Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif does not believe 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.”
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, CNBC writes.
“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 U.S. blacklisting of the IRGC, Iran’s most powerful security organization with huge stakes in the economy, was the first time any nation has labeled another country’s military a terrorist organization.
The Iranian minister 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 U.S. military has not suggested it would change its behavior 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.