Iran’s Foreign Minister Turns to YouTube to Defend Tehran’s Nuclear Program

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif calls for "dignity" and "respect," but makes no direct mention of the uranium enrichment that is at the heart of diplomatic wrangling under way between Iran and the West

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Thomas Koehler / Photothek / Getty Images

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran, in New York City, Sept. 24, 2013.

Without quite saying what he’s talking about — it’s the right to enrich uranium on Iranian soil — Iran’s Foreign Minister talks for nearly five minutes in a new YouTube video about everything that’s wrapped up in that highly technical issue, which coincidentally is one that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon.

“What is dignity?” Mohammad Javad Zarif asks, peering at the camera through rimless spectacles. “What is respect? Are they negotiable? Is there a price tag? Imagine being told that you cannot do what everyone else is doing, what everyone else is allowed to do. Do you back down? Would you relent? Or would you stand your ground?”

The video, titled “Iran’s Message: There Is a Way Forward,” was released on the eve of the scheduled resumption of talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva on Wednesday. It’s the latest bit of public diplomacy from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and one of the more entertaining ones. Iran has taken substantial pains to change its image since the June election of Hassan Rouhani as President, and met with considerable success at the U.N. General Assembly and festivities around it, an excursion crowned with a historic phone call from U.S. President Barack Obama. But the video effort takes some chances, opening as it does to a winsome piano solo as the camera follows Zarif through the richly adorned hallways of a Tehran palace to our little talk. The solemn style is Persian to the core, but if the intended audience is a Western one, the approach risks framing the most volatile fundamental issue of the nuclear talks as an episode of Masterpiece Theatre.

The greater risk, though, may be the decision not to name the matter at hand: uranium enrichment, which Iran insists is a “right” granted it under membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and which negotiators on the other side, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, say is not a right at all. Iranians are masters of what has been termed “Oriental indirection” — which amounts to not quite saying what you mean, but getting your point across in a range of subtle ways. Yet Iran’s leaders have repeatedly said (and Zarif himself just the other day) that being able to continue enriching uranium inside Iran is the government’s “red line.” In the video, however, the soft-spoken Foreign Minister prefers to emphasize what is not the issue:

“It’s not about stubbornness, or refusal to take into account the views of others,” Zarif says. And: “We have repeatedly joined hands to stand up against tyranny, demanding respect for our freedom.” And: “For us, nuclear energy is about a leap, a jump toward deciding our own destiny, rather than allowing others to decide for us.” That’s the Iranian case for a nuclear program, all right: nationalism, pride and an appetite for scientific achievement.

The problem, once again, is what’s left unsaid: in Iran, the government blocks social-media such as Twitter, Facebook and indeed YouTube — the same tools Rouhani’s people have embraced in their campaign to win the West.

26 comments
Janibek Shamelkhanov
Janibek Shamelkhanov

The main sponsors of terrorism in the region are Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are ruled by US who in turn is ruled by Israel. Hence why Iran shouldnt have the nuclear bomb to defend itself?

Omid Khosravani
Omid Khosravani

Some comments are written by peopld who got PhD degrees in foreign policy from Fox news university.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Unfortunately, the prime minister utilized YouTube in a very ineffective manner.  His clip will not have any impact on the broader debate, and will be forgotten by the weekend.

Next, please.

Barg Sabz
Barg Sabz

the interesting point is that facebook, Utube, and other social networks are filtered in iran for ordinary people but not for zarif , and goverment, they R master in telling lies and duplicity

AjaxLessome
AjaxLessome

Iran says it has an inalienable right to nuclear program. That is right, as it is with every other country of the world under the aegis of the United Nations considering all nations as free and sovereign. But when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made it clear that Iran wished to wipe some sovereign countries out of the world map, the UN would only be showing itself as irresponsible and unresponsive to dangers to its members if it allows a rogue regime get away with such a threat where evidence of acrimonious hatred has been established, with the denial of the holocaust which the subsisting establishment views as the most heinous crime against humanity.

SassanK.Darian
SassanK.Darian

Zarif is a charlatan and a terrorist. We must not be fooled by these hooligans who have terrorized not only the Iranian people through Islamofascist tyranny but has been involved in terrorism throughout the world. This is a pariah regime and needs to be treated as such. These so-called "moderates" aim to fool the west once again just as Khatami did.

AlexanderJames
AlexanderJames

well no, thats not the problem, that plays into their point. I mean China and many other countries block common tools of social media and other parts of the internet, yet are able to continue producing nuclear fuel. The question is still, why did we single Iran out to begin with and are those circumstances still in play?


My issue with the video is that it hits some tender points for western audiences. We all need a sober appreciation for our common destiny, our common challenges, our common destiny, through muslim eyes may mean the judgement of Allah and the peace that will come about once all the infidels are dealt with. Then there's the tone of, Iran has given the world a great opportunity this past summer, which is just boastful to the max; let's not forget who's selling to who here. And lastly, every few sentences he adds an overtone of 'you can't stop us even if you wanted to' which just makes it sound confrontational again.


ps - in your article you quote him as 'demanding respect for our freedom' when he actually said 'demanding respect for our free will'

Craig Conrad
Craig Conrad

iran can't win its gonna face more external pressure from our country since its number one ally syria is at war!

Nikhil Bagade
Nikhil Bagade

A religion that could be manipulated is not a religion...it's a human invention..come to India and see what these inventions have led us to: utter stupidity and human abuses!

Homed Sadeghian
Homed Sadeghian

I'm surprised you do not distinguish between the religious politicians and the politicians who manipulate the religion!

Bahman Moghimi
Bahman Moghimi

There are more Facebook members and bloggers in Iran than 99 percent of the world... Even the leader of Iran is a member of Facebook. How would you say such a crap?

Nikhil Bagade
Nikhil Bagade

Learning from the mistakes will help you rather than denying them! :-/ get rid of your religious politicians..solve the human right issues.. :-/

Moe Majdi
Moe Majdi

Its to defend all countries' right to have their own nuclear program.

Nikhil Bagade
Nikhil Bagade

true..they are indeed propagandising...i acknowledge that and tell all my friends about it too...but, that doesn't hide the stupidity which you inherited through various things like religion, tradition, etc...blaming them doesn't solve your problems!

Nathan Kolton
Nathan Kolton

They don't need to defend their absolute right to nuclear power no matter if its for a weapon or electricity. Israel has nukes,Pakistan,India have nukes Iran can and SHOULD have nukes to even the threat of the terrorist threat from israel in the ME.

Nathan Kolton
Nathan Kolton

Believing the garbage the western and jewish media puts out makes you dumb. :)

Lu Con
Lu Con

And I believe Israel is behind todays attacks

JoeInFla
JoeInFla

I tell you what, Nathan -- Go to Iran, where there is no free press and almost all social media is blocked.  I am sure the education you get will make you look even less intelligent than your current posts.  BTW, keep your antisemitism to yourself.  It does nothing for your pathetic arguments.