Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi told CNN on Friday that the Trump administration’s economic sanctions on Iran have been devastating to country, saying that the sanctions were putting a “knife” on their “throat.”
“In a letter to the United Nations, a new letter to the United Nations, the U.S. says we stand ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran with the goal of preventing further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime,” CNN’s John Berman said to Takht-Ravanchi. “We stand ready to engage without preconditions.”
“So why they are putting the knife on the throat with these economic sanctions at the same time they are claiming to be ready for a dialogue?” Takht-Ravanchi responded. “Then that, you know, these are mutually exclusive. Either you want to have a dialogue or either you want to apply sanctions.”
“So the answer, as far as you’re concerned today is, no?” Berman asked.
“Definitely no,” Takht-Ravanchi responded. “Definitely – it’s a definitely ‘no’ answer.”
“No dialogue?” Berman asked.
“No dialogue as long as this policy of animosity towards the Iranian people continues,” Takht-Ravanchi responded.
CNN’S JOHN BERMAN: I sat down with Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations to talk about the tensions between the two countries.
BERMAN: President Trump says that Iran appears to be standing down. Is he right?
MAJID TAKHT-RAVANCHI, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: With the action that we took the other day, we concluded that phase of our military action against the U.S. forces. It depends on the United States. We didn’t start this episode. It was started by assassinating a top general of the Iranian armed forces in the territory of Iraq. This is against international law. This is against the Iraqi sovereignty. So that phase, when they started something like this, and Iran responded proportionately, that phase was over. So if the U.S. is going to start again, definitely we will have to respond.
BERMAN: A Revolutionary Guard commander, Abdelah Argaki, says that Iran will exact, his words, harsher revenge against the United States. Why would he say that?
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: I do not know exactly what you are referring to here. But our position, the official position, which was started by the government officials, was that Iran’s action was over for the time being. But we are.
BERMAN: What message do you want to send, then, to elements, perhaps, in the Revolutionary Guard? Perhaps elements in organizations like Hezbollah or Iraqi militias that do have some loyalty to Iran that they should stand down barring further U.S. action.
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: We can speak on behalf of the Iranian government. We are not responsible for any action that others might take. It is not our job to say that this gentleman or that gentleman should do this or should not do this.
BERMAN: So you will not ask Iraqi militias to refrain from attacking Americans?
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: It is not our job to ask this group or that group. We are responsible for whatever action we take.
BERMAN: The U.S. vice president, Mike Pence, says that intelligence shows that the Iranian missile strike was meant to kill Americans. He believes that the missiles were intended to kill U.S. troops. What’s the answer?
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: You know, we said before we took our military action, that we would choose the timing and the place. And we chose the place where the attack against Soleimani was initiated. And we do not consider, you know, high number of casualties as an instrumental element in our calculations.
BERMAN: Did you try not to kill Americans?
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: As I said, this is — this is not part of — I’m not a military man. I cannot tell you exactly what was going on. But what I can tell you is that the target was chosen in order to show that we are capable of hitting the target where the plan to kill Soleimani was organized.
BERMAN: To hit the target, but not necessarily kill a high number of Americans.
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: As I said, we are not interested in — we are not looking after killing Americans within this operation.
BERMAN: The president, in his address to the nation, said the United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.
What ways does Iran believe it could embrace peace alongside the United States?
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: First and foremost, the U.S. has to implement what it has agreed to. First, it has to respect the agreements that the United States, with a number of countries and Iran reached. The decision to withdraw from JCPOA was against international law. It was against the will of the international community. So we cannot buy this that there is a sincerity in this claim they want to have dialogue with Iran.
BERMAN: In a letter to the United Nations, a new letter to the United Nations, the U.S. says we stand ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran with the goal of preventing further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime. We stand ready to engage without preconditions.
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: So why they are putting the knife on the throat with these economic sanctions at the same time they are claiming to be ready for a dialogue. Then that — you know, these are mutually exclusive. Either you want to have a dialogue or either you want to apply sanctions.
BERMAN: So the answer, as far as you’re concerned today is, no?
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: Definitely no. Definitely — it’s a definitely ‘no’ answer.
BERMAN: No dialogue.
TAKHT-RAVANCHI: No dialogue as long as this policy — this policy of animosity towards the Iranian people continues.