Prisoner Swap With Americans a Mutual Achievement

Prisoner Swap With Americans a Mutual AchievementPrisoner Swap With Americans a Mutual Achievement

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he is happy for the families of US prisoners released under a swap deal with Iran, calling it an “important achievement” for both sides.

“That’s the type of people we are. We implement. We fulfill our promises,” Zarif, who was at the center of the high-stakes swap, said in an exclusive TV interview with CNN published on Thursday.

“I’m happy for all the families. I’m happy for the family of Jason and the family of Amir Hekmati, and Mr. Abedini, and others, now have their loved ones with them.”

“We believe that they had committed acts that were illegal,” he said of the five freed US prisoners in the swap.

“All of them are Iranian-American families,” Zarif said referring, as well, to most of the prisoners released by the US.

“I’m happy for the families of other Iranian-Americans, who still live in the United States, but (are) now back to their loved ones.

“I think it was an important achievement that we all made together.”

The prisoner swap took place a week ago, on the same day that the July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and the US and five other powers went into force, giving Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for temporary constraints on its nuclear program.

Just as the United States was lifting sanctions, it was implementing new ones over entities and individuals linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program.

“We believe there was no base in law,” Zarif said of the new sanctions, “there was no base in reality and it wasn’t necessary.”

“The United States has this fixation on missiles. I call it a sort of addiction—addiction that some in the United States have to sanctions and pressure.

“Just like people who smoke, they know that (sanctions) don’t work, but the addiction prevents them from just calling it quits.

“So I think it’s best if the United States would once and for all determine for itself that sanctions don’t work. That with Iran, negotiations, talking, respect, always works.”

  Saudis Scared by Improvement in Iran-West Ties

Zarif said Riyadh is “panicking” over the potential for reduced tensions between Tehran and the West after last year’s nuclear agreement.

“We do not have a fight to pick with Saudi Arabia. We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia can be two important players who can accommodate each other, who can complement each other, in the region,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the Saudis have had the illusion that backed by their western allies, they could push Iran out of the equation in the region.”

Zarif said the alliance between Saudi Arabia and western nations, and the tension between those nations and Iran, provided a “smokescreen” that allowed Saudi Arabia to “export this Wahhabi ideology of extremism.”

Tensions between Tehran and Riyadh spiraled after Iranian protesters, angered by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, stormed the kingdom’s embassy in early January. The move prompted Saudis to break off bilateral ties. The two back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Zarif said, “We don’t expect, or we’re not interested even, in pushing Saudi Arabia out of this region, because Saudi Arabia is an important player in this region.

“We were always in the community of nations. Now their allies have recognized that Iran is a serious partner.”