Iran’s foreign minister bluntly told an invited audience in New York City on Wednesday that the US must recognize the authority of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) if it wanted to navigate the Strait of Hormuz — the strategically-vital sea passage that connects the Persian Gulf with the Arabian Sea.
During an appearance at the Asia Society in Manhattan, Mohammad Javad Zarif was questioned as to whether the Tehran regime might close off the Strait of Hormuz — through which approximately 35 percent of the world’s oil supply is carried — to international shipping.
“When the US enters the Strait of Hormuz, they have to talk to those who are protecting the Strait of Hormuz — and that is the [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Zarif answered.
The IRGC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the Trump administration on earlier this month — marking the first time that the US has formally labeled another country’s military a terrorist group. In a statement announcing the decision, President Donald Trump described the IRGC as “the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.” Trump then added pointedly, “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”
Zarif, who was visiting New York for a UN meeting, depicted Iran as the unfortunate victim of aggressive US unilateralism throughout his remarks on Monday, during a session moderated by the Asia Society’s president and CEO, Josette Sheeran.
Yet the Iranian official was surprisingly conciliatory on the subject of Trump himself, insisting that the US leader’s peaceful instincts were being foiled by an international “plot” involving Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and anti-Iran hawks in Washington, DC.
“I call them the ‘B-team,” Zarif quipped several times during his speech. “Bibi, Bolton, bin Zayad, bin Salman.”
According to Zarif, a kitchen cabinet comprising Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, US National Security Adviser John Bolton, UAE ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayad and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “wants the US to take crazy measures.”
Zarif said he doubted that Trump would be willing to take military action against the Islamic Republic.
“He ran on a campaign promise not to waste another $7 trillion on [war in] our region, and he seems careful to implement his campaign promises,” he said. The true problem lay in “plan B of the ‘B-team,’ because they have a different plan from Trump.”
Zarif went on to assert that Trump was being “lured into a plot” by an anti-Iran coalition.
“It’s not a plan, it’s a plot,” he stressed. “And it will cost another $7 trillion.”
Elaborating, he argued that the key difference in US policy was that “Trump wants to bring us to our knees in order to talk, and the ‘B-team’ wants regime change, they want the disintegration of Iran.”
Later on in his speech, Zarif said Iran took full credit for the military defeats inflicted upon the Islamist terrorist group ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“We are in forefront of fighting terrorism,” he claimed, saying that Iran had been “the only country fighting Da’esh (ISIS)” alongside Iraqi and Syrian ground forces.
Sheeran did not challenge her guest on this point, and no broader discussion ensued concerning the Iranian regime’s support for the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, Iran’s role in crushing the independence bid of Iraqi Kurdistan overwhelmingly supported by a Sept. 2017 referendum, Iran’s attempt to control a land corridor stretching to Israel’s northern border or similar issues.
Zarif was, however, adamant that Iran would continue to export oil to the international market, despite the US announcement on Monday that it would not renew waivers for eight countries to continue purchasing Iranian oil.
“We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil,” Zarif said.
“If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences,” he emphasized, without giving specifics.