[This opinion piece by Ardeshir Zahedi appeared in The New York Times on May 31, 2018]
American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s statement on Iran was both bewildering and saddening. As the head of foreign policy of a great power, and previously as the director of the CIA, he should be better informed about Iran, its people, and its history.
Bullying rarely succeeds and has never succeeded against the nation of Iran. Through the millennia of its history, my country has never stooped or bowed to foreigners and has always remained united in the face of adversity. Whatever their opinion of their current government may be, under outside threats, Iran’s noble people always stand together and help defend their homeland. History has quickly taught foreign aggressors to abandon their wishful thinking of crushing Iran. Cats will dream of mice. NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO CRUSH IRAN.
With a territory of 636,000 square miles and a population of eighty-two million, Iran is not Iraq. Iran will be able to resist a foreign military attack. We should remember the case of Iraq. The war was based on forged documents and lies. The attack had neither the authority of morality nor of law. The outcome was massive death and devastation. Hundreds of thousands of innocents died, and many millions had their lives and futures completely destroyed. And financially, according to the US President, seven trillion dollars were wasted. Are the brains at the State Department and the CIA this ignorant of history?
Iran is denounced for interfering in Syria. What is not mentioned is that Iran is in Syria by the invitation of Syria, the legitimate government of a sovereign nation. It is the presence in Syria of secret armies from the US and other Western countries that violates international law.
The continuous carnage, brutality and other atrocities against the civilian population of Yemen is a not only a war crime but an attack on humanity. Can we ever forgive or forget this barbarity? On the 23rd and 24th of May, the primary story on BBC World Service was a heart-wrenching report which showed a Yemeni village wedding where women, men, and young children were celebrating the marriage of a loved one. It was supposed to be one of the happiest days of their life. In an instant, a random Saudi airstrike hits the village and kills twenty-two. Celebration is turned into lamentation. How can we ever justify the massacre of innocent children and the starvation and destruction of a country? What madness is responsible for this unprecedented tragedy? Is this twenty-first-century justice?
Iran and the United States were introduced one hundred and sixty years ago and can again become friends. The mention of the names of such high-minded Americans as Howard Baskerville, Morgan Shuster, Arthur Millspaugh, Arthur Upham Pope and Richard Frye still brings warm feelings to Iranian hearts.
Even if one of the signatories withdraws from the P5+1 nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), it is still a valid and binding document. I pray that wisdom will triumph, and diplomatic maturity will prevail.
The social situation in Iran will undoubtedly evolve. I have great hope and confidence in the youth of Iran, whose character, intelligence and competence will shape the country’s future. I am happy and hopeful when I see that in the four corners of the earth, most experts on the region see reality more clearly and publicly defend the honor and rights of my noble Iranian brothers and sisters. I both appreciate and respect their views.
Ardeshir Zahedi (Montreux, Switzerland)
May 25, 2018
نامه اردشیرزاهدی به روزنامه نیویورک تایمز دردفاع از شرف وحیثیت مردم ایران در تاریخ ۲۴ می ۲۰۱۷
در تاریخ 18 آوریل سال 2017، وزیر خارجه ایالات متحده آمریکا رکس تیلرسون به رئیس مجلس پل رایان نوشت که دولت دانلد ترامپ، رئیس جمهور بر این باور است که ایران توافق هسته ای با 1+5 را اجرا کرده است با این حال، دو روز بعد، او به طور ناگهانی اعلام کرد که ایالات متحده کل سیاست ایران را بررسی می کند. او ناعادلانه ایران را با کره شمالی مرتبط دانست و اعلام کرد که ایران و مردم آن یک تهدید برای صلح جهانی و امنیت منطقه بشمار میروند.
این هر دو شگفت انگیز و گیج کننده بود که ببینیم وزیر تیلرسون از شکست سیاست استراتژیک و از دست دادن صبر و شکیبایی در برابر ایران سخن می گوید.
آیا کسی می تواند به راحتی نادیده بگیرد که سعودی ها و پول آنهادر پشت اقدامات اخیر تروریستی و حمایت از داعش و دیگر گروه های افراطی بوده است؟ اگر جناب وزیر با دقت بیشتری به تاریخ ایران و ترکیب و شخصیت جامعه بزرگ ایرانی-آمریکایی، در ایالات متحده نگاه می کرد، قطعا به این نتیجه می رسید که ایرانیان تروریست نیستند.
امریکا باید از برقراری روابط با ایران استقبال کند نه اینکه با آن به مخالفت بپردازد. ایرانیان سهم زیادی در پیشرفت های علمی، دانشگاهی و اقتصادی ایالات متحده و همچنین دیگر کشورهای جهان داشتهاند.
وزیر تیلرسون قطعا می داند که دهه تحریم و تعلیق روابط با ایران و کشورهای دیگر تنها به نفاق، سوء تفاهم، و درد و رنج بیشتر مردم این کشورها منجر شده است. در طول خدمتم به عنوان وزیر امور خارجه و به عنوان یک دیپلمات به نمایندگی ایران بارها و بارها در سازمان ملل متحد و سایر نهادهای بینالمللی یادآور شدم که دوران دیپلماسی مسلح و نگرش استعماری سپری شده است. غرّش توپها باید متوقف شود، و درگیری های بینالمللی می تواند و باید از طریق گفت و گو حل شود.
خرد دیپلماسی به چهار دهه بیهودگی، و درگیری بی ثمر و ویرانگر بر سر پروژه ی هسته ای ایران پایان داد و توافق وین میان کشورهای شرکت کننده، راه را به سوی صلح و آشتی هموار کرد.
در تاریخ اول ژوئیه، ۱۹۶۸، من افتخار داشتم تا به نمایندگی از میهن عزیزم، ایران، به مذاکره و امضای پیمان عدم گسترش سلاح های هسته ای بپردازم، که به جلوگیری از گسترش سلاح های هسته ای در سراسر جهان کمک کرده است. از آن زمان، نزدیک به پنجاه سال است که ایران به قوانین بینالمللی و مواد آن معاهده متعهد بوده است.
هیچ نیازی به تهدید، تحریم و اتلاف وقت و انرژی و نزاع ابدی نیست. من به هر دلیلی تمام تحریمها علیه ایران در طول سال های اخیر را بی اساس و در برابر حرف و اصول حقوق بینالمللی تحمیل شده میدانم. این تهدیدها و تحریم ها علیه اهداف و ماموریت سازمان ملل متحد، کمیسیون انرژی اتمی، و دیگر سازمان های جهانی است. متاسفانه بیش از ۸۰ میلیون ایرانی بی گناه در نتیجه این تحریمها رنج می برند. این هیاهوی بسیار برای هیچ است.
سالها پیش، در سال ۱۹۴۶، به عنوان یک دانشجوی جوان دانشگاهی در ایالت یوتا، به نمایندگی از دانشجویان در رژه محلی چهارم ژوئیه انتخاب شدم. بر روی بنری که حمل میکردم نوشته شده بود: « بشریت بالاتر از همه ملل است.»
از سال ۱۹۵۴ ، با جان فاستر دالس، افتخار همکاری نزدیک داشتم و در ارتباط صمیمی با ۱۴ وزیر امور خارجه از هر دو حزب آمریکا بوده ام. از زمان تبعیدم از ایران پس از انقلاب ۱۹۷۹، روابط دوستانه ام با آنها و خانواده های آنها ادامه یافته است. در تمام این سال های طولانی، این اولین بار است که چنین اظهارات تاسف بار و نابخردانه در مورد کشورم را از یک دیپلمات ارشد ملت بزرگ آمریکا می شنوم.
در 26 ژانویه، چند روز پس از روی کارآمدن دولت ترامپ بطور موقت محدودیتهائی برای ورود چند ملت به آمریکا ازجمله ایرانیان به اجرا گذاشته شد. این دستور به طور کامل قانون اساسی آمریکا را نادیده گرفته است و تبعیضهای مذهبی را تجربه می کندو بین کسانی که مایل به بازدید از آمریکا هستند تفاوت قائل می شود.
ایران کشوری است که بیش از دو هزار و پانصد سال تاریخ پر افتخار و سابقه همزیستی مسالمت آمیز با اقوام دیگر دارد.این جهان با فرهنگ، ادبیات و فلسفه آن غنی شده است. مهاجران از هر ملت و هر آئین به ساختن آمریکا کمک کردهاندو امروز صدها هزار نفر باریشه ایرانی در آمریکا بسر میبرند آنها مانند برادران و خواهران خود در اقصی نقاط جهان یا در داخل زادگاهشان مردان و زنانی بااستعداد؛ دانش پژوه ؛ هنرمند؛ دانشمند؛ پزشک؛ صنعتگر ؛ و بازرگانان موفقی هستند. آمریکائی ها کار آنها را ستودهاند و من به هموطن بودن با آنان افتخار می کنم. آنها آینده و امید کشور ما هستند.
طبیعی است در مواقعی با عقیده همتایان آمریکائی خود برسر مسائلی مانند: خرید و فروش اسلحه، قیمت نفت، تجارت، موقعیت کردها، جنگ ویتنام و فلسطین موافق نبودیم. اما در پایان مشکل خود را در صلح و صفا، حسن نیت، خوشروئی، برخوردسازنده و مذاکره حل می کردیم؛ و دوست و متحد باقی می ماندیم.
آنچه در نیویورک تایمز خواندم باورکردنش برایم مشکل است. نمیتوانم کلمات نا خوشایندی که وزیر خارجه آمریکا درباره برادران و خواهران شریف و عزیز ایرانی من بر زبان رانده است هضم کنم.
در دو جلد اولیه خاطراتم به بعضی بحرانهای جهانی و منطقها ی اشاره کرده ام که با مذاکرات رودررو حل و فصل شدند.
با فروتنی، همدلی و گفت و گو می توانیم بزرگترین درگیری را به درک متقابل و صلح تبدیل کنیم، و جان بسیاری از انسانها را نجات دهیم. هنگامی که صداقت و حسن نیت وجود داشته باشد، حتی بی رحم ترین تروریست ها می تواند متقاعد به زمین گذاشتن سلاح شود و به گفتگو تن در دهد. انسان ها قلب دارند و به عشق، تفاهم و سخاوت ذهن واکنش نشان می دهند.
وقتی که من به عنوان سفیر در دربار سنت جیمز خدمت می کردم، پس از شکست مذاکرات نفت در تهران، بحث با آقای ادیسون از بریتیش پترولیوم، هوارد پیج از استاندارد اویل (در حال حاضر اکسون)، و جان لودون از رویال داچ شل به مذاکره پرداختم. در پشت صحنه، جورج براون، وزیر امور خارجه و لُرد شاوکراس برای رسیدن به یک توافق کمک کردند. تفاوت قیمت نفت و برخی از اظهارات نابجای یکی از شرکتکنندگان به شکست مذاکرات و بحران جهانی جدید انجامیده بود. اما، از طریق کار صمیمانه، صبر، و حسن نیت؛ و بعد از یک شب بی خوابی طولانی، ایرانیان و دوستان بریتانیائی ما در بامدادان به توافق رسیدند. این توافق همه را خوشحال، و شرق و غرب را به هم نزدیک تر و بازارهای مالی را آرام کرد. روز بعد ما پیروزی دیپلماتیک را با ناهار برادرانه کریسمس در سفارت ما ن جشن گرفتیم.
امروز، خاطرات غمانگیزی از تراژدی 11 سپتامبر و همچنین انفجار مرکز تجارت جهانی در سال ۱۹۹۳ هنوز در ذهن ما هست. ما همچنان به طور منظم شاهد جنایات و اعمال شوم ترور در سراسر جهان توسط داعش هستیم. در مواردی که متحدان درگیرند، ایالات متحده اغلب با نگاهی مهربانانه. با آن برخورد می کند. از طریق اعمال تروریستی، بیش از ۳۰۰۰ آمریکایی بی گناه در خاک خودشان کشته شدهاند. بسیاری دیگر در سراسر جهان از جمله حملات تروریستی ریاض و برج خُبار در سال ۲۰۰۳ و ۲۰۰۴ در عربستان سعودی کشته شدند. این تروریست ها که بودند و چه کسی از آنها حمایت میکرد؟ آنها از کجا آمده بودند؟ هواپیماربایان در یازده سپتامبر گذرنامه عربستان سعودی داشتند.آنها ایرانی نبودند و از سوی ایران پشتیبانی نمیشدند. چرا ایرانی ها را، برادران و خواهران من را، ناعادلانه مقصر می دانند؟
در سرمقاله نیویورک تایمز در تاریخ ۳ ماه مه، سردبیر علاقه وزیر امور خارجه را به کاری که پذیرفته است زیر سوال برده است. این یک یادآوری به موقع به خوانندگان بود که برای پیدا کردن راه حل مشکلات جهان در این نا آرامی ها، و در یک خاور میانه که سراسر در هرج و مرج است آقای تیلرسون نیاز به یک سیاست بسیار گسترده تر و ارتباط بهتر با دیپلمات ها و کارمندان ارشد وزارت امور خارجه دارد. او به تجربه آنها نیاز دارد تا بتواند طیف وسیع تری از راه حلهایی را که یک رویکرد دیپلماتیک همیشه می تواند ارائه دهد ببیند و بسنجد.
تهدید به جنگ، زرق و برق قدرت نظامی، استفاده از سلاح و یا تحریم ها می تواند تنها به ناآرامی های بیشتر و بروز فاجعه در جهان منجر شود. همه ما باید از تجربیات ویتنام، افغانستان، لیبی و عراق درس بگیریم. ما باید دوباره به آینه تاریخ نگاه کنیم و قدرت گیج کننده سلاح را که تنها موجب تخریب گسترده با مشروعیت قانونی می شود متوقف کنیم.
وزیر تیلرسون ایران را متهم کرده است که قدم به قدم کره شمالی را تعقیب می کند. من به هر ملتی در جهان احترام میگذارم چه بزرگ باشد چه کوچک. اما باید به آقای وزیر یادآوری کنم که ایران کره شمالی نیست. من نظر او را که در نامه ۱۸ آوریل برای رئیس مجلس نمایندگان پُل رایان فرستاده را می پذیرم و لی آنچه که متأسفانه در مصاحبه دو روز بعد گفت برای من قابل قبول نیست.
تمام شرکتکنندگان در مذاکرات، در واقع تمام جهان، اعتراف کردند که توافق هسته ای، جهان را به مکانی امن تر تبدیل کرده و نمونه خوبی از دیپلماسی و بلوغ سیاسی است. تغییر قلب و ذهن وزیر تیلرسون در ظرف چند ساعت همه، به خصوص متحدان امریکا را شگفت زده، و سوالاتی را در مورد ثبات دیپلماسی آمریکا مطرح کرد.
من به گرمی به یاد دهه پنجاه و شصت می افتم که امریکا منادی صلح؛ مدافع حقوق ملت ها؛ و آزاد کننده کشورهای مستعمره بود. ایالات متحده در سراسر جهان مورد تحسین قرار میگرفت و جایگاه ویژه ای در قلب ما داشت. مسیر صلح و برادری ملت ها نباید خیلی به راحتی رها شود. چرا وقتی می توانیم اختلافات را با گفت و گو و صبر و شکیبایی حل و فصل کنیم به لاف زدن و رجزخوانی می پردازیم؟
امروز، همه رهبران جهان باید به درخواست انسانی، روشن و مؤدبانه پاپ فرانسیس در سفر ش به قاهره در ماه آوریل سال ۲۰۱۷. گوش دهند. پاپ در بازدید از سرزمین باستانی با پیام صلح و آشتی، مسلمانان، مسیحیان و یهودیان را برای پایان دادن به بدبینی، ظلم و ستم و قبیله گرایی فراخواند و جهان را به «ایمان، تواضع، صلح، مدارا، گفتگو و محبت» دعوت کرد. (نیویورک تایمز سرمقاله: «پیام انسانی پاپ در مصر،» دوم ماه مه ۲۰۱۷.)
هیچ مشکلی، هر چقدر جدی باشد، نمیتوان یافت که یک راه حل دیپلماتیک نداشته باشد.
[The following editorial appeared in the New York Times on May 24, 2017]
On April 18, 2017, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote to the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to certify that the administration of President Donald Trump believed that Iran was complying with the P5+1 Nuclear Agreement. However, two days later, he abruptly announced that the U.S. would review its entire Iran policy. He went on to unfairly associate Iran with North Korea and stated that Iran and its people were a threat to world peace and regional security. It was both amazing and confusing to see that Secretary Tillerson spoke of the failure of strategic policy and of losing patience with Iran.
Can one so easily ignore that the Saudis and their money were behind recent terrorist acts and support for ISIS and other radical groups? If the Secretary had looked more carefully into the history of Iran and the composition and character of the large community of Iranian-Americans in U.S., he would have certainly concluded that Iranians are not terrorists.
Can one so easily ignore that the Saudis and their money were behind recent terrorist acts and support for ISIS and other radical groups? If the Secretary had looked more carefully into the history of Iran and the composition and character of the large community of Iranian-Americans in U.S., he would have certainly concluded that Iranians are not terrorists.
America should welcome and not oppose relations with Iran. Iranians have made great contributions to the scientific, academic and economic progress of the U.S.—as well as to other countries of the world.
Secretary Tillerson surely knows that decades of sanctions and suspension of relations with Iran and other nations has only led to further division, misunderstanding, and the suffering of the people of those countries. During my service as Foreign Minister and as a diplomat representing Iran I repeatedly stated at the United Nations and to other international bodies that the age of gunboat diplomacy and colonial attitudes are over; the roars of cannons should cease, and that international conflicts can and should be resolved through the gentle voices of dialogue.
The wisdom of diplomacy ended four decades of vain, futile, fruitless and devastating conflict with Iran over nuclear projects. The Vienna agreement between participating countries paved the road to reconciliation and peace.
On July 1, 1968, I had the honor on behalf of my beloved homeland, Iran, to negotiate and sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which helped prevent the spread of nuclear arms around the world. Since then, for nearly fifty years, Iran has been bound by international law and the commitments of that treaty.
There is no need for threats, sanctions and the waste of time and energy in eternal quarrels. I have every reason to consider all the sanctions imposed on Iran throughout recent years as baseless and against the letter and principles of international law. These threats and sanctions go against the goals and missions of the United Nations, the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, and other global organizations. It is regretful that more than 80 million innocent Iranians have suffered as a result. This is much ado about nothing.
Many years ago, in 1946, as a young college student in Utah, I was elected to represent the students in the local Fourth of July parade. On the banner I carried with me was written: “Above all Nations is Humanity.”
Since 1954, beginning with John Foster Dulles, I have had the privilege of working closely and in cordial relationship with 14 Secretaries of State from both parties. Since my exile from Iran after the 1979 Revolution, I have continued my friendly relations with them and their families. In all these long years, this is the first time I have heard such regrettable and ill-advised remarks about my country by the head diplomat of this great nation.
On January 26, a few days after taking office, the Trump administration decreed a temporary ban and restrictions on the entry into the U.S. of people of several nationalities including Iranians. The order completely disregarded the American constitution. It established discriminatory religious tests and priorities for those wanting to visit.
Iran is a nation with more than two and a half millennia of proud history and peaceful co-existence. It has enriched the world with its culture, literature and philosophy. Immigrants from all nations and creeds have helped build America and today, hundreds of thousands of Americans of Iranian origin live in the U.S. They, like their brothers and sisters around the globe or in their native land, are men and women of talent; scholars; artists; scientists; physicians; industrialists; and successful business people. Americans have admired their work and I am proud to be their compatriot. They are the promise, the future and the hope of our countries.
It is normal that at times, we have had differences of opinion with our American counterparts over certain issues: arms deals, the price of oil, trade, the situation of the Kurds, the Vietnam War, and Palestine. However, in the end, we solved our problems peacefully through goodwill, amiability, constructive approaches and discussions; and remained friends and allies.
I find it difficult to believe what I read in The New York Times. I cannot digest the unpleasant words of the Secretary of State about my noble and beloved Iranian brothers and sisters.
In the first two volumes of my memoirs, I have given examples of numerous cases of world and regional crises which were settled by face to face discussion. Through humility, empathy and dialogue we can convert the greatest conflicts into understanding and peace, and save human lives. When sincerity and goodwill exist, even hardened terrorists can be convinced to lay down their arms and talk. Human beings have hearts and are responsive to love, understanding and generosity of mind.
When I was serving as Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, after the failure of the Tehran oil talks, I had discussions with Mr. Edison of British Petroleum, Howard Page of Standard Oil (now Exxon), and John Loudon of Royal Dutch Shell. Behind the scenes, Foreign Secretary George Brown and Lord Shawcross helped push towards an agreement. The differences over the price of oil and some misplaced remarks from a participant could have led to a breakdown of negotiations and a new world crisis. But, through the employment of warmth, patience, and goodwill; and after a long sleepless night, the Iranians and our British friends reached a compromise late in the morning. It made everyone happy, brought the East and the West closer and calmed the financial markets. The following day we celebrated the diplomatic triumph by sharing a Christmas lunch of brotherhood at our embassy.
Today, the sad recollections of the tragedy of September 11 and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are still in our minds. We continue to witness regular atrocities and ominous acts of terror committed by ISIS throughout the world. In cases where allies are involved, the U.S. often turns a kind eye. Through acts of terror, more than 3,000 innocent Americans have been killed on their own soil. Many more have died throughout the rest of the world including the Riyadh and Khobar Tower terror attacks of 2003 and 2004 in Saudi Arabia. Who were these terrorists and who supported them? Where did they come from? The 9/11 hijackers had Saudi passports. They were not Iranians and were not supported by Iran. Why are Iranians, my brothers and sisters, unfairly blamed?
In an editorial in The New York Times on May 3, the editors question the interest of the Secretary of State in the job he had accepted. It was a timely reminder to the reader that to find solutions for the problems of the world in this current turmoil, and in a Middle East in total chaos Mr. Tillerson needs a much broader policy and better communication with the diplomats and senior officers of the State Department. He needs their experience to be able to see and examine a wider range of solutions that a diplomatic approach can always offer.
Threats of war, the brandishing of military might, the use of weapons or sanctions can only lead to greater unrest and more catastrophe in the world. We should all learn from the experiences of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq. We should look again into the mirror of history and stop confusing the might of arms which cause only massive destruction with the legitimacy of rights.
Secretary Tillerson has accused Iran of following the footsteps of North Korea. I respect every nation on earth, be it great or small, but I need to remind the secretary that Iran is not North Korea. I share his view expressed in the April 18 letter to Speaker Ryan and not what he said in the regrettable interview two days later.
All the parties to the negotiations, in fact the whole world, admitted that the nuclear agreement had made the world a safer place and had set a good example of diplomacy and political maturity. Secretary Tillerson’s change of heart and mind in a matter of hours surprised everyone, especially America’s allies, and raised questions about the stability of American diplomacy.
I warmly recall the fifties and sixties when America was the harbinger of peace; defender of the rights of nations; and the liberator of colonies. The U.S. was admired throughout the world and had a special place in our hearts. The path of peace and brotherhood of nations should not have so easily been abandoned. Why should we boast and brag when we can settle our differences with dialogue and patience?
Today, all leaders of world should listen to the humane, clear and courteous call of Pope Francis on his visit to Cairo in April of 2017. The pontiff visited the ancient land with a message of reconciliation, summoning Muslims, Christians and Jews to end cynicism, cruelty and tribalism and inviting the world to “faith, humility, peace, tolerance, dialogue and tenderness.” (NYT editorial: “A Humane Papal Message in Egypt,” May 2, 2017).
There is no problem, no matter how serious, to which a diplomatic solution cannot be found.
Villa Les Roses
Ardeshir Zahedi was, in 2013, awarded the International Strategic Studies Association Star for Outstanding Contributions to Strategic Progress for his extensive writings on the history of modern Iran, a process which continues. Ambassador Zahedi answers question posed by Defense & Foreign Affairs’ editor Gregory R. Copley in Montreux, Switzerland.
Ambassador Zahedi, You have seen talk during the US Presidential and Congressional election campaigns through 2016 that the incoming Donald Trump Administration would seek to overturn the July 15, 2015, nuclear treaty with Iran. What should strategic policy officials be thinking about those suggestions? After all, you were the one who signed, for Iran, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968.
Firstly, the deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the nuclear program of Iran — was an international agreement involving not just the United States and Iran. It was a deal signed by the P5+1: the five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. As a result, a unilateral withdrawal from the agreement would not necessarily be accepted by the other six signatories, although a US decision to go back on an agreement signed by the United States Government would have some real ramifications for the perception of the US as a reliable treaty partner.
But setting that aside, the reality of the deal was more about satisfying the international community’s concerns about nuclear proliferation and about Iran’s own security fears which prompted it to seek the protection of nuclear weapons in the first place. The agreement, regardless of the substance, was an important step toward normalization of relations with Iran, and about enabling Iran itself to return to a sense of normalcy. In that respect, it started moving us all away from war, and reduced the need for Iran to pursue defense policies.
Abandoning the agreement now would only legitimize the Iranian Government’s ability to itself walk away from it, leading to a possible escalation in its nuclear program. I don’t think that the other parties to the agreement — the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, and Germany— would be persuaded to go along with any new US decisions to unilaterally impose a new set of embargoes against Iran. That means that the US alone would miss the opportunity to help Iran transition back to a normal, stable society, and it means that the US would miss the opportunity to see Iran as its bridge to Central Asia.
The reality is that Iran is the pivotal country which links East and West, North and South. There is no question that, one way or another, it is the key to the stability of the Persian Gulf region. The US once was able to truly balance its good relations with the Shah of Iran and with the Saudis, and that’s what it needs to try to do again. It has taken much longer than we all would have liked to see the possibility for a restoration of good US-Iranian relations, and there is still much to be done.
So my recommendation to the US would be to see the 2015 agreement as a stepping stone to rebuilding both the US position in the region and to helping Iran return to normalcy. I know that there are people in the region who have concerns about the Iranian leadership. There are others who have attempted to take up leadership of the region while Iran has been under sanctions. But in the end, isn’t the prize of having a friendly, stable, and normalized Iran worth having for the US?
So do you think we are, in fact, starting to see a return to some sort of normalcy in Iran, after the Iranian Revolution—like all revolutions—has gone through its predictable phases since 1979? Are Iran’s governing mullahs starting to act more like Persian leaders than merely as religious leaders? Is Iran returning, in a sense, to its historical Persian geopolitical rôle?
I have so much confidence in the people of Iran, because they have an understanding of their roots, and I knew that some day they would come back to their nation. I thought it would take maybe 20 to 25 years. However, when the Shah left, I knew that we would never go back to the way it was during the Pahlavi era. We have seen so much: the Mongol invasion; the Arab invasion. But, even at the time of Cyrus the Great, we were talking about human rights. We’ve always proven that we were capable of advanced human and scientific thinking. We’ve always evolved through problems.
Now it has been about 38 years since the Pahlavi era has ended, and I believe we’re ready to resume our place in the world.
When I left Iran, we were not even 36-million people; today we have more than 80-million. And today, the population is far more educated, as well; 60 per cent of them [are educated]. I think that it would be in the interests of the West that Western societies and governments should recognize these facts, and that Iran is returning to its national identity and is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. We have, over the past couple of centuries, suffered at the hands of the great powers: Russia, Britain, France. But that period, which began with the weakness of the Qajar dynasty, lasted only about a couple of hundred years of our long history.
Now we are indeed coming to a new period. Iran has a rosy future. As I said, we have so many educated people, a high proportion of graduates of the top universities of the world and a large number of women with university degrees.
From 80-million plus population of Iran, more than 60-million are under the age of 30. We have some 30-million educated people working. The percentage of girls in universities exceeds that of boys and more than two-thirds of those educated are women. Leadership of the future will come from this generation, from the hands of the youth. They are the architects of the future of Iran. I’m proud of them; I respect them. I have so much confidence in this generation.
I have so much confidence in the people of Iran. It is time for the West to recognize Iran as a partner, and not as an enemy. Yes, we are returning to our traditional Persian identity, as the cradle of civilization. Now we need a leader to come from our people; the young people will decide.
Religion is important in Iran, but Iranians are open-minded; we love and honor our minorities, and guarantee their place in the structure. We have to also recognize that in 1953 it was an ayatollah who helped save the Shah, so it is not a matter of the religious versus the secular. Looking back, even the transition in 1979 was not as radical in terms of structure as it might have seemed. So the revolution was in its own way somehow in line with Persian traditions.
We see Iran returning to its roots of Persianism?
Agree 100 per cent. Yes, things are changing; the monarchies come and go, and yet we retain the sense of Persianness. Some 60 per cent of our 80-plus-million people are educated; two-thirds of the educated are women. Leadership will come from the people, from the hands of the youth. This is a society where people of different faiths and origins are welcome: Sunni and Shi’a; Jews; all of the ethnic groups; all actually have always had their rights respected.
We have had good and bad kings in history; good and bad ayatollahs; just as in other countries there are good and bad presidents, and so on. The changes which have been occurring in Iran are — if we see them in the context of the longer-term picture — in the pattern of Persian tradition.
Are we seeing the potential of looking at some of the older historical ties, and perhaps seeing a trading and alliance bloc which would include Iran, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Lebanon, the Palestinians, and perhaps Ethiopia, even extending to Greece and Cyprus, acting as a cohesive trading group?
Why not? Even Ye men, but that situation has fallen into the hands of the Saudis.
We have seen some of Iran’s neighbors — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey —starting a war in Syria and taking an active rôle in Iraq. Perhaps this has exacerbated the ongoing civil war in Turkey, leading to moves toward an independent Kurdistan, carved out of Turkey and perhaps Iraq and Syria. How does this affect Iran’s Kurds?
Let us not forget that the Kurds are of pure and ancient Persian origin. The Medes were Kurds and they established the first royal dynasty of Iran some 2,800 years ago, in Ecbatana.
Iran has always had good relations with the Kurdish people as a whole. We, in Iran, have helped the Iraqi Kurds defend themselves in the past. However, I don’t think that what is going on now will result in an independent Kurdish state at this moment. I don’t think that the civil war in Turkey will result in the breakup of that country; I don’t believe that.
Some Kurds, of course, want independence, but I do not think it will come in my lifetime; certainly they have, and should have, some autonomy in their countries of the region.
Clearly, the wars in Syria and Iraq have meant that outside powers have been funding and arming various groups, including the Kurds, and this has muddied the waters. But I think that the Turks will remain a nationalist people and that what is going on now will not result in a breakup of Turkey.
I had a wonderful relationship with my Turkish brothers when I was Foreign Minister of Iran, but that was before the present situation.
What do you think about the situation elsewhere in the region? Let’s start with Oman.
I loved the Father [Sultan Said bin Taimur] and the Son [Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said]. Oman may be the most stable country on the Arabian Peninsula today. Sultan Qaboos is a wise man, a wise ruler. The economy of the country is good. But if we [Iran] had not gone there to help, things might have been different. Oman was on the verge of falling down, and I took the responsibility and we increased our military support there [to combat the Dhofar Rebellion in the 1970s]. Oman was beloved of my King, and it is a historical brother of Iran.
It is, of course, America’s great ally. But the bulk of the population is comprised of foreigners, who come there to work. According to official Saudi statistics, 48 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line, with an annual income below a $1,000, and often in deplorable conditions. And yet there are almost a thousand princes in the country. So the Saudis need the West to stay in control.
They have no national identity to fall back on, representing all of the people of their territory. Of course, the modern state of Saudi Arabia was only created in 1932, after the fall of the Ottomans, and the deals after World War I. I think they know that without the US and the West — with the arms sales and the like — they are nothing. They do have many educated people, of course, but who is the driver? The opposition is completely underground, so we don’t know what might happen there.
Jordan, Syria, Yemen?
Jordan I think is moving toward a better situation. Jordanians are educated. They have had good leaders, noble leaders. And they know how to handle adversity and difficult situations.
I have respect for Syria, too. We have changed it recently [by starting a war in that country]. But I think that even the Israelis would have been happier if we — the world — had not tried to change it.
I believe that if the agreement between the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was respected and had the [US] Defense Department had not intervened — if the US Air Force had not bombarded 52 times the Syrian Military convoys, later admitted to have been a mistake — the problems could have been solved in a less painful way. More than half-a-mil lion people would not have lost their homes or their families. To the great majority of international conflicts, there is a solution through negotiations and diplomatic maturity.
I have always said that the age of gunboat diplomacy is over.
What is happening in Yemen is totally inhuman. We see the US being drawn in to support the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, and the US then runs the risk — as the major supplier of weapons and intelligence to the Saudis — of being seen as responsible for war crimes, or crimes against humanity because of the attacks on civilians, and particularly the children.
There is something wrong where, not just in Ye men, but in, for example, Syria, where we see one side justifying or rationalizing their involvement causing civilian casualties as “an accident”, and the actions of the other side as being “war crimes”. But the reality is that there needs to be far greater thinking before entering into these conflicts.
I have been so terribly moved by recent atrocities in Yemen that I wish to express the depth of my sentiments. Here’s a copy of the letter of the [US] Democratic Congress man from California, Ted W. Lieu, to US Secretary of State John Kerry on October 11, 2016.1 I wholeheartedly share Congress man Lieu’s sentiments, urging an immediate stop to US support for the Saudi-led Coalition fighting in Yemen. What I wanted to add to the recent comments of the powerful lady Katy Kay, the courageous Nawal al-Maghaf, and other celebrated BBC World Service commentators is this:
I admire Congr. Ted W. Lieu, of California; and the noble lady Katty Kay, and all the BBC World Service commentators who have been fighting with courage to open the eyes to the atrocities committed in Yemen. They are right to insist that the US government has not only failed to protect the smallest and most impoverished nation of the region but has become complicit by supporting the Saudi led Coalition. They are, like many of us, surprised that while Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq are regularly mentioned, the American leaders and even the media have deliberately pushed the Yemen crisis aside.
Congr. Lieu, in his letter to the US Secretary of State, reminds the establishment in all honesty and sincerity that “every US assisted bomb that kills children, doctors, patients, newlyweds and funeral mourners has the potential to amplify hatred towards the US”.
Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 2016 speaks of 70 unlawful coalition strikes, deliberately killing 913 civilians, the use of seven types of internationally banned arms and destruction of hospitals, schools, homes, and centers of distribution of food and medicine. More than 65 percent of the victims are women and in no cent children even in the tender ages of three to six months.
It is more than urgent today to launch an independent inquiry into the alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The world cannot and should not continue to close its eyes and ignore the atrocities of this ignoble war.
Could we go back to where we could see a great regional trading zone again, with Iran, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula states, and so on?
Why not? But when we lose the justice of our relations, we lose everything. We can not reduce our relations to being just about religion. We see that happening now.
We started to create a regional capability to determine our own security and relations when we created the Baghdad Pact [between Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan] in 1955, for example, but that started to have problems when the coup occurred against King Faisal II in Iraq, in 1958. We then changed the name to the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and it offered some hope. Yes, we had some differences, but we could still talk.
Iran withdrew from CENTO just before the 1979 revolution when Mr. [Shapour] Bakhtiar was Prime Minister. But the RCD [Regional Cooperation for Development: established by Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan, in July 1964] is still alive, and Iran and other member countries work together for the reconstruction and development of the region.
But if we want to create, or recreate, a great regional trading area, it all begins with getting back to seeing our relationships in terms of respect and justice.