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Iranian FM Mocks Obama, Admits Holding Ship for Ransom, Calls Washington Post Reporter a Spy

In a speech at New York University today, Iranian foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif lashed out at President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate, justified the detention of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship, and suggested that The Washington Post‘s Tehran reporter, Jason Rezaian, is a spy.

Josh Rogin of Bloomberg View reported on Zarif’s remarks.

In a set of blustery and self-righteous remarks, Iran’s top diplomat assured the crowd at New York University that President Barack Obama would be compelled to stop enforcing sanctions only days after any nuclear agreement was signed and would have to figure out how to lift congressional sanctions on Iran within weeks, no matter what Congress has to say about it. He also said that any future president, even a Republican, would be compelled to stick that agreement.

Zarif also took several shots at the U.S. Senate, just as it debated amendments to a bill designed to slow the lifting of sanctions against Iran and give Congress an oversight role on the deal. …

Zarif said that if there is a nuclear agreement by June 30, the negotiators’ latest self-imposed deadline, then within a few days the United Nations Security Council would pass a resolution lifting all UN sanctions and requiring Obama to stop enforcing all of the U.S. sanctions immediately.

As Rogin noted, “The gap between his view and Obama’s of how sanctions relief will occur shows that there is no agreement on the issue.”

Zarif also dismissed Obama’s assurances that if Iran violated a future nuclear deal, the United States could snap sanctions back into place. He also accused the administration of violating the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), because of “the Treasury Department having added sanctions designations on Iranians that were not related to the nuclear program.”

The JPOA (.pdf) only prohibited the imposition of new nuclear related sanctions. The sanctions in question were not nuclear related, and were in reality the application of existing sanctions, not new ones.

In explaining yesterday’s seizure of the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris, Zarif said that the ship was seized because its owner, the shipping company Maersk, failed to pay certain fees to Iran “some 15 or 20 years ago.” Zarif also said that Rezaian “will have to defend himself in court against serious charges,” and did not defend the reporter. The Washington Post characterized his remarks as suggesting “that a Washington Post reporter facing charges of espionage in Iran may have been asked to gather information by someone working for the U.S. government.”

[Photo: New America / YouTube ]