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5 Jun, 2020 13:50

‘Your advisers made dumb bet’: Iran’s Zarif says prisoner swap with US succeeded ‘DESPITE’ Trump staffers’ efforts

‘Your advisers made dumb bet’: Iran’s Zarif says prisoner swap with US succeeded ‘DESPITE’ Trump staffers’ efforts

The Iranian foreign minister said that people on Trump’s team have been steering the US towards more conflict with Tehran, including scrapping the nuclear deal and undermining peaceful gestures, like the recent prisoner swap.

“We achieved humanitarian swap *despite* your subordinates’ efforts,” Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted to US President Donald Trump.

Trump earlier thanked the Islamic Republic for releasing US Navy veteran Michael White, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 for insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting a private photo on social media. The US, in return, released Iranian-American researcher Majid Taheri, who served 16 months for violating US sanctions against Tehran.

In his tweet, Trump hinted at reaching a “big deal” with Iran sometime after the US presidential election this fall, which the president feels confident of winning. He was apparently referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. Zarif was quick to remind everyone that the deal began falling apart after Trump himself left the agreement two years ago.

And we had a deal when you entered office. Iran & other JCPOA participants never left the table. Your advisors – most fired by now – made a dumb bet. Up to you to decide *when* you want to fix it.

Zarif did not mention anyone by name, but he had frequently accused Trump’s former national security advisor, John Bolton, of steering the president towards greater conflict. A well-known foreign policy hawk, Bolton was dismissed in September 2019.

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Trump unilaterally abandoned the JCPOA in 2018, accusing Iran of secretly violating the deal and citing general mistrust of the Islamic Republic. The move was heavily criticized by the EU, Russia, and China, all of whom are also signatories to the agreement. The global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed at the time that Iran was sticking to the deal.

The US has since ramped up sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil exports, among other things, as part of the so-called ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against the country. Iran responded by scaling down its commitments under the JCPOA, stopping short of formally scrapping it. Officials in Tehran emphasized that they will return to full compliance once the EU provides some sort of relief from the US sanctions.

Prisoner swaps are rare friendly gestures between Tehran and Washington, as the rivals regularly exchange diplomatic and military threats. The situation around the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz also remains tense. In April, US warships and Iranian patrol boats were involved in a standoff, with both sides accusing each other of dangerous maneuvers and provocations.

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