Iranian Foreign Minister: US brought us to the brink of war

Mohammad Javad Zarif claims Iran and the US exchanged angry letters and came "very close to the brink".

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran and the US exchanged angry letters during the recent confrontation that followed the US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the two sides came "very close to the brink," Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC News in an interview on Friday.

Zarif said relations remained tense after the January showdown and blamed President Donald Trump for pursuing a misguided policy toward Iran.

"It's unfortunate that the United States, based on misinformation, based on ignorance and arrogance, combined on a course that has brought the region very close to the brink. We were very close to a war," he said.

Zarif alleged that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had written an "extremely inappropriate letter to Iran" at the height of the crisis in January and that his government responded with a strongly worded reply.

Pompeo's letter contained "threats," Zarif said, but would not repeat what was written as it was beneath him, adding, "Let him say what he put in that letter."

Zarif claimed that the response from the Iran's Foreign Ministry was "not as impolite as his letter."

The State Department could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Iranian Foreign Minister acknowledged that the tone of communication between the two governments had deteriorated.

"It didn't used to be this way," Zarif said, citing negotiations during the Obama administration in which he frequently spoke to then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

"I'm still the same foreign minister that dealt with John Kerry in a respectable way."

Zarif blamed the US administration for triggering the crisis and said that it was up to Trump to pull back.

"Well, the United States hit at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and these are the consequences and we can't control the consequences, nor can the United States. I mean, people are responsible for the consequences of their actions and I think people who initiated this, need to walk back," he said.

Commenting on the Iranian firing of ballistic missiles at two bases housing US troops in Iraq, which came in retaliation for the elimination of Soleimani, Zarif said the missile assault was meant to send a message.

"We wanted to show to the United States that they could not bully Iran. Actions against Iran will have repercussions, but the intention was not to kill anybody," Zarif said. "The intention was to send a message, a very clear message to the United States, that if they kill Iranians, we will hit back."

Even before the elimination of Soleimani, tensions have been growing between Washington and Tehran since Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

In response, Iran gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal, before announcing it will abandon the deal altogether following the killing of Soleimani.

Zarif just recently threatened that his country could quit the global nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if European countries refer it to the UN Security Council over the 2015 nuclear agreement.

His threat came after Britain, France and Germany triggered the dispute mechanism in the nuclear deal that could eventually lead to reimposing UN sanctions on Iran, citing its repeated violations of the agreement.

Last month, Zarif took a conciliatory tone toward the US and suggested Iran was still willing to talk with Washington, though he reiterated his country's previous demand that first the US would have to lift sanctions.