As Iran’s regime attempts to maintain appearances on the international stage, their foreign minister has received an honor that many Iranians wish he hadn’t. Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran, is being hosted at the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), which is one of America’s most prestigious institutions.
Protests took place on Monday, July 17, from the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) in the U.S. Their picket line was organized as a result of the CFR opening their doors to a member of the ruling theocracy, which has a horrible human rights record. The protestors carried signs and chanted their anger regarding Iran’s human rights record.
During his speech in New York City, Zarif said that his country was an independent judiciary and deflected any notion that the government would be able to help free Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American scholar jailed on espionage charges.
“But we hope an acceptable resolution can be found,” Zarif said. “There are Iranians being detained (by the U.S.) on charges of sanction violations that are not applicable today…for bogus and purely political reasons.”
During a trial that was held behind closed doors, Wang was sentenced to 10 years for spying. He was in Iran to work on his Princeton University thesis on Eurasian history. His family and the university have all issued statements requesting the Iranian government to look into his case. The U.S. administration condemned his sentence and demanded his immediate release, along with three other Americans currently being detained.
Zarif also expressed his doubts that Syria’s Assad had used chemical weapons on his people. “I have serious doubts…And no one has a red-line (on the use of chemical weapons) more than Iran,” said Zarif. He also expressed the belief that Arab governments not caring for their people and foreign influence are the reasons for the anger, frustration and extremism coming out of the Middle East.
He also called the current fighting in Yemen the “worst humanitarian nightmare you can think of” and he hoped it wouldn’t turn into a full-scale war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“We certainly hope that if we don’t agree with each other about the situation in Yemen or about the situation in Syria we can still work with each other in order to bring those situations to an end,” said Zarif. Saudi Arabia has led a coalition that has been bombing the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which are believed to be backed by Iran.
The OIAC issued a statement in protest of Zarif’s speech. “One cannot be oblivious to the messages this endeavor sends to the Iranian people and to their oppressors, Mr. Zarif’s paymasters. Zarif represents a regime, which has executed at least 3,000 Iranians (many in public), since Hassan Rouhani took office…Mr. Hass is offering Zarif a CFR podium just as the United States Congress and international humanitarian organizations look to hold Zarif cabinet colleague, Justice Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi accountable for the 1988 massacre of 30,000 Iranian political prisoners,” said the statement. They also reiterated their commitment to help the Iranian people in their efforts to bring democratic change in Iran and establish a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic in Iran.