Addressing a conference at the prestigious Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran, Iran’s foreign minister slammed the Saudi crown prince as “simple-minded” over his approach and rhetoric toward the Islamic Republic.
In a ceremony May 1 to commemorate Professors’ Day at the university, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke about current developments in the world and in the region. As he entered the university's premises, a group of students believed to belong to the Basij association on campus held signs with slogans against the nuclear deal and the Foreign Ministry’s emphasis on constructive engagement with the world. According to local media, a number of the students attacked Zarif’s vehicle, punching and kicking it.
In reference to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Zarif stated, “The young, simple-minded Saudi comes and says, ‘We aren’t afraid of Iran, [and] Iran is the fifth military power of the Islamic world.’ Now I wonder if this is true, then why are they moaning and shouting [about Iran] this much?”
Zarif continued, “In the past year, Saudi Arabia was the third in the world in terms of buying weapons. They spent $67 billion, and this amount of arms purchases indicates how worried they are. They are acknowledging that they aren’t able to resist Iran, because the sources of power have changed. They aren’t even able to overcome Qatar. Qatar has brought Saudi Arabia to its knees, because the sources of power and the tools for reaching power have changed.”
In 2017, Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar and imposed a blockade on the peninsula nation.
Zarif said, “We are different from the other regional countries. Our development and progress is indigenous. Mr. [US President Donald] Trump can’t tell us, ‘If I don’t support you for two weeks, you are going to be toppled.’ When Trump said this to a number of countries in the region, the Saudi foreign minister [Adel al-Jubeir] stated that ‘if America stops supporting Qatar for one week, this country would face a problem’ — [he said this] in order to say that Trump didn’t mean [Saudi Arabia].”
The Iranian foreign minister then urged media outlets in Iran to act in line with the national interest in an implicit reference to the hard-liners. “We shouldn’t [let] a number of media [outlets] destroy our people’s self-confidence every day. We should provide hope and self-confidence to the people. We should tell [our people] that Mr. Trump has been saying for two years, ‘I will kill the JCPOA’ [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. During the presidential campaign, he repeatedly emphasized that ‘the first thing I will do will be to kill the JCPOA.’ But it has now been two years and he hasn’t been able to do this,” Zarif said.
Addressing hard-liners and domestic critics of the nuclear deal, the top Iranian diplomat stated, “Why do you tell the people, ‘What madman is willing to come to Iran to invest?’ Why do you prepare the ground for capital flight? Why don’t you give the people self-confidence? What are the uses and values of this domestic political infighting?”
Of note, hard-line media outlets have consistently engaged in negative reporting on the nuclear deal, consistently pointing out that the promised economic dividends of the accord have not materialized in any way.
Zarif then directly addressed his critics, saying, “Our country finds itself in a special situation. Why don’t you trust your diplomats and say that a certain diplomat [Zarif] has been deceived, while Mr. Trump and Mr. [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu say that it was America that was deceived in the [nuclear] negotiations, and that it was Iran that profited [from the nuclear deal]?”
The JCPOA was signed in July 2015, following two years of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany).