TEHRAN (Press Shia) – A former US government adviser described recent decisions by Washington to impose more economic pressures on Tehran as a provocative move and said the Islamic Republic has nonetheless “chosen the least confrontational way possible to respond”.  

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“But Iran cannot ignore the provocation, and has chosen the least confrontational way possible to respond under the (current) circumstances,” Paul Larudee from San Francisco said in an interview with the Press Shia News Agency.

He further pointed to threats posed by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel against Iran, which can “push even farther toward war” and said, “Let us hope that wisdom prevails, even in response to a paucity of wise policymakers in those three countries.”

Larudee is an Iranian-born American political activist and human rights volunteer, who works with the International Solidarity Movement. He is a former contracted US government adviser to Saudi Arabia and a founder of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Press Shia: On Friday, US President Donald Trump’s administration renewed five of seven sanctions waivers that allow Russia and European nations to conduct civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran but revoked the other two as part of its pressure campaign against Tehran, according to the US State Department. Washington also stopped issuing waivers to buy Iranian crude oil on Thursday. Before the US moves, Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, had warned the US against their consequences. “…If our oil is not to be shipped over through the Strait of Hormuz, then the oil of others will definitely not go through the strait either,” Major General Baqeri said last week. Zarif also warned that leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is one of Iran’s “numerous” choices in the wake of tightened US sanctions. What is your assessment of the developments and how do you think about Iran’s possible reaction to the US decision?

Larudee: This is commonly called “posturing”, which is what individuals and nations do when they want to respond to threats without going to war. It is equivalent to the ancient practice of displaying your soldiers side by side on the hilltops to show how big an army you have, usually hoping that the other side will see the wisdom of withdrawing from the fight. Iran is trying to show that no one wins by taking actions that harm the other nation. By showing the options that Iran has, but not actually using those options, Iran hopes that the US and its allies will listen to reason and de-escalate the situation. Of course, the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and others may choose to see this expression of options as a threat and respond with actions that push even farther toward war. But Iran cannot ignore the provocation and has chosen the least confrontational way possible to respond under the circumstances. Let us hope that wisdom prevails, even in response to a paucity of wise policymakers in those three countries.

Press Shia: As you know, Zarif was recently in the US. In multiple interviews with US media outlets and a roundtable with reporters in New York last week, he made the case that a group dubbed “the B-Team” was goading the US toward conflict with Iran, not Trump. The B-team is a group of advisers and foreign leaders whose names share the same letter: National Security Adviser John Bolton, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ). What is your take on Zarif’s remarks? How do you assess the message of his trip to the US?

Larudee: “B-Team” can have a double meaning, as Zarif well knows. It can refer to the coincidence that B is the initial letter of many of their names, but it can also mean that it is inferior to the “A” Team. In fact, all of the persons mentioned are plainly inferior policymakers and tend to substitute arrogance for diplomacy, and aggression for cooperation and mutual benefit. Zarif’s message is that the US is putting its government in the hands of incompetent people, making bad alliances, and moving in the direction of catastrophe for itself as well as its victims.  He also presented the case that Iran is not a threat to anyone, even Israel, but that it will not allow its rights to be violated indefinitely.

Press Shia: Zarif recently said he plans to visit North Korea in the near future. What do you think about possible objectives behind his trip and do you think that it would have links with his recent trip to the US?

Larudee: Given the threats of the US against both Iran and North Korea, it makes sense to explore how they can cooperate.  But it’s also a message to the US, especially since North Korea is a nuclear nation.  Without uttering a single word about nuclear weapons, Iran is making the statement that it’s better to find a peaceful way to resolve differences than to force Iran to explore new options in how to defend itself.  This is the significance of traveling to North Korea immediately following the visit to the US.