Transcript of the interview of H.E. Dr. Zarif with the Charlie Rose Show

Interview made by the Charlie Rose Show with H.E. Dr.Mohammad Javad Zarif , Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

February 13, 2007  

Show: THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW Date: February 13, 2007 Time: 23:00:00   CHARLIE ROSE: When we come back, we`ll talk to the Iranian ambassador to the United States, Javad Zarif. Thank you very much, Michael. Thank you, Ray. Thank you, David. Back in a moment. Stay with us. Joining me now here in New York is Javad Zarif. He`s Iran`s ambassador to the  United Nations. He`s been at that job since 2002. He has been dealing all this time with a  complicated relationship between Tehran and Washington. I should make note of this fact: It is official now that he will be leaving the job of  Iran`s ambassador to the United Nations, where he has many friends here in the United States and journalists and also other members of the diplomatic community and people in Washington, to go back to Tehran — to do what? JAVAD ZARIF: I`m a civil servant, so the government will decide what I`ll do. But I`d like very much to teach. CHARLIE ROSE: Foreign policy? Because you`ve had — you earlier, before this assignment, you were within the Foreign Ministry. JAVAD ZARIF: Yes, I was deputy foreign minister, but I also taught at the University of Tehran. I teach international law. CHARLIE ROSE: When will this take place? JAVAD ZARIF: Probably sometime in the spring. CHARLIE ROSE: It is inevitable I would ask this. Is this because you have some conflict with policy, and the administration in Tehran wants to go some direction that is against your advice? JAVAD ZARIF: Not necessarily. In diplomatic service, you rotate the posts. And I have served here for five years. And usually people serve for three to four years. So I`ve already overserved. CHARLIE ROSE: When they talk about axis of evil in the president`s speech, what impact did that have? Because it is said in this article by Michael Hirsh that I referred to earlier in this program, “The Hidden War With Iran,” he looks at the history of the diplomatic maneuvers and suggests that there was some motion, and then all of a sudden that speech disrupted everything. JAVAD ZARIF: Iran had played a very active role in stabilizing Afghanistan, in helping the Afghan people to form a new government and in helping the reconstruction of Afghanistan. And after Iran pledged over $500 million for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, hardly a week after that, Iran was — President Bush made his famous speech, in which he called, in that rather unacceptable format, labeling various countries and bunching them together. CHARLIE ROSE: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. JAVAD ZARIF: Which made no sense, and which showed that the United States, again, did not recognize cooperation, did not recognize possibilities, and simply was moved by — I simply have to guess — politics of constituencies. CHARLIE ROSE: The United States, did we come close — before I tell you what they think of you? I mean, of Iran`s attitude about America — did they come close? I mean, was there some sense that you thought the ball was rolling? JAVAD ZARIF: Well, Iran was certainly helpful in Afghanistan. CHARLIE ROSE: No, there`s no question about that. (CROSSTALK) JAVAD ZARIF: And the United States reciprocated by making Iran a part of the axis of evil. So I don`t think we ever came close as far as the U.S. attitude was concerned. CHARLIE ROSE: You are the one when you saw the decree about the formation of the Afghan government, said there`s no mention of the word “democracy” here. JAVAD ZARIF: And no mention of the word “terrorism.” CHARLIE ROSE: And no mention of the word “terrorism.” JAVAD ZARIF: Yes. CHARLIE ROSE: You said that to the people who were writing the document. The United States says the problem here is that your government supports Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, all kinds of organizations that are more interested in terrorism than in contributing to peace. And they are agents for your aspirations. JAVAD ZARIF: First of all, nobody in the international community is agent for the aspirations of another country. If you look at the background, the history, the atrocities that have been committed against the Palestinians and the Lebanese people, they have enough grievances to fight for their own cause and they don`t need to be agents for anybody. But the problem… CHARLIE ROSE: But you offer financial support to them. JAVAD ZARIF: But the problem in the United States is, it equates itself with the international community. It would be useful and certainly instructive for the United States to look at the international community and see if the majority, even if a sizable minority, consider these organizations that the United States so freely considers as terrorists like the United States` terrorist organizations. We need to ask how the United States is dealing with organizations that it itself considers terrorists. Let us not debate how various countries in the world — and I tell you that the overwhelming majority of the countries in the world do not consider groups that are fighting for their national liberation, fighting against foreign occupation, as terrorists. Application of standards by one or two countries against their enemies, labeling of their enemies as terrorists will not take us anywhere. Addressing the issues that are at the heart of the Palestinian problem, at the heart of the Lebanese problem — the fact that Lebanon was occupied by Israeli forces for over two decades, the fact that a resistance was formed in order to resist that occupation, the fact that 33 days of war was imposed on the Lebanese people, a huge number of civilians were murdered in Lebanon, and the United States did not even allow a cease-fire resolution to be adopted in the Security Council. These are the realities in the Middle East. If we`re labeling one group or another as terrorist and labeling this or the other country as supporters of terrorists, it will not resolve the problem. CHARLIE ROSE: Fair enough, I agree with that. But here are the two points that ought to be said. Number one is that those organizations have engaged in terrorist activities, as would be defined generally by many people in the world, not just Israel and the United States. Those organizations have engaged in those activities. That does not mean that they don`t have other aspirations — to be part of a democratic government in Lebanon and in Palestine. JAVAD ZARIF: Let me address a question to you — and I`m not in the business of addressing questions, asking questions — that`s your job… CHARLIE ROSE: And I`m not in the business of answering them. Before you go too far. JAVAD ZARIF: But in the Lebanese war last summer, over 1,000 Lebanese civilians were deliberately targeted. They called that — if you define terrorism as killing of innocent civilians… CHARLIE ROSE: Do you think they were deliberately targeted? (CROSSTALK) JAVAD ZARIF: Just look at the proportions. In Lebanon, over 1,000 people were killed. According to Israeli sources, only 140 or less of them were resistant combatants. On the Israeli side, about 100 and some people were killed. The overwhelming majority, close to 100 of them, were soldiers. Now, apply the definition of terrorism and see who is committing terror against civilians. Why is it that you give — some people give the authority to a regime that has occupied other people`s territory? The authority to designate whoever it doesn`t like, whoever is opposing it as terrorist. Let us apply the same criteria to everybody. Let us condemn killing of innocent civilians. CHARLIE ROSE: What role does Iran want to play in the region, in the world? JAVAD ZARIF: Well, Iran is a country that is interested in stability in its own immediate neighborhood. And that is where our national security interests lie. We want stability in our immediate neighborhood, and that is why we have called time and again for creation of a security and cooperation framework in the Persian Gulf, a region which has seen three wars in the space of three decades, one of which was launched against Iran and Iran suffered from for eight years. So we are interested in stability. We want to play a constructive role in the international community. We have played a constructive role in the international community, and we believe that everybody should base their outlook, should base their approach to international issues not on the outdated outlook…. CHARLIE ROSE: Was Iran in any way supplying money or weapons or people in Iraq to take sides in that sectarian conflict, to the Mahdi Army specifically? JAVAD ZARIF: No, you see, we have said from the very beginning that sectarian conflict in Iraq is the product of the thinking of people like Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al Qaeda ring leader in Iraq. We opposed it then. We oppose it now. You should look at the statements that are coming out of Tehran. Did we once mention a word defining or encouraging sectarianism? Not sectarian violence even, any word defining or encouraging sectarianism in Iraq? But you`ve heard words from others who are encouraging, defining, agitating. You`ve heard the word “Shia crescent.” You`ve heard other words. The scare tactics… CHARLIE ROSE: Shia crescent, that word came from a Muslim leader. JAVAD ZARIF: Shia crescent, unfortunately, was used in order to advance a political agenda, but also led to this scare tactic. It is a scare tactic. There is no Shia crescent. CHARLIE ROSE: OK, but… JAVAD ZARIF: We believe that Iran has no interest — let me say it categorically. Iran has no interest in sectarian violence in Iraq. In fact, Iranian interest is most harmed by sectarianism in the…. CHARLIE ROSE: Then why aren`t you doing more to bring more stability to the region? Why aren`t you… JAVAD ZARIF: We have offered to help and support the government of Iraq in bringing stability to Iraq. The president of Iraq,

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