Economic sanctions against Iran “have failed utterly,” the Islamic republic’s foreign minister said of Western efforts to curtail Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, just days after securing a deal with world powers to temporarily ease some of those same sanctions.
“When sanctions started, Iran had less than 200 centrifuges. Today Iran has 19,000 centrifuges, so the net product of the sanctions has been about 18,800 centrifuges that have been added to Iran’s stock of centrifuges,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with Al-Jazeera that aired Tuesday night. “So sanctions have utterly failed in that regard.”
In addition, Mr. Zarif said the sanctions, which constrict Iran’s oil industry and central bank, have invited consternation for the West among Iranians, whose ability to buy food and medicine has been crippled.
“Iranians are almost allergic to pressure and intimidation. They respond negatively,” he said.
Late last month, Iran and the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany reached a deal that limits Iran’s uranium enrichment for six months in exchange for a partial easing of the sanctions. Western nations suspect Tehran of using its centrifuges to enrich uranium to a high quality in order to build an atomic bomb, a charge that Iran denies.
The Obama administration has urged lawmakers to avoid adding new sanctions during the six-month period, warning of possibly derailing the diplomatic breakthrough with Iran’s new leadership.
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisles have criticized the deal, as have U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, who both view a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said Wednesday that the agreement leaves President Obama having to “pray Iran will act differently [than it has] for the last 40 years.”
“Iran has to do nothing,” Mr. Hunter, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, said on C-SPAN, according to Air Force Times. “It is part of the Middle East culture [to] do anything you can … to get the best deal.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, last week credited the sanctions for bringing Iranian leaders to the negotiations, adding that “any reduction relieves the psychological pressure of future sanctions and gives them hope that they will be able to gain nuclear weapon capability while further sanctions are reduced.”
Mr. Schumer said the terms of the deal are so bad that it makes it more likely that Congress will pass legislation stiffening the sanctions.
In Tehran, Mr. Zarif noted that, under the deal struck in Geneva, Iran does not give up the right to enrich uranium.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hunter, a former Marine who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the U.S. should be prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons against Iran if war becomes inevitable, though he “sure as hell” hopes that doesn’t happen.
U.S. military action against Iran, he said, would take the form of a “massive aerial bombing campaign” that would involve no “boots on the ground.”