Dr Mohammed Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran, in a long winded piece in Foreign Affairs writes an article What Iran Really Wants, that argues that any disagreements in the ongoing nuclear talks can be overcome as it is “wholly manufactured and therefore reversible”.
Dr Javad Zarif opens, “Foreignpolicy is a critical component in the lives, conduct, and governance of all nation-states. But it has become even more significant in recent years as interstate relations have grown ever more complex. The inexorable rise in the number of international players — including multilateral organizations, nonstate actors, and even individuals — has further complicated policymaking. Meanwhile, the ongoing process of globalization — however conceived and defined, whether lauded or despised — has brought its inescapable weight to bear on the foreign policies of all states, whether large or small, developed or developing”.
He writes that since the “popular revolution” of 1979,which is perhaps something of a stretch Iranian foreign policy has been based on “the preservation of Iran’s independence, territorial integrity, and national security and the achievement of long-term, sustainable national development. Beyond its borders, Iran seeks to enhance its regional and global stature; to promote its ideals, including Islamic democracy; to expand its bilateral and multilateral relations, particularly with neighboring Muslim-majority countries and nonaligned states; to reduce tensions and manage disagreements with other states; to foster peace and security at both the regional and the international levels through positive engagement; and to promote international understanding through dialogue and cultural interaction”.
All of this is mostly waffle and obviously overlooks the fact that Iran funds Hezbollah as well as the Assad regime and was directly involved in the killing of American troops during the 2003 Iraq war.
Dr Javad Zarif writes that “Since the end of the Cold War and the demise of the bipolar world in the early 1990s, the global order has undergone a major structural transformation. But a firm new order has not yet emerged”.
This is not true. Since the end of the Cold War the world has prospered under American unipolarity that is both durable and secure while providing international goods that all nations can use.
He goes on to say correctly, “The concept of power itself, traditionally measured in terms of military might, has changed substantially. New forms of influence — economic, technological, and cultural — have emerged. Concurrently, changes at the conceptual level have brought the cultural, normative, and ideational components of power to the fore, making power more accessible to a larger pool of actors”, but of course America dominates in these areas also. He goes on to discuss the rise of multilateralism which is of course true but is not the whole picture given that the international system is still dominated by America and that international institutions are weak and unable to deal with the challenges posed by states like Russia, China and Iran.
Interestingly he writes “most nation-states, regardless of their size, power, influence, or other attributes, have come to realize that isolationism, whether voluntary or imposed, is neither a virtue nor an advantage. Collective action and cooperation have become the hallmarks of the era”.
It will be interesting to see to what extent he views Iran as being included in this. Or is it simply a case of one rule for you, another for me? Iran must show that it is willing to live by the ideals that it puts forward with human rights and the rule of law and respect for minorities, both religious and sexual, and that it is open to co-operation on issues like funding Hezbollah and propping up Assad before these remarks can be taken seriously.
He goes on to write, “The much-challenged position of the United States in the world today, notwithstanding its preponderance of military power, is a glaring case in point. The actual situation in various parts of the world where the United States is directly involved, most notably in the greater Middle East and in Iran’s immediate neighborhood, points to Washington’s reluctant but unmistakable turn to the path of coalition building with other global powers and even regional actors. China, India, and Russia are engaged in intense competition, primarily with the Western bloc, in a concerted effort to secure more prominent global roles. However, major powers and emerging powers alike are now loath to use military means to resolve rivalries, differences, or even disputes”.
Dr Javad Zarif writes that the position of America is challenged, but those that challenge it want an order that is less free, less fair, and more violent. His comment that America has turned to alliance building is correct but somewhat out of date, the United States has always had coalitions in the region, albeit, ones that are imperfect. He then argues that this has led to a revisionist foreign policy which is incorrect and only takes into account the last year of US relations with Iran and not the previous decades where America has offered Iran much only to have its offers spurned.
He goes on to note “As a solid regional power in this era of intense transition in global politics, Iran stands in a unique position. Given its large landmass and unique geographic position along the east–west transit route, Iran, since antiquity, has enjoyed a preeminent position in its region and beyond. Although Iran’s civilization and cultural heritage have remained intact, its political and economic fortunes have fluctuated periodically, depending on, among other things, its governance at home and its relations with the outside world”.
Laughably he claims “The Islamic Republic can actively contribute to the restoration of regional peace, security, and stability and play a catalytic role during this current transitional stage in international relations. In light of the increasing importance of normative and ideational factors in global politics, the Islamic Republic is well suited to draw on the rich millennial heritage of Iranian society and culture and the significant heritage of the Islamic Revolution, particularly its indigenously derived and sustained participatory model of governance. Iran can use such strengths to help realize the deeply cherished national aspirations of the Iranian people, including the achievement of long-term development and regional ascendance commensurate with the country’s inherent capacities and stature”.
He adds “Iran today has to grapple with a number of major challenges in its external relations. Needless to say, the long shadow of the decades-old and still ongoing tussle between Iran and the United States, which has been much exacerbated as a result of the nuclear imbroglio, has further complicated the state of relations between Iran and a host of its neighbors. Meanwhile, there has been a recent surge in the activities of extremist and violent nonstate actors in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, with a clear and unmistakable anti-Iran, anti-Shiite platform. A well-orchestrated campaign has promoted Islamophobia, Iranophobia, and Shiite-phobia and depicted Iran as a threat to regional peace and security; extended support to anti-Iran claimants in the region; tarnished Iran’s global image and undermined its stature; armed Iran’s regional rivals; actively supported anti-Iran forces, including the Taliban and other extremist groups; and fomented disagreements between Iran and its neighbors”.
All of this is true but it is as much Iran’s fault than the fault of those Muslims within Islam who despise Shia Islam. America can play a positive role in this Sunni-Shiite strife by offering a model where both groups can live peacefully together, but only with the co-operation of Iran can America push nations like Saudi Arabia and others to desist from their Shia persecutions.
Javad Zarif writes “It was within this international context that Rouhani won a decisive victory in the heavily contested Iranian presidential election in June 2013. He won 51 percent of all the votes cast in the first round against five conservative rivals. His political platform of prudent moderation and hope represented a significant turning point in Iranian politics. The fact that voter turnout reached 73 percent suggests that the public had moved past the lingering divisions of the June 2009 election. Rouhani’s pragmatic positions on foreign and domestic issues proved reassuring to the Iranian electorate. Rouhani distinguished his campaign from the murky platforms of his rivals in several key respects: his clear analysis of Iran’s current situation, his lucid and unambiguous articulation of the major challenges facing society and the state, and his honest and straightforward approach to problems and possible solutions. In this way, Rouhani managed to mobilize the disenchanted segments of the population to take an active interest in the final days of the campaign and to participate in the national vote. Rouhani’s foreign policy platform was based on a principled, sober, and wise critique of the conduct of foreign relations during the preceding eight years under the previous administration. Rouhani promised to remedy the unacceptable state of affairs through a major overhaul of the country’s foreign policy. The changes he proposed demonstrated a realistic understanding of the contemporary international order, the current external challenges facing the Islamic Republic, and what it will take to restore Iran’s relations with the world to a state of normalcy”.
He adds “Rouhani’s approach entails a delicate balancing act: between national, regional, and global needs, on the one hand, and the available means, instruments, and policies, on the other; between persistence and flexibility in foreign policy; between goals and means; and among various instruments of power in a dynamically changing world. Finally, Rouhani’s commitment to constructive engagement requires dialogue and interaction with other nations on an equal footing, with mutual respect, and in the service of shared interests. It requires that all participants make serious efforts to reduce tensions, build confidence, and achieve détente”.
He mentions that Iran has several goals, “Iran will expand and deepen its bilateral and multilateral relations through meaningful engagement with a wide range of states and organizations, including international economic institutions. Multilateralism will play a central role in Iran’s external relations. That will involve active contributions to global norm-setting and assertive participation in coalitions of like-minded states to promote peace and stability. A second priority will be to defend the individual and collective rights of Iranian nationals everywhere and to promote Iranian-Islamic culture, the Persian language, Islamic values, and Islamic democracy as a form of governance. Third, Iran will continue to support the cause of oppressed people across the world, especially in Palestine, and will continue its principled rejection of Zionist encroachments in the Muslim world”.
Of course the crux is how Iran will do this. If it expands its relationships and becomes part of the international community with rights for its citizens and minorities then there should be no hinderance in Iran attempting to pursue its other goals of spreading Iranian culture.
He then says that Iran’s most important task, or at least one of them is “is to diffuse and ultimately defeat the international anti-Iranian campaign, spearheaded by Israel and its American benefactors, who seek to “securitize” Iran — that is, to delegitimize the Islamic Republic by portraying it as a threat to the global order. The main vehicle for this campaign is the “crisis” over Iran’s peaceful nuclear program — a crisis that, in Iran’s view, is wholly manufactured and therefore reversible. That is why Rouhani wasted no time in breaking the impasse and engaging in negotiations with the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany) to find common ground and reach an agreement that will ensure nonproliferation, preserve Iran’s scientific accomplishments, honor Iran’s inalienable national rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and end the unjust sanctions that have been imposed by outside powers”.
His assertion that the nuclear talks are simply a figment of people’s imaginations and are therefore “reversible” as he puts it are an insult to the intelligence of the vast majority of people who are aware of Iran’s secrecy and covert operations in this issue. It has persistently hid information and documents from inspectors and as a result has no right to claim it should be trusted.
Furthermore he goes on to write, “Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons and is convinced that such weapons would not enhance its security. Iran does not have the means to engage in nuclear deterrence — directly or through proxies — against its adversaries. Furthermore, the Iranian government believes that even a perception that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons is detrimental to the country’s security and to its regional role, since attempts by Iran to gain strategic superiority in the Persian Gulf would inevitably provoke responses that would diminish Iran’s conventional military advantage”.
Controversially he argues ” the ongoing negotiations over the nuclear issue face no insurmountable barriers. The only requirements are political will and good faith for the negotiators to “get to yes” and achieve the objective established by the Joint Plan of Action adopted in Geneva last November, which states, “The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.” The unexpectedly fast pace of progress in the negotiations so far augurs well for a speedy resolution of this unnecessary crisis and for the opening up of new diplomatic horizons”.
He ends the article by claiming, “Iran will prudently manage its relations with the United States by containing existing disagreements and preventing further tensions from emerging unnecessarily, thereby gradually easing tensions. Iran will also engage with European countries and other Western states with the goal of reinvigorating and further expanding relations. This normalization process must be based on the principles of mutual respect and mutual interest, and it must address issues of legitimate concern to both sides. Iran will also expand and consolidate its amicable ties with other major powers, such as China, India, and Russia”.
His note that Iran will contain existing problems and at the same time try to prevent “further tensions from emerging” is interesting. This is an obvious reference to Syria and signals that whatever is going on it Syria will not derail the discussions. Of course this is in his interest, and the interests of Iran, as America seems to have tied the two issues together.
He closes “The Iranian people, with their massive turnout in last year’s presidential election and their decisive choice of assertive engagement, have provided a unique window of opportunity for the new Iranian government and for the world to chart a different and much more promising course in our bilateral and multilateral relations. The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to vigorously honor its citizens’ choice, which will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on world affairs. For this endeavor to succeed, it is imperative for other states to accept the reality of Iran’s prominent role in the Middle East and beyond and to recognize and respect Iran’s legitimate national rights, interests, and security concerns. It is equally important for other states to scrupulously observe the sensitivities of the Iranian nation, particularly regarding its national dignity, independence, and achievements. Westerners, especially Americans, need to modify their understandings of Iran and the Middle East and develop a better grasp of the region’s realities, avoiding the analytic and practical mistakes of the past. Courage and leadership are required to seize this historic opportunity, which might not come again. The opportunity must not be lost”.