New York: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif does not believe US President Donald Trump wants war with Iran, but he told Reuters on Wednesday that Trump could be lured into a conflict.
“I don’t think he wants war,” Zarif said in an interview at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York.
“But that doesn’t exclude him being basically lured into one.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zarif’s remarks.
Zarif said a so-called “B-team,” including Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could goad Trump into a conflict with Tehran.
“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.
In somewhat cryptic remarks, Zarif also warned of the possibility that people could try “to plot an accident” that could trigger a broader crisis.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions.
Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions.
The US blacklisting of the IRGC, Iran’s most powerful security organisation with huge stakes in the economy, was the first time any nation has labeled another country’s military a terrorist organisation.
Zarif said Iran would act with “prudence” in response to what he saw as dangerous policies by the United States. In one example, he said Iran would still allow US warships to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil artery.
Zarif called the decision on the IRGC “absurd,” but suggested that Iran did not plan to respond militarily unless the United States changed the rules of engagement guiding how it interacts with Iran’s forces.
The US military has not suggested it would change its behaviour after the blacklisting.
“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.