkey, because we do not trust Ukraine as transit route. 
Erdogan’s trip to Russia is a victory for both countries as well as also other countries in the region.

Dzhagaryan calls Erdogan’s trip to Saint Petersburg victory for Turkey, Russia, and regional countries Q: Don’t you think that Erdogan is disappointed by the West?

Yes, if you follow Erdogan’s speeches, you will notice that he is disappointed with the West’s policies. In one of his speeches, he said that the U.S. must choose between Turkey or terrorists. It is a very difficult situation for the U.S., because Turkey is a key member of NATO and has a powerful army. Also, NATO needs economic and military capabilities of Turkey. We have discussed the Syrian conflict with Turkey. We expect Turkey to change its stance on Syria.
We had expectations from the West regarding Syria. An ex-CIA official has recently said in an interview with CBS news agency that the Iranians and Russians in Syria should be killed. Only Terrorists say something like that. 
Erdogan’s visit to Russia helps Syria and bilateral ties. Iran has welcomed improvement of relations between Russia and Turkey.

“If you follow Erdogan’s speeches, you will notice that he is disappointed with the West’s policies,” the Russian ambassador to Tehran says.Q: Do you see the phone conversation between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Putin an indication that the West is reconsidering its policies toward Russia?

A: Yes, the West is becoming more aware of the fact that the policy of pressure, threatening, and sanctions bears no results. The West exert pressure on a country in order to force it into a changed policy, but it has no effect on Russia. We banned imports of some products from European countries and refused to hold any talks on the issue. We said that we wouldn’t hold talks; you have imposed sanctions and it is you who should decide on removal of the sanctions. However, Russia’s unilateral sanctions on the European countries are in place by the end of 2017.
The British prime minister had a phone talk with President Hassan Rouhani, as well, and I hope that the relations between the two countries would be upgraded to the ambassadorial level.

Ambassador says, “We do not say that Bashar al-Assad should stay forever or should go right now.”

Q: Would you elaborate on Russia’s plan for Syrian crisis?

A: Russia’s position is very transparent in this respect. Nobody has the right to interfere in domestic affairs of an independent country. We see the roots of the current situation in Syria in the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003, conducted without the permission of the UN Security Council. The Syrians should be helped to have a new constitution and to hold a free and transparent election. We do not say that Bashar al-Assad should stay forever or should go right now. It is the Syrians who should decide. 
Iran and Russia hold regular consultations on Syria. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, is scheduled to take a visit to Iran on Monday and hold talks with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Jaberi Ansari.

Q: What is your prediction of the U.S. presidential election?

A: Russia has not and will not interfere in the U.S. presidential election. We respect the U.S. people’s vote and the issue depends on the U.S. people’s will.

Q: General Richard Shirref, who served as NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander in Europe, recently claimed that a Russian attack on the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania was a possibility. A report by the Atlantic Council also claimed that Russia could invade Poland “overnight”. What is your response for such claims?

A: I am very worried about the health condition of this person and I recommend that he see a psychotherapist. This holds true of the ex-CIA official whose interview was published by the CBS news agency.

Q: Some analysts say that Erdogan’s visit to Russia has unnerved some NATO members. What is your opinion about that?

A: NATO members observe some sort of discipline and should get permission from Washington, but Erdogan, as the president of an independent country, has made his own decisions and does not ask permission from Washington and that is the reason why some members of NATO have been unnerved.
Erdogan is incensed by the coup. We condemn coup attempts, because if you need to make a difference, you must use legal tools. You should not use force and illegal tools to replace a government.

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