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Iranian FM Zarif Claims Netanyahu, Saudis Goading Trump into War

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reacted with surprise and attempted satire Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would stick by Saudi Arabia despite allegations over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
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DEBORAH DANAN

TEL AVIV – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday said he does not believe President Donald Trump wants war with Iran, but added that the American president could be lured into a conflict by a “B-team” comprising national security adviser John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. 

“I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” Zarif said in an interview with Reuters at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York. “But that doesn’t exclude him being basically lured into one.”

Zarif pointed to what he coined a “B-team” goading him into war, which included Bolton and Netanyahu.

The Associated Press quoted Zarif as saying that Trump’s aim “is to bring us to our knees to talk,” while Bolton as well as U.S. allies in the Middle East want “regime change at the very least” and the “disintegration of Iran.”

Zarif added that Trump doesn’t seek war, since as part of his campaign promises he pledged “not to waste another $7 trillion in our region in order to make the situation only worse.”

However, his “B-team” is trying “to push Iran to take action” as a pretext for “crazy” and “adventurous” military actions on the part of the U.S.

“President Trump has a plan, but he’s being lured into not a plan but a trap,” Zarif warned in a question-and-answer session at the Asia Society. “It will cost another $7 trillion and even a greater disaster.”

According to remarks made to Reuters, the Iranian top diplomat floated the possibility that people could attempt “to plot an accident” in order to spark a broader crisis.

“Those who have designed the policies that are being pursued do not simply want a negotiated solution. But let me make it clear that Iran is not seeking confrontation, but will not escape defending itself,” he said, according to Reuters.

The U.S. moves to list the IRGC a terrorist organization as well as the decision to end sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian oil were “absurd,” he said, and added that Iran would act with “prudence.”

“We will exercise prudence but it doesn’t mean that if the United States changed the rules of the game, or changed the rules of engagement, it would be able to get away with that,” Zarif said.

In regard to the sanctions waivers, Zarif said, “I mean there are always ways of going around the sanctions. We have a PhD in that area.”

“We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil,” Zarif said, according to AP.

“We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Straits of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil. That is our intention and that is what we believe will happen,” he said.

“But if the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it would be prepared for the consequences,” Zarif said.

What does “prevent” mean?

“The B team wants the United States to take crazy measures. And it won’t be the first time that the United States has taken adventurous measures,” Zarif replied.

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