Iranian MP: Yes, we need nukes, ‘to put Israel in its place’

In remarks later removed from Iranian website, ultra-conservative parliamentarian denies Tehran currently seeking bomb

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, attends talks in Geneva on Iran's nuclear program, November 22, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Fabrice Coffrini)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, attends talks in Geneva on Iran's nuclear program, November 22, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Fabrice Coffrini)

An Iranian parliamentarian said that his country needs nuclear weapons, “to put Israel in its place.”

In remarks first reported by Iranian news website Tasnim but later removed, Mohammad Nabavian added, however, that his country was not currently pursuing the bomb. Other Iranian sites kept his statements up.

“We don’t aspire to obtain a nuclear bomb, but it is necessary so we can put Israel in its place,” said Mohammad Nabavian, a member of a small ultra-conservative faction, during a January 3 speech to political activists in the city of Mashhad, according to a translation by MEMRI.

Nabavian also revealed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s account of the White House’s eagerness to speak with Tehran, even after Rouhani repeatedly ignored the requests.

“At the meeting we had with the president, Rouhani said, ‘After I won the elections, Obama relayed a message to me, before visit to New York. The White House contacted me five times seeking a meeting.’ Now the question must be asked: Why does this superpower insist on meeting Iran’s president… while calling us a third-world [country]?”

The legislator said that the American outreach was a sign of the Obama administration’s desperation.

“If Obama asked for a meeting five times before the visit to New York and several times during the visit, it’s because over these eight years measures were taken and, as a result, the United States needs Iran. In Syria, the US did not manage to attack and was humiliated. In practice, Obama was humiliated because he did not stand up to Iran, and hence it is necessary to meet with Iran’s president to show that he is a strong man and tell the world: I brought Iran to the negotiating table after 30 years. That’s why following the telephone call, this message — ‘we negotiated with Iran’ — was reported to the world.”

Nabavian’s also indicated that Western sanctions on the Islamic Republic, especially on banking and oil, were taking a serious toll on the government’s ability to function.

“Forty-nine percent of our budget depends on oil,” he emphasized. “This is a very high figure. This means that half our budget comes from oil money. In [March 2012-March 2013,] we had to sell 2,700,000 barrels of oil daily to supply the budget. Now take into account banking sanctions [even] more severe than the oil sanctions. Since June 2012 all the world’s banks have been barred to us and we don’t have permission to exchange even a dollar. Think of it, even if we sold 2,700,000 barrels of oil, how could we have conducted the financial transactions?”

China and Russia played a major role in helping Iran cope with the embargo, said Nabavian.

“Putin sent the governor of his central bank directly [to Tehran] to secure alleviations in the field of money transfers and barter trade,” he recounted. “Likewise, China transferred to our account 10 billion toman from the blocked funds.”

Israel’s strenuous objections to the deal came up during talks between the P5+1 and Iran that temporarily broke down, according to Nabavian’s account. During the Geneva meetings in early November, the Iranian delegation rejected the text of an agreement presented by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

“‘The negotiations began and the [bilateral] negotiations with the Americans progressed rapidly, and in this manner we obtained 90% agreement and 10% disagreement,” Nabavian quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi as saying. “‘Finally, Wendy Sherman contacted John Kerry to come. Kerry arrived on Friday afternoon and said that in the morning he had met with Netanyahu and his ears were ringing from his screams.'”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived at the negotiations, Araqchi told Nabavian, “and looked at the text that was the agreement with the Americans. He drew a line through three of its issues and finally a third text was created that was unacceptable to us and we returned to Iran.”

The six world powers known as the P5+1– the permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany– finally reached an interim agreement with Iran on November 24. The deal, known as the Joint Plan of Action, puts limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment program in return for an easing of some international sanctions on Tehran for six months while a permanent deal is negotiated.

The United States and its allies believe Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at producing a nuclear weapon, a claim that Tehran denies, saying it is intended only for peaceful purposes.

Over the past month, experts from both sides have held several rounds of talks in Geneva to work out details on carrying out the agreement. Both sides reported progress in the most recent talks.

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