PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez in Havana on Monday (AFP)
Concerned about continued US sanctions after the July 2015 nuclear agreement, Iran’s Rouhani Government has used a high-profile trip to Cuba to press Washington.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at the outset of a Latin America tour on Monday that the US had failed to “advance its agenda” by putting economic pressure on both Tehran and Havana.
He said at a meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez that Iran and Cuba have proved that they can overcome Washington’s restrictions through resistance:
The Iranian nation proved that sanctions imposed by big powers cannot distance it from its policies and viewpoints….
The two countries have always had common stances on confronting the use of economic force and pressure as well as meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.
The US has maintained an economic embargo on Cuba since 1960, soon after the revolution led by Fidel Castro. President Obama visited the island in March and called on Congress to end the measures.
Government Concern Over Economy
Zarif is leading a 120-member delegation seeking business and trade links with stops in Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela.
The Rouhani Government had hoped for economic recovery after January’s implementation of the nuclear deal. However, while European restrictions were lifted, the US requires months to remove some measures and has indicated that others — such as a bar on Iranian access to the American financial system — will be maintained. Washington has also imposed new sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals linked to Tehran’s ballistic missile tests, and the Supreme Court has frozen $2 billion in Iranian assets to allow families of terrorism victims to sue for compensation.
At the same time, President Rouhani has faced pressure inside the regime. The Supreme Leader said in March that the President should have not declared that the “JCPOA” — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — would soon be followed by a “JCPOA 2” for economic benefits. Instead, Ayatollah Khamenei barred any links with the US apart from the nuclear deal and cautioned that he could take control of economic policy.
Other hardline and conservative factions have used Khamenei’s criticism to press the Government. These critics have included the Revolutionary Guards, who have significant holdings in the Iranian economy.