By Mohammad Mazhari

Ulyanov: U.S. Iran policy absolutely unwise and counterproductive

October 6, 2020 - 10:17

TEHRAN – Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to the Vienna-based international organizations, tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview that the United States’ policy against Iran is seriously flawed, irrational and counterproductive, noting this has caused serious problems for the entire world. 

 “The policy of American administration on Iran is absolutely flawed, not wise, and absolutely counterproductive, creating serious problems not only for Iran but also for the whole region and international community,” Ulyanov said through Skype. 

The following is the text of the interview:
Q: The International Atomic Energy Agency inspected the second site in Iran for “alleged” nuclear activities in the past. How can it affect the spirit of cooperation between Iran and the Agency?

A: The visit was carried out in line with the joint statement issued on 27 August in Tehran by IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi and the vice-president of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the head of the AEOI. It was implemented successfully. Both sides fulfilled their commitments. I believe it is a good point which will contribute to the further development of cooperation. 

Q: Trump’s administration celebrated the 75th birthday of the UN while intensifying the campaign to kill off the JCPOA, which is considered as one of the most significant multilateral agreements of the century.  Isn’t it such a move sheer hypocrisy?  

A: I don’t want to give such labels to U.S. foreign policy.  I prefer to say that policy of the American administration on Iran is absolutely flawed, not wise, and absolutely counterproductive, creating serious problems not only for Iran but also for the whole region and international community. That is why Americans are isolated on this issue in the international arena and in the UN Security Council as the recent events demonstrated. 

Q: Key UN powers redoubled support for the nuclear pact. UN secretary-general also rebuffed an appeal from Pompeo to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran. What messages do such positions convey to the U.S.?

A: The point is that America nowadays doesn’t listen to others. They make their own decisions which are often wrong. They think that they can do anything as a mighty power as it has a lot of tools to impose its views on other countries, regions, and sometimes in the whole world.
International law should be respected. U.S. idea to expand its extraterritorial sanctions fully contradicts international law. However, America is stuck to the policy of imposing more pressure on Iran. 

Q: In one of your tweets you complained that "as always, the new IAEA Director General’s confidential reports on Iran were leaked to the U.S. press immediately upon their circulation among Governors. Shameful." In view of such leakages, how can Iran trust the IAEA?

A: The point is that leakages of protected information are outrageous and shameful. The problem is that nobody can identify the source of these leaks. The reports are published on the protected websites only for Governors. The Secretariat is not able to identify how the information is leaked to the public and media. Russia repeatedly raised this problem in the IAEA Board of Governors. It is worth to mention that leakages happen only to quarterly reports. Other kinds of information on safeguards implementation are kept strictly confidential by the Secretariat. 

Q: The START treaty between Russia and the U.S. will expire in 4 months. You have said that so far the Russian proposal to extend the treaty has not received a positive response from the U.S.  What will be your country’s reaction if Washington refuses to extend the deal? Do you expect a return to a new nuclear arms race or a new cold war?

A: Not necessarily, but such risks will be much higher. Of course, if the New START expires on February 5, it would be the first time in many decades when there is no functioning agreement between the U.S. and Russia in the sphere of strategic weapons. Of course, it would not be helpful, to put it mildly, for international security. On February 6 current limitations, confidence-building measures and verification mechanisms will cease to exist. We believe that there is a chance to avoid negative scenarios if the U.S. accepts our proposal. The future will show.

Q: The U.S. has withdrawn from many international agreements, including JCPOA, by pursuing unilateral policies. Do you think it can be trusted to make a new agreement with?

A: Do you remember that U.S. President Ronald Reagan once cited a Russian saying “Trust but verify”? Of course, the current policy does not provide international credibility to Washington but if a new agreement is achieved we will verify how the U.S. complies with it. 

“Leakages of protected information are outrageous and shameful.”

Q: Foreign Minister Zarif has said Iran will reverse its decision to limit nuclear activities only if the new U.S. administration is obliged not to ditch the nuclear agreement again and compensate for the financial losses caused by the sanctions. What is your comment?

A: Iran is a sovereign country and makes decisions based on its national interest and national security. I think the Iranian foreign minister has expressed Iranian position and Iranian intention. Russia never criticized Iran for its reduction steps. We understand Tehran’s motives and that these steps were caused by the break of balance between economic and nuclear provisions of the deal which was ruined by illegitimate U.S. extraterritorial sanctions. At the same time, the JCPOA in our eyes is extremely important. It needs to be implemented in full and we try to reach the speediest solutions to these problems. In February this year at a meeting of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA, we achieved a common decision to address this issue on the basis of a step-by-step approach and reciprocity. Unfortunately, so far due to the pandemic we have not been able to engage on the issue properly. But this topic remains on the agenda and we are in favor of expedited dialogue. At the same time, we should keep in mind that the remaining JCPOA participants, first of all, the European states, are not able to compensate for the losses caused by detrimental U.S. policies. I spoke to my European colleagues and they say time and again that they cannot issue orders and instructions to their companies, which belong to the private sector and (that they) have the right to decide for themselves to maintain economic contacts with Iran. The majority of commercial entities in the West are afraid of economic sanctions, therefore, and for this reason, they left the Iranian market. At this stage, we should wait for the results of the U.S. elections, and possible changes in the U.S. policy.

Q: What is Russia’s position and proposal to end the Armenian–Azerbaijani clashes? 

A: The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is not in my area of responsibility. I recommend you read the official statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry as well as the joint statements of the leaders of Russia, France, and the U.S. In our view, the first step which must be undertaken is a ceasefire. The sides need to stop fighting and engage in diplomatic negotiations. Russia would be happy to facilitate a peaceful solution, especially in view of the fact that we have good relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia. 

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