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EghtesadOnline: Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif chided the United States for transforming the Persian Gulf into a "tinderbox" with its massive arms sales to regional allies.

"The US [sold] $50 billion worth of weapons to the region last year. Some of the countries in the region with less than a third of our population spend $87 billion on military procurement," Zarif told Al Jazeera during his Monday visit to Qatar.

"If you are talking about threats coming from the region, the threats are coming from the US and its allies who are pouring weapons in the region, making it a tinderbox ready to blow up," he warned. 

As the United States maintains its "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, tension is on the rise in the Persian Gulf, raising concerns over a full-blown military escalation, Financial Tribune reported.

While the US has beefed up its military presence in the region, the administration of US President Donald Trump is pressuring allies to join an international naval coalition to combat Iranian activities in the Strait of Hormuz—one of the world's busiest and most important shipping routes.

Iran's government says the naval buildup could destabilize the entire region and has called for US vessels to leave.

"We believe that the best the US can do for the protection of maritime navigation is to just leave people alone; don't interfere," Zarif said. 

"This is basically a hostile act against Iran and I do not believe it will have any impact other than insecurity."

The crisis between the two powers escalated last year when Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear agreement signed between world powers and Iran in 2015, saying it was a bad deal. He has since reinstated sanctions targeting Tehran and countries trading with it, a move Zarif called "economic warfare".

He also said, "I think the United States is the source of instability in this region. I think US allies, unfortunately, have been the source of instability." 

"What is very clear—extremely clear—is that we are not seeking war; we do not want confrontation; we want development for our people, we want development for our region," the chief diplomat said.

"We need stability here, but stability should be for everybody. We cannot have stability for some and instability for others. We need to have stability for all countries in the region and we are prepared to protect stability for all countries in the region, and for those who depend on our region."



Best Deal 

On Iran's continued commitment to the nuclear pact and its viability, Zarif said he believes "it is the best deal that was possible".

"It wasn't the best deal for everybody because you cannot have the perfect deal. There is no perfect deal," he said. 

"And if President Trump is given correct advice, he will be able to basically accept the reality that this is the best deal possible and we can move forward."

However, the foreign minister believes the deal can proceed even without US involvement, as long as the remaining participants agree to fulfill their own commitments. 

"What we want them to do and what we expect them to do is stay committed. And we will stay committed as long as they are," he said.

So far, the European Union is sticking to the deal by offering a mechanism to bypass US sanctions.

"I think it's an important signal that the United States is getting more and more isolated—not because of anything we have done but because of what they are doing," Zarif said.

On Iran's ties with its neighbors in the Persian Gulf, Zarif said the country hopes to achieve normalization of relations.

"What we have called for, and repeat, is that our neighbors—all of us—belong to this region, we cannot leave this region. Others will leave this region; others will not secure us; others will not provide us with the security umbrella that we need. We can provide each other with that security umbrella. We extend our hand, and our hand remains extended, to all our neighbors."

Zarif admitted he is "certainly concerned" about the potential for a war in the region. "But as a diplomat, I always need to look for a peaceful way out. And that's what we are trying."


US arms Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif Persian Gulf Inflow Region Massive tinderbox arms sales allies