EghtesadOnline: The Americans are suffering defeats in the Middle East because they have sided with the "wrong" partners, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said, adding that Iran is a "force for stability" in the region.
"They [the Americans] have aligned themselves with the wrong people in our region. And they cannot accept that they're suffering defeat because they simply chose the wrong side," he said during a recent interview with CBS News.
“The Americans, according to US President Donald Trump, have spent $7 trillion in the Middle East,” Financial Tribune quoted Zarif as saying.
"Their allies, their clients, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have spent billions upon billions of dollars trying to create unrest, trying to support terrorist organizations, even in areas we are not present, like in North Africa. Look at what they're doing in North Africa. Look at the turmoil in North Africa. We're not even present in North Africa. So you need to look at the trouble where it actually is coming from. It's not coming from Iran."
Asked if he sees opportunities to work with the US diplomatically on shared interests, including in Afghanistan, the chief diplomat said it depends on how Washington defines its interests.
"We have been helpful everywhere. We have fought terrorism in Syria. We have fought terrorism in Iraq," he added, referring to Tehran's assistance in driving out the self-styled Islamic State terrorists who had captured vast terrorists in both Iraq and Syria.
On criticisms of Iran's role in the Middle East, Zarif said, "We are operating in our own region. That's why it's called Persian Gulf. Not the Gulf of Mexico. We are operating in our own region. We are a force for stability in our region. History shows that. The United States is operating far from its shores, in our region. It has to make the correct recognition."
The foreign minister stressed that making up stories against Iran will not resolve America's problems.
When asked whether Tehran sees as a threat Trump's saying in February that he was going to keep US troops in Iraq to watch Iran, he said, "I think the Iraqis heard that as a threat from the president.
"You see, I went to Iraq. I stayed in Iraq for five days. I went to five cities. I went among the people of Iraq and I was welcomed by them. I went to public places. President Trump flew to Iraq, to a military base and left from the same military base within hours in the dark of night. Our president went to Iraq, stayed there for three days, went to public meetings in three Iraqi cities. Now, you tell me who's welcome in Iraq and who's not."
About the prospects for direct talks between the US president and Iranian leaders, Zarif said, "We meet based on mutual respect. We cannot meet somebody who is not respectful, who has violated his country's international obligations, who has withdrawn from agreements."
There is no point in dialogue unless the United States is willing to show that it is a "reliable partner" and it has failed to do so, he added.
On the possibility of a prisoner exchange with the US, the top diplomat said, "We've done it before … I think we can do it again."
The Iranian foreign minister explained that the Trump administration "initially showed interest" in negotiations over a possible prisoner swap and Iran responded to the offer that they had made to engage.
"We are waiting for a reply," he said.
In response to why Tehran does not release some Americans being held in Iran as a show of its seriousness, the minister said, "We're not supposed to show seriousness because we have shown our seriousness by implementing the nuclear deal. It's the United States that needs to prove that it's serious."
Asked if he is linking the two, Zarif said, "No, we're not linking the two. It's just the experience. We've shown that when we say something, we abide by it. The United States has shown that when … they say something they will … then decide whether they want to abide by it or not."