Iran's Zarif: We were close to war with US after Soleimani assassination

Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the US and Iran were "very close to a war" and that, at the moment, the black box of the crashed Ukrainian airliner is not being touched.

Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif speaks with the media on the sidelines of a security conference in New Delhi (photo credit: REUTERS/ALASDAIR PAL)
Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif speaks with the media on the sidelines of a security conference in New Delhi
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALASDAIR PAL)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the US and Iran “were very close to a war” in an interview with NBC on Friday on the sidelines of the 2020 Munich Security Conference.
He explained that he thinks US President Donald Trump “was misled to believe that the United States would get away” with assassinating IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
“It worked the other way around,” Zarif claimed. “It was the beginning of the end of the US in the region and we were very close to a war, because the United States initiated an act of aggression against Iran in a very, excuse the language, cowardly way.”
He claimed that the reason the US “hit him in the dark of the night through a drone attack on a car carrying him on a peace mission” is because the US “couldn’t confront Soleimani in the battlefield.”
This is “beneath any dignified way of dealing with this,” he said.
“It came very close to war,” he insisted. “Iran responded in a proportionate way against the base from which the operations against Soleimani were carried out. We wanted to show to the United States that they cannot bully Iran. That actions against Iran will have repercussions.”
Zarif further claimed that the US is currently suffering, the Trump Administration in particular, “from misperceptions, misinformation about Iran.”
“It is important for President Trump to listen to advisers who have better knowledge of our region rather than novices who know nothing about our region,” he said.
When Zarif was asked about the Ukrainian airliner that was shot down on January 8 by an Iranian missile shortly after takeoff from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing 176 people on board, he defended himself, saying, “I was informed about the plane being shot down at noon on Friday, a few hours before it was announced. Before that, I was being told that it was a technical error. Our military people, the military chain of command, got to know about this probably between the morning on Wednesday when it was shot down... to Wednesday evening.”
He further claimed that Iran, “more than anybody else,” wants to retrieve the contents of the airliner’s black box. “The military was conducting its own investigation. They didn’t inform me, and I’m sorry that they didn’t. But the fact is, they were conducting their own investigation to reach the conclusion that it was actually their missile which brought down that plane.”
Zarif additionally claimed that it was “courage” that allowed the Iranian government to eventually admit to having shot down the plane. “Do you think it’s easy?” he asked the interviewer defensively.
Zarif admitted that at the moment, the black box is “just sitting there.”
“We will not touch the black box without the presence of all interested parties,” he insisted. “The black box is open... We have admitted that it was our missile that brought down that airplane. So every information that the family wants to know is there for them to know, but we need information. We need information. Why did that happen? They are refusing to provide us with that information. We have the right to that information. We have a legal right, we have a national right, and we have the personal rights of all the families.”