Iran’s foreign minister said on Sunday the shooting down of an Israeli jet after it bombed an Iranian site in Syria had shattered Israel’s “so-called invincibility”, reacting to a critical speech delivered earlier by Israel’s premier.
A few hours after Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the Israeli leader’s warning as a “cartoonish circus which does not even deserve the dignity of a response.” The Iranian foreign minister accused Netanyahu of deliberately escalating the situation with “almost daily incursions into Syrian airspace” at a time when he was under pressure at home.
“I can assure that if Iran’s interests are not secured, Iran will respond, will respond seriously. And I believe it would be a response that means people would be sorry for taking the erroneous action they did,” he said.
Zarif on Sunday threatened that if Israel attacked his country, it will “see the response”. Zarif, in addition to dismissing Netanyahu’s presentation as a “cartoonish circus,” said the recent shooting down of an Israeli F16 after it bombed an Iranian site in Syria had shattered Israel’s “so-called invincibility.”
“Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbors. Once the Syrians have the guts to down one of its planes, it’s as if a disaster has happened. What has happened in the past several days is the so-called invincibility [of Israel] has crumbled,” Zarif said, accusing Israel of mass reprisals against its neighbors and daily incursions into Syria, Lebanon.
The interview with Zarif was held after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the Munich Security Conference that Israel would act against Iran and reiterate his country’s position that Tehran was the world’s greatest threat.
“Well, if they try to exercise that threat, they will see the response.”
Zarif also poked at Netanyahu for his legal problems, saying, “Israel’s major problems are its years-long criminal occupation policies, and I’m not even talking about its corruption.”
Denouncing what he said were Israel’s “almost daily illegal incursions into Syrian airspace,” Zarif said Israel was trying “to create these cartoonish images to blame others for its own strategic blunders, or maybe to evade the domestic crisis they’re facing.”
Zarif called for a new security architecture in the Persian Gulf, which implies that there should be “a strong region, rather than a strong man in the region.”
“We want a strong region. We do not want to be the hegemon in the region, as we believe that the era of hegemony has long passed regionally as well as globally,” the official said.
The Iranian diplomat called for the new security architecture in the Persian Gulf to be based on various measures to strengthen trust between the regional players, from joint military visits and measures to increase transparency in the area of armament to notifications about holding military drills and decreasing defense expenditure. Zarif expressed hope that such measures could lead to the conclusion of the regional non-aggression pact.
“There is an interest [of some players] in showing that there is a disaster happening in the region, that Iran is devouring entire region, which is not the case. We don’t believe in that, we don’t believe that it is in our interest, we don’t believe that’s possible,” the foreign minister said.
Zarif called for a strong region where various countries, even those who have been rivals, coexist and contribute to security, noting that hegemonic tendencies by any regional and global power result in instability. The official went on to say that such situation is “not in the goodness of anybody.”
“It is not feasible. The hegemony is no longer feasible… So we need to start talking instead of creating the impression that there is a crisis,” the Iranian diplomat pointed out.
He also accused the United States of using the conference to “revive hysteria” against Iran and denied that Tehran was seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East. Zarif also reiterated that his country would not renounce the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with six world powers, including the United States, even if the U.S. does.
“I believe President Trump has tried to walk away from that deal from Day 1 of his presidency, and he has done everything in bad faith to prevent Iran from enjoying the deal already,” he said.
In the NBC interview, Zarif also warned Donald Trump that any unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would have implications for the reputation of the United States as an international partner.
“If this administration in the United States fails to respect the obligations that the United States government – not a person, not an individual, not an administration [but] the U.S. government – on behalf of the United States undertook, then nobody will in the future even trust any government, including President Trump’s, to sign an agreement with them because the next administration will have a free hand to violate it.”