Saeed Jalili

What is the way to combat US sanctions?

In his televised speech that was delivered on January 8, 2021, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution discussed the issue of the JCPOA, saying, “We do not at all insist on the return of the US to the JCPOA, and we are in no rush for that country to do so… Our reasonable, logical demand is that sanctions be lifted. This is a right that has been taken away from the Iranian nation.” These sentences represent the position that Imam Khamenei described as being the “final, definitive word” of the Islamic Republic. KHAMENEI.IR has conducted an interview with Dr. Saeed Jalili, the Leader’s Representative in the Supreme Council of National Security and also one of the members of the Board of Supervision over the Implementation of the JCPOA, in order to clarify the Islamic Republic’s position on sanctions and the nuclear deal.

Interviewer: In your opinion, what is the reason behind Imam Khamenei’s recent statements concerning the necessity of lifting sanctions?

Dr. Jalili: His Eminence said something that is very precise and correct from an expert point of view. What did he say? He said that we are in no rush for the US to return to the JCPOA and that what is of significance to us is the lifting of sanctions, not the JCPOA itself. This is because the deal was merely a means for sanctions to be lifted. The purpose of the deal was to lift sanctions. His Eminence openly stated that sanctions should be lifted. This is different from stopping or suspending sanctions. From the beginning, he had the same demand regarding the JCPOA. We did not embark on signing the JCPOA merely to impose restrictions on our own nuclear activities. If we accepted this deal, our goal was to have sanctions lifted. Otherwise, if one limits his own peaceful, nuclear activities, this is unreasonable. It was even difficult for the country. So why did our officials accept it? They accepted it in order for sanctions to be lifted altogether.

When the Leader of the Revolution stated that we are in no rush, this is because he sees the horizon. It is clear where this path leads to, what results it will produce and what horizons the enemy is looking at. The enemy wants to lead one down a dark, endless, vague path. And then, they want to take cash from you and sell things on credit. It is not even clear if they will sell on credit. If the sanctions are to remain in place, and then they return to the JCPOA saying that they will still hold onto the snapback option – in other words, they say that they could restore five resolutions for example – this will have more harm than benefit. This is what lifting sanctions was about.

Interviewer: Another danger that may come up is that the American side might make some artificial moves toward lifting sanctions. For example, they might say that some individuals have been removed from the list of sanctions. What serious, practical steps should the US take toward lifting sanctions?

Dr. Jalili: First of all, all sanctions should be lifted, because we believe that these sanctions are oppressive and wrong. They themselves say that Trump is a senseless, unreasonable person and that is why he has done these things. Well, they should compensate for all of this. More specifically, the two important sanctions that exist today are related to our banking system and to oil.

You witnessed that it was not the Americans who made the recent move. Rather it was the Europeans, even though they had previously claimed that they were not of the same opinion as Trump. However, the Council of the European Union for Foreign Affairs has published a manifesto which is very interesting. It clarifies the path for us in a precise manner! This is what our Leader has stated. It says that Iran should begin its commitments again. For example, it should return the enrichment process to three percent, that it should put an end to recent moves it has made, and that it should begin to honor its commitments again. Then what will they do? They say that in return, the US will create a reliable framework for the purchase of goods that are essential for Covid-19!

Interviewer: The next question is about the recent move made by the Parliament and the administration with the purpose of reducing some of our JCPOA commitments. What is your analysis of this move and its consequences?

Dr. Jalili: This is a completely reasonable, logical decision. In every agreement, if the other side fails to fulfill part of its commitments, reason dictates that you too should not fulfill part of your own commitments, let alone if the other side completely withdraws from the agreement. Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA document say that if the other side does not honor their commitments, Iran has the right to completely or partially stop its own commitments. But Iran has only partially - not completely - stopped fulfilling its commitments. The recent bill ratified by the Parliament says that Iran is to only partially withdrawn from its commitments. But even if we had stopped our commitments completely, it would have been reasonable because the other side has done nothing to honor its promises.  

Interviewer: In the text that the Leader of the Revolution wrote in provisionally approving the JCPOA, he set certain conditions for the fulfillment of our commitments. But some of these were not carried out. In fact, certain problems arose in this area. Now, if we wish to benefit from the JCPOA experience and act accordingly, what is the country’s roadmap on this path? For example, how can we enforce “commitment in return for commitment”?

Dr. Jalili: It is very important that we not repeat the same mistake twice. What we gained from the JCPOA was that we have understood that we cannot trust the US and other great powers such as the European countries. And we have witnessed that none of them has fulfilled their commitments.

What I want to say is that if we have had a bitter experience on the path that we are taking, and we must not let this happen again. As for your question about what action we should take, I should say that the lifting of sanctions is one of our goals and demands. We must state this and pursue it.

Let me give an example. When the Revolution took place, the enemy wanted to halt the progress of our nation. As it happens, the first option they pursued was the military option. They did their best in that area. But why don’t they pursue the military option now after the passage of many years? It is because our people have stripped that option of its effect due to their resistance, and as a result the enemy has understood that the military option will not work anymore. Today too, the enemy is holding onto the lever of sanctions. We say that these sanctions should be lifted. But there is something even higher than lifting sanctions, and that is nullifying the effect of the sanctions and not allowing the enemy to use the lever of sanctions anymore.

For example, one of the things that the enemies wanted to impose sanctions on was gasoline. Despite the fact that we are one of the greatest oil producers in the world, the enemies said that they would impose sanctions on gasoline. This was because at that time, we used to import gasoline and the enemy knew that gasoline was something important for people’s daily lives. That was why they brought up this subject many times. Well, imposing sanctions on gasoline is something important, but why aren’t they bringing up this discussion today? Why was that option removed from the table even during the Obama administration? It was because Iran turned into a producer and even an exporter of gasoline. Our youth made great accomplishments in the Persian Gulf Star Refinery which led to Iran becoming a gasoline exporter today. This means counteracting the effect of sanctions.

We may similarly refer to Corona. On this issue too, our people have witnessed that they began to play games from the very beginning. But they suddenly saw that our nation was able to produce its own masks, test kits and vaccine. Therefore, they cannot use this as a lever against us anymore.

There are around 200 countries in the world. Who says that the world is confined to the US and a few European countries? We have approximately 15 countries around us whose imports amount to a thousand billion dollars. This is a very good market which is available to us. As it happens, they need many of our products.

We should concentrate on constructive interaction with the world on a large scale, and the world is not confined to the US and a few European countries. We should make up for this shortcoming.

Interviewer: As the last question, how do you find the Leader’s approach toward diplomacy, negotiations and interaction with the world?

Dr. Jalili: The esteemed Leader of the Revolution has stated many times that such constructive, large-scale interaction is an important principle and necessity. This should be done. Moreover, if we can have constructive, large-scale interactions with the world, this will be one of the ways to offset the effects of sanctions. Under such circumstances, no one will think that everything is in their hands and that if we do not have relations with them, then our options will be limited. No, we have many options. Another point is that today China is a great power in the world. Their President comes to Iran saying that they are ready to have strategic relations with Iran, and he puts forward proposals in various economic areas. Well, this is an opportunity. There is also Russia and other neighbors. If we take this option, the other side might even reconsider their calculations. They may say, “Even if I exert maximum pressures, pressures will be discharged from the other side. This is because Iran is providing for its needs by interacting with other countries.”

At the end of this talk, let us remember the great Martyr Haj Qasem [Soleimani]. He used to say that when we look at the field, we see that things are not as they say at all, that they are very weak, vulnerable and easy to defeat, and that we can act in a very strong manner. This exists in other fields as well, including in economics, diplomacy and politics. And they are weaker than the image they portray.


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  • Experiences from JCPOA