MESOP REPORT : Iranian Minister Discusses Foreign Policy in New York

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif suggested that the timeframe for the implementation for a nuclear agreement — including reducing the enrichment capacity of Iran’s nuclear program and the United States waiving sanctions — could be a matter of weeks after a nuclear deal is signed. The comment came as part of a far-ranging discussion hosted by New York University; Zarif is in Manhattan to attend a U.N. nonproliferation summit. Zarif also discussed the Syrian civil war, saying that diplomatic and military efforts to remove Bashar al-Assad from power have prolonged the war. On Yemen, Zarif said that negotiations should be held in a neutral country, not the United Arab Emirates, which he noted is a “party to the conflict.” Zarif also spoke about the cargo ship seized by Iranian naval forces, which he said were implementing a court decision. “The Persian Gulf is our lifeline,” he said. “We will respect international navigation,”

His comments about Sen. Tom Cotton, whom he dismissed as extraneous to the diplomatic process, got an angry response from the Arkansas senator on Twitter. Sen. Cotton challenged Zarif to a debate in Washington, DC, on the “Constitution” and “Iran’s record of tyranny, treachery, & terror.” Zarif responded on Twitter this morning, saying, “Serious diplomacy, not macho personal smear, is what we need” and congratulating Sen. Cotton on the birth of his son.

Tensions over Strategy Growing in Counter-Islamic State Coalition

Differences in strategic approach are stoking tensions within the coalition of nations fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. While Turkey and Qatar have helped support the rebel Army of Conquest coalition in Syria, a U.S. official told the Washington Post that “it would be impossible for us to either turn a blind eye, let alone to participate in any effort to strengthen” a group of fighters that includes Jabhat al-Nusra. Coalition nations disagree about the best approach to confront the Assad regime, which the United States has been reticent to combat directly. Some coalition countries are acting independently in Syria, and some rebels say they have been promised air protection from Gulf nations.