Iran's Foreign Policy

Manuchehr Mottaki at the World Economic Forum.

Remarks by H. E. Manuchehr Mottaki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Asia Society, New York
September 28, 2007

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

At the outset, I would like to thank Dr. Desai, President of Asia Society and her colleagues for holding this event. It is my pleasure to be among the distinguished members and guests of Asia Society. Your Society within 50 years of its life has done a pioneer job in expanding knowledge of Americans about the rich civilizations, cultures and art of the Asian ancient continent. This is an important task and further strengthens understanding of nations toward each other. Today, world needs more than ever that cultural and ideational concepts take the lead in building new paradigms of international relations.

I have the opportunity to discuss and share with you some perspectives regarding Iranian foreign policy, as well as a critical review of current international relations paradigm.

A diagnostic review of issues and problems in the current international system indicates that many of the shortcomings of the world order stem from an enduring Cold War mentality. The Cold War mentality was based on the geopolitics, military strategy and zero-sum game, promoting and imposing a set of rules over and to the cost of others. Exerting power without responsibility and justice was the main by-product of such a paradigm.

In the post-Cold War era, while the world was expecting a newly developed global order susceptible to the promotion of peace and stability, the 9/11 attacks of 2001 gave momentum to a paradigm based in name on a 'global war on terror' but in practice a mechanism of "coalition toward war". This was applied as a pretext for preemptive war and regime change strategy against opponents. This approach further augmented the so-called paradigm of exerting power without responsibility. The order and strategies arising from this paradigm have neither been sustainable nor brought peace, stability and security to its bearer and the international community at large. Instead, it has resulted in more negative consequences and intensified insecurity, instability, international terrorism, deadly conflicts and appalling miseries in a number of regions, as well as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, transnational organized crime and other problems, too numerous to mention. Thus, it has led the world toward anarchy and has tended to institutionalize a new type of international dictatorship based on discrimination.

I addition to the politico-military dimensions of such an order, its irresponsible, selfish, and unjust coercive norms in economic spheres and the global economy have also widened the gap between the haves and have-nots, and added to dislocation of people, cultural alienation and political instability.

Keeping these points in mind, I turn to a few objective manifestations of the paradigm of injustice affecting Iran, especially by the United States during the last decades in bilateral, regional and international aspects.

The people of Iran, a nation that has not invaded any country in the past 250 years, after decades of struggle against dictatorship and foreign domination, were finally in a position to secure their freedom and independence by establishing a political system of their own in 1979. Instead of friendly interactions with Iran based on the new realities and on mutual respect, the US has ever since attempted to bring back the unjust former pattern of domination and submission. In pursuance of this end, U.S. undertook an unjust approach of antagonizing Iran, using all available tools including threats, sanctions, accusations and the manipulation of human rights mechanisms against Iran. It also led the massive diplomatic, financial and military support for Saddam Hussein in his aggression and imposed war against Iran in the 1980s.

The nuclear issue and crisis created over Iran's peaceful and legal nuclear program is yet another offshoot of this unjust paradigm and also a matter of accusation, double standards, and moral and legal inconsistency, all hidden behind the alleged threat of proliferation. But in fact, all are blatant attempts to deprive the Iranian nation of its inalienable rights under international law and conventions. Iran's peaceful nuclear program originates from late 1960s and 1970s. Due to Iran's growing energy demand that will exceed its supply and could bring its oil export capacity to a decline or even to zero in the near future, Iran has an urgent need to produce 20,000 megawatts of nuclear electricity by 2020. The same findings had been acknowledged by the US government in studies in 1973. It was expected that Iran would be capable of generating 20.000 megawatts nuclear capacity by 1994. Despite the encouragement of Iranian nuclear program at that time, by the U.S. as well as other Western countries (Britain, Germany and France), they all ultimately reneged on their contractual commitments. Today some of these Western governments are even questioning Iran's rights and needs for nuclear energy: a matter that was obvious to them over thirty years ago.

Iran simply and decidedly does not need the nuclear weapon to protect its regional interests, and such weapons have no place in Iran's security strategies. It is looking to win the confidence of its neighbors and has remained within the confines of the NPT. There has been no diversion of its peaceful nuclear program as verified in the latest IAEA report. Iran has even proposed regional and multinational participation schemes in its enrichment facilities with the greatest degree of transparency, sadly to a resounding silence from the Western powers.

Today, the threat of weapons of mass destruction by nuclear powers makes nuclear disarmament and the will to eliminate Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) within a time-framed plan and a comprehensive and universal convention-a basic priority for international peace and security. Meanwhile, U.S. policy toward nuclear non-proliferation and the NPT regime is a case in point of the practice of double-standards and the lack of sensitivity to the security concerns and interests of various countries that undermines global security and disarmament regimes. While U.S. seeks to put unilateral and unlawful pressure to preclude Iran's legitimate rights to peaceful nuclear energy, it has assisted in Israeli nuclear capabilities-whose Regime's prime minister actually boasted about its nuclear weapons-threatening the entire region. The U.S has also acted as a buffer to insulate Israel from any international scrutiny, and at the same time, it has ignored Iran's and others' calls and efforts to create a Middle East nuclear-free zone. The paradigm of injustice in sanctioning and putting pressure on Iran can only aggravate the trend in unraveling the NPT regime and can further exacerbate tensions.

With regards to international terrorism, Iran as a victim of terrorism, while condemning all forms of terrorism, believes that the root problem of terrorism lies in the same so-called paradigm, the prevailing double-standards, and the short sighted policies of tending toward political and military domination and imposition by force. The United States has used and is still using extremist organizations as its allies in promoting its political goals before they turn against their benefactor. This could be said of U.S. conduct with regard to Al-Qaeda in the recent past, and of its current manner in dealing with terrorist groups such as MKO, PEJAK and the PKK. The MKO, a terror group once on the payroll of Saddam Hussein, the ousted Iraqi dictator, and responsible for the loss of many innocent lives in Iran and Iraq, is now under protection of the U.S. government in Iraq and conducts its activities freely inside the U.S. Therefore, we can see that the common roots of structural and systemic violence, extremism, and terrorism could be identified as the result of unjust world politics and an unrestrained and irresponsible use of power.

Again, aspects of injustice and the irresponsible use of power are clearly seen in current and ongoing miseries in Iraq. Despite claims of establishing democracy in Iraq, the initial US intention and goal was to dominate the Iraqi oil industry, by which it would extend its control over the Middle East region as well as the future of the international economy. (This was implicitly acknowledged by Alan Greenspan, the former U.S Federal Reserve chairman in the Washington Post, September 17, 2007). Now, of course, it is obvious that the foreign invasion of Iraq led to widespread instability and the displacement of civilians in the region and arming and inciting of Iraqi groups against one another, fomenting of sectarian violence in that country, and has put the stability of the region at risk.

Although in the past several years the political process in Iraq has evolved towards the will of Iraqi people, the absence of a strong defense and security structure and adequate delegation of authority to the Iraqi government are basic impediments to the Iraqi government's efforts in countering terrorists in Iraq Iran, as the most powerful country in its neighborhood, has always considered stability in the region as a vital interest to its own security and development. Hence, it has engaged in confidence-building measures with its immediate neighbors in order to offset extra-regional agitations. The precedent of Iran's initiatives and proposals for the establishment of a regional security and cooperation arrangement in the Persian Gulf harks back to 1986, at height of imposed war on Iran, and Iran has further pursued these initiatives in the post-Saddam era.

Iran has applied the same policy considerations currently to Iraq and Afghanistan despite its opposition to the US led invasions of these countries. Iran has established excellent relations with post-Taliban Afghanistan and post-Saddam Iraq whose most senior officials have consistently rejected U.S allegations of Iranian interference in these two countries. The U.S. allegations against Iran are designed to justify the escalation of conflict and are part of a massive campaign to portray Iran as a threat to regional stability, and to frighten other countries and creating an anti-Iran coalition in the region. All are aimed to divert attention away from the consequences of failed U.S. policies in Iraq and in other parts of the region, i.e. in Lebanon and with respect to the Palestine conflict as well.

In the Middle East the issue of Palestine-injustice against the Palestinian Cause, the occupation of Palestinian territories and the taking away of their basic rights by the Israeli regime-is another clear manifestation of the unjust approach of irresponsible exercise of power in international relations. It has caused a continuous and deadly crisis which is among the most dangerous threats against international security. It has stemmed from artificial divisions in Islamic world based on Western interests. A durable peace in Palestine and the Middle East will only be possible through justice, full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people, and an end to discrimination and the occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories. Only by the return of all Palestinian refugees, people who were driven forcefully from their homes, can all of Palestine's inhabitants have the possibility to determine their future in a democratic and peaceful referendum.

Looking back at the discriminative and dysfunctional mode of exercising power without principle and its consequences on the existing order in the current international system, necessitates new strategies to address these deficiencies. The concept of "Justice" is the missing link in bringing together power and responsibility. A just global order and international governance have to be defined in terms of peace and security, alleviation of poverty, better distribution of benefits, better protection of the environment, and the observing of local cultural particularities. All of these have a global nature and no single state can deal with them alone. Toward such an end, at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament of 1999, Iran officially proposed changing the global security paradigm by replacing the military block security umbrella with a new and innovative concept of "Global Security Networking", which uses existing mechanisms in a complementary rather than competitive manner.

We can build a global order based on justice, one that negates the power-oriented and unipolar hegemonic order by developing tolerance for diversity instead of seeking imposition and assimilation. Such an order will be culturally inclusive and less hegemonic. It encompasses states, non-state actors and social groups to minimize violence and maximize economic well-being. I would like to conclude here by quoting Erich Fromm, the late German psychologist and philosopher who said "The history is a graveyard of cultures that came to their catastrophic ends because of their incapacity for planned and rational voluntary reaction to challenges". We should ask ourselves: Can human civilization today pass through this difficult period of transition facing it? Though we can not predict our fate, we can be certain that any safe passage will only come through real solidarity and a global partnership.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.