By Dr. Manuchehr Mohammadi, Deputy Foreign Minister for Education and Research of the Islamic Republic of Iran (REAL INSTITUTO ELCANO, 29/09/06):
In the Name of God, the compassionate, the Merciful
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be among you distinguished academicians and scholars to discuss some dimensions of foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran with special attention to the new developments in the Middle East. I wish to thank Elcano Royal Institute of Spain for organizing this meeting. My personal academic background and continued attachment to the scholary community gives me an added incentive and pleasure to exchange views with this prominent audience today.
In discussing Iran’s foreign policy and its role in the region, we need to take into account a number of important considerations. Geographical position of my country is one of those. Iran is located at the crossroad of the east and the west and, at the proximity of Eurasia Heartland, is the only country, which connects two energy resource-rich areas of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea. This geographical reality in addition to the fact Iran is bordering to fifteen neighbors in an uneasy neighborhood has created a situation that our country, throughout its contemporary history, has always played a regional role. Three major wars in the Persian Gulf, war in Afghanistan and instability in the west Asia, present situation in Iraq and Palestine and Lebanon all indicate that Iran is located in an uneasy security environment. All of those developments also suggest that Iran has been a key factor for peace and stability in the region.
In addition to this very delicate geo-strategic, geo-economic and geo-politic location, the understanding of Iran’s foreign policy needs a quick glance at Iranian values and identity. When I am speaking on Iranian identity, I am referring to a very ancient tradition of interaction, thinking and way of life. This identity is basically a result of interaction between Persian civilization and culture in one hand and Islam on the other.
As a proud and ancient nation, the people of Iran have struggled for more than a century to achieve real independence and establish a political system based on a delicate balance between historical and traditional identity and the exigencies of modern institutions of government.
In this struggle while rejecting any foreign dominations the aim has been justice, freedom and independence. Throughout this period, Islam has played a prominent role. At the same time, freedom and independence constituted the other major objective of the people. Yet until 1979, no one really conceptualized the political system that could replace the status quo and ensure the realization of these objectives.
In fact, the Islamic revolution for the first time introduced a political system that is the Islamic Republic as a response to long term crisis within the Iranian society. Hence, what is taking place and the decisions that have been made in Iran need to be understood also within this framework.
Iran’s sensitivity to its independence and rejection of hegemony maybe fathomed by the examination of this background of revolutionary tendency. Furthermore, Iranian revolution introduced a political system in which decisions on foreign policy are made through a process of debate between various elites and governmental bodies and I would like to underline that consensus making is very important in this process. I may add that a quarter of a century of experience has enriched Iranian foreign policy establishment in the management of challenging issues and crises.
In this strategic regional political mapping and the context of Iran’s domestic setting, I firmly assert that the principles of Iran’s foreign policy especially towards the region are multilateralism, regional capacity building and confidence building. These principles mirror our policies of détente, peaceful coexistence, decontainment and active engagement. These goals have also been pursued through the ideas of justice among nations and states (i.e. justice for all), serious dialogue and coalition for peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Now let us pay attention to the position of Iran vis-à-vis regional issues, among which the current situations in the Middle East including Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine are the most significant. Iran repeatedly announced that any foreign intervention and war, would result a difficult situation. Therefore, Iran has condemned the unilateral action in the region and calls for the withdrawal of occupying forces at the earliest possible time. I believe that time is ripe for foreign forces to leave Iraq at the earliest convenience and therefore a timetable should be set for withdrawal. Despite certain beliefs, the withdrawal can help establish more security in Iraq.
While Iran attaches a great importance to the territorial integrity of Iraq, have serious concerns about escalation of insecurity and dispute in Iraq. Unfortunately, foreign forces follow up their own goals instead of providing security and tranquility for the Iraqi people. In fact they have brought about an inappropriate situation in Iraq people, increasing violence, terrorist acts, violation of sanctities of holy sites, abduction of Iraqi officials and foreign diplomats are among most fundamental problems in Iraq which are increased day by day owing to presence of foreigners.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is of this view that security affairs in Iraq should be handed completely to the democratically elected government as soon as possible and the Iraqi people should run the security affairs of their county themselves. Iran believes the Iraqi forces and government have potentials security and stability in the country through efforts by all political tribal groups.
I would like to emphasize that from the time of the demise of Iraqi dictatorship, Iran has constantly tried to bring stability in Iraq through bilateral, regional and international interactions. Iran has actively engaged in organized consultations with the neighbors of Iraq plus Egypt for bringing stability and security to this country.
I seize the opportunity to maintain that establishment of peace and stability in Iraq is not the only factor for providing security in the sensitive region of the Middel East and the Persian Gulf. Occurrence of four wars in less than three decades in the region is the best reason for adopting new security strategy based on nonpresence of foreign forces and in cooperation with all regional states.
Therefore in the Persian Gulf, we believe that time is ripe that all regional countries should take concrete steps to restore security in the region collectively.
With this logic, the Islamic Republic of Iran has proposed plans for security arrangement in the Persian Gulf, based on the cooperation of all lf the littoral states. Here, I would like to mention the signing of a landmark security accord between Iran and Saudi Arabia with its positive repercussions can be an example of a cooperation which contributes to the security and economic benefit for the whole region.
Let me say also a few words very briefly about another crisis in the Middle East especially with due attention to the recent developments.
It is a bitter reality that the Middle East as well as the whole world suffers from the absence of an acceptable organizing principle which has caused a deep moral confusion and anarchy, the status which was obvious in recent aggression on Lebanon and daily events in Palestine. In fact what we witnessed with horror and indignation was the daily exacerbation of two cases of blatant and pre mediated aggression and multiple war crimes perpetrated by the Israeli regime against the people of Palestine and Lebanon under absurd and all too familiar pretexts.
Yet, if history is any guide, while the aggressor may be able to lay waste to building and infrastructure, kill civilians and take their elected representatives hostage, it is impossible to intimidate the people of Palestine and Lebanon into submission, squash their desire to live free from occupation and terror and crash the hope of refuges to one day return home. In fact, experience indicates that such onslaughts strengthen, not weaken, the resolve of the people to resist aggression, occupation, intimidation and terror.
The brutal collective punishment that the Lebanese and Palestinian people were enduring was the Israeli signature bran of aggression which the peoples in the region have experienced time and again in the past several decades.
Moreover, such a wide range operations could not could not have been carried out without prior planning as well prior coordination with the supporting power and the receipt of the necessary green light. The joint rejection of all calls for cease- fire is a further proof.
Unfortunately, regardless of all these realities, the current policy of the US Government is not only the culmination, but pushing to the extremists, of unswerving support for Israeli aggression against the Muslim and the Arab people in the region, leading, inter alia, to 31 vetos, and supporting the flouting of those resolutions that, escaped the US veto.
There is a consensus among the people in the region that unfortunately the Zionist aggression on Lebanon and its continuation fore more than a month has been in line with the US wrong regional policies (i.e. Broader Middle East). In other words, they intended to achieve their goals by military operations in Lebanon, destruction of the country and killing of civilians.
I am talking in the name of a country which has the greatest Jewish inhabitants in the Middle East who have lived for three thousand years with peace and prosperity in Iran, in which they have not experienced even one day, similar to what they have had in some European countries during the contemporary history. In fact anti-Semitism is not all an oriental phenomenon. So, if I talk about the Zionist regime, I refer to a racist political ideology which is the root cause of instability in the region and has no relation with the nature and logic of a great divine religion as Judaism.
Anyhow, with due attention to the specifics of interdependence of regional issues with the world destiny, Islamic Republic of Iran believes that solving the regional problems and chief among them the issue of Palestine, are no longer a regional priority but urgent necessity for international peace and security and the whole world. Sadly at present time occupied Palestine, in the people’s conscious, is a center of gravity for institutionalized injustice and until this issue is not resolved based on principles of justice, international peace and security will remain in a continuous state of instability. It is precisely for this reason that Iran has proposed a democratic solution based on the vote of all Palestinians from every ethnic and religious background.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Islamic Republic of Iran through awareness of its special position, is deeply committed to its responsibilities in shaping not only a better region but also a better world. Thus through comprehension of the dangers of lack of acceptable systematic organizing principle, addressing the problems of the region, Iran believes that in the current situation only organizing principle provides proper answers to the human society’s requirements, is the principle of justice among nations and states, i,e, justice for all.
The main reason for the current systematic incoherence is institutionalized prejudice and injustice that is formed to the advantage of a handful of countries. From this aspect Iran vis -a -vis its proposal for justice among nations, is a supporter of peace and lasting global justice.
Is is precisely through taking stock of this systematic organizing principle that Iran as an influential member in the body of Islamic society via its warning about lack of equilibrium and inequality that from certain Western countries have engineered toward Islamic countries and with due attention to the awakening and deep self –awareness that has taken place among Muslims which nobody can ignore it (and of course has brought out the new equations between the West and the East) and also in confronting the contemplates peaceful global cohabitation and coexistence, and hence through commitment to lasting peace does not consider itself as a threat to any other countries. This is the absolute decision of Iran that is would never start an aggression against even those who foresee their existence in enmity with others. In fact Iran has never invaded any other country over the past centuries and has this will to never fire the first shot in the future.
Along these lines, Iran believes that the time of using force and military power has passed and thus proposes the establishment of serious talks (which should be also inclusive) to resolve international and regional issues, which Iran is committed to. I am personally hopeful that with comprehension of the lack of potency of power politics in its traditional sense (that of course the main reason for its failure is lack of adaptation of power politics principles with the most obvious measures of justice) collective efforts to end the blind use of physical force along the formation of a new world based on justice and dialogue are boosted. I believe that the only remaining option on the table is serious negotiation.
At the end, I may conclude the regional overview of our foreign policy by simply stating that Iran is the anchor of stability from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf and their surroundings. Iran’s peaceful policies and its contribution to regional stability positively impact the broader region in our vicinity where Iran and Spain have common interests of tranquility, stability and prosperity. Thank you.