Iran on the defensive as U.S. presses Europe: ‘We are just against Zionists’

by WorldTribune Staff, February 17, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal not to break their obligations after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had called on Germany, France and Great Britain to withdraw from the deal.

One day earlier, Pence visited the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime,” Pence said in an address to the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 16.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: ‘The Holocaust was a disaster.’ / Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

“The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” he said.

Zarif not only condemned Pence’s comments, but said the European countries needed to do more to show they are committed to the nuclear deal.

Pence “arrogantly demanded that Europe must join the United States in undermining its own security and breaking its obligations,” Zarif said.

Zarif, addressing the Munich conference on Feb. 17, also said that a barter-type system known as INSTEX – set up last month by France, Germany, and Britain to allow businesses to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran, and thereby evade possible U.S. sanctions – is not enough.

“For instance, INSTEX falls short of the commitments by the [European countries] to save the nuclear deal. Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against a dangerous tide of U.S. unilateralism,” he told the annual gathering of world leaders, top defense officials, and diplomats.

“Many around the world, particularly on this continent, speak eloquently about multilateralism, but they also need to walk the walk,” Zarif said.

Pence, in a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp on Feb. 15, said, “We have the regime in Teheran that’s breathing out murderous threats, with the same vile anti-Semitic hatred that animated the Nazis in Europe.”

Zarif responded by saying “Iran has always supported the Jews. We are just against Zionists. The Holocaust was a disaster.”

Before Pence spoke to the conference in Munich, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the Iran deal as an important channel to Teheran, stressing the need for international diplomacy.

Merkel said that while she shared concerns about Iran’s missile program and regional ambitions, it was important to keep “the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas.”

On Feb. 16, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi insisted that the Islamic Republic respects Judaism but opposes Israel.

“Iran’s historic and cultural record of coexistence and respect for divine religions, particularly Judaism, is recorded in reliable historic documents of various nations,” Bahram Qasemi said, according to Reuters.

“The principle that underlies our foreign policy is the aggressive and occupying nature of the Zionist regime (Israel)…, which is a killing machine against the Palestinian people,” Qasemi added.

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