Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called for a broad “regional dialogue,” beginning with a resolution to the Yemen conflict, in an op-ed published Monday in The New York Times.
The American-educated Zarif referred to the nuclear crisis between world powers and Tehran as “a symptom, not a cause, of mistrust and conflict.”
With the gains made in pursuit of a broad agreement between Iran and Western powers over its nuclear program, “it is time for Iran and other stakeholders to begin to address the causes of tension in the wider Persian Gulf region,” Zarif urged.
Iran has repeatedly called for an end to Saudi-Egyptian combat operations in Yemen meant to stop the advance of Iran-backed Shiite Houthis and restore the government of Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi.
“Yemen would be a good place to start” a regional dialogue, Zarif wrote. “Iran has offered a reasonable and practical approach to address this painful and unnecessary crisis. Our plan calls for an immediate cease-fire, humanitarian assistance and facilitation of intra-Yemeni dialogue, leading to the formation of an inclusive, broad-based national unity government.”
In the op-ed Zarif insisted that a broad regional and international dialogue about the turmoil should be based on “respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all states; inviolability of international boundaries; noninterference in internal affairs; peaceful settlement of disputes; impermissibility of threat or use of force; and promotion of peace, stability, progress and prosperity in the region.”
The foreign minister’s rhetoric contrasts sharply with the situation on the ground: Iran funds, arms and trains Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has troops on the ground in Syria’s civil war and in Iraq’s sectarian fighting, and backs Yemen’s Houthis. Top regime and military officials regularly call for Israel’s destruction and the “death” of America. Israel has repeatedly called on the US and world powers to make the nuclear deal contingent on Iran’s cessation of hostilities and sponsorship of terror in the Middle East.
In the op-ed, Zarif skips over Iran’s far-reaching geopolitical involvement with a diplomatic offer to Western powers, putting Iran forward as a necessary partner in any international effort to stabilize the region. The foreign minister notes ominously that “the wider Persian Gulf region is in turmoil. It is not a question of governments rising and falling: the social, cultural and religious fabrics of entire countries are being torn to shreds.”
But in the midst of that turmoil, he goes on, “endowed with a resilient population that has stood firm in the face of coercion while simultaneously showing the magnanimity to open new horizons of constructive engagement based on mutual respect, Iran has weathered the storms of instability caused by this mayhem.”
The Iranian regime under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, who has held supreme executive power in the Islamic Republic since he replaced the late founder of the Islamic Republic Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, has seen the nation’s economy wither under international sanctions over its nuclear program and, in 2009, the first signs of a broad protest movement against the government.
With the impending nuclear deal set to bring an infusion of tens of billions of dollars into the ailing economy, the regime believes its position has strengthened and stabilized not only domestically, but as a regional power as well.
“The Iranian people have shown their resolve by choosing to engage with dignity. It is time for the United States and its Western allies to make the choice between cooperation and confrontation, between negotiations and grandstanding, and between agreement and coercion,” he declared.
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