Previous Administration Negotiated with US
How would you assess the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 that have now entered the final stage of writing the draft?
I do not suppose that we have entered the final stage. There are numerous ups and downs in the path of nuclear talks and, in fact, every day we are faced with new phenomena.
These phenomena exist both in foreign, regional and domestic relations. It is too early to assume that we are moving closer to an understanding. My political experience has made me conservative and I cannot state that we have gotten close to an agreement despite the great efforts made in this regard.
Thus, on this basis, do you believe that reaching the stage of writing the text in the final step and the comprehensive agreement seems impossible under the present circumstances?
My interpretation is that the P5+1 countries have had different experiences during the past eight years. They have experienced three different periods of negotiations; one was during the reformist government, the other during the past eight years which was based on a preemptive strategy, and the new era which has started since one year ago where foreign policy is based on realism and which has created a bridge between the focal points and the realities.
One of the major issues in the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 is the dialogue between Iran and the US. The changes in relations between Iran and the US began from the phone conversation between the two presidents in New York and, after the Geneva Agreement, there have been ups and downs in this matter. Members of the negotiating team state that they only talk about nuclear issues with the US and on the other hand the US takes measures against the spirit of the Geneva Agreement such as imposing sanctions. How would you assess this trend? Do you think that the relations between Iran and the US have entered a new stage and will there be a change in these relations? Is this a suitable measure?
I do not believe that the phone conversation made between the two presidents was the beginning of Iran-US negotiations. This was more a phone conversation than anything else. With all due respect to our president, my viewpoint is different from that of his associates.
The beginning of the negotiations between Iran and the US is related to the past. Iran has had overt and covert talks with the US at different levels. The previous administration negotiated with the US in Oman for more than one year and the highest levels of the country were aware of the details of negotiations and managed the strategy of these talks. Negotiations were also done between Iran and the US on the issues of Iraq and security issues and also the liberation of Afghanistan and the establishment of the new government and the trend of developments in Afghanistan.
I believe that among the 5 countries plus Germany, it is not the US which creates obstacles. The role which France plays is more destructive and we must take measures to reach serious new conditions with the French officials.
The roles played by China and Russia are not yet clear for us. The behavior of these two countries is mixed with formalities and despite our support for them and concessions given to them, they secretly or openly have their own priorities. Some of these concessions even ignored the independence of our country but there was still no positive action taken by Russia and China. They only save their faces. Although the world is passing through the post-Cold War era, new alignments are forming. The contradictions and differences between the US and Russia and China have become more obvious and we must make the most of this new situation. But we cannot say that China and Russia have outstanding records with regard to Iran.
Britain has its special and very complicated role. To my knowledge, from among these countries, the US has a different approach compared with the past. I do not intend to say that we must be optimistic about the US’ actions but what is shown through the course of negotiations is that it is true that the US has natural contradictions in their words and behaviors and the double standard which the US is faced with cannot impose a positive view of itself on us.
Besides the nuclear issue, there have been changes in our relations with Britain following the coming to power of the new administration and we are moving towards the reopening of the embassies. How would you assess the relations between Iran and Britain considering its old history with its ups and downs?
I oppose any cutting off of relations in foreign policy and believe that having relations is the necessity of an active foreign policy. Of course, the existence of logical relations is better than no relations and this is the basis of the existence of foreign policy.
But with regard to the closing of Britain’s embassy in Tehran, the British made the main mistake. The new government in this country, the government of Mr. Cameron, made hasty decisions with regard to their relations with Iran. I believe that the government of Britain did not act with patience and logic. Sentiments exist everywhere in the world. The incident which happened with regard to Britain’s embassy in Iran was neither the first nor the last incident for Britain and the whole world. Official dialogues at different levels have continued since then and the high-ranking officials of Iran have always expressed their opposition against such sentimental behaviors which happened in Britain’s embassy.
There is no doubt that the British officials acted very hastily and they themselves realized that later. The new British government did not know Iran well and was faced with serious misunderstandings. They later understood the geopolitical and geostrategic power of a country like Iran and realized that they will not have any place in the region without having relations with Iran.
Of course, they have asked for compensations …
Asking for compensations is a norm. This is natural. When our embassy in Britain was attacked, the government of Britain paid compensations. This is a diplomatic protocol and its details must be resolved through legal protocols.
With the coming to power of the 11th administration, one of the criticisms made against the Foreign Ministry is our relations with regard to our neighbors and the region. It is said that since Iran’s nuclear dossier was defined within the responsibilities of the Foreign Ministry, the relations with neighbors and the region were ignored. Foreign Minister Zarif has made several visits to the region and of course visiting Saudi Arabia and establishing relations with this country have always been the subject of media reports. How would you evaluate the foreign policy of the 11th administration with regard to our neighbors? What are the reasons, in your view, behind the harsh positions which some of the regional countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, have taken against Iran?
The situation of our relations depends on the situation of our foreign policy during the past eight years. Mistrust must be removed. I believe that more attention should be paid to our regional relations in our foreign policy. The ruling spirit of our foreign policy is based on international relations. This cannot be considered as a weakness because our most important issue today is the international issue and this takes most of the time of our Foreign Minister.
But some countries such as Saudi Arabia have reviewed their interests with regard to Iran. Unfortunately the line which Saudi Arabia pursues with regard to Iran is much harsher than that of the Israelis. Of course this issue must be studied from a historical aspect to find out why Saudi Arabia has reached this stage. Could these measures be viewed more as personal or have there really been great events. Saudi Arabia is now faced with a serious crisis within its political system. The political support of the US for this country has been reduced.
Today, two points have shaken the security and stability of Saudi Arabia. The stability of this country has been shaken due to the existence of the Shiites in its eastern region and the democratic developments of the world of Islam. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is confronted with the crisis of the ruling patriarchy in power. The young generation of Saudi Arabia pursues an international status for Saudi Arabia. The princes who have been educated in the West have now found faults with the monarchy system. The threats from within the ruling family have frightened the King.
I believe that Mr. Zarif has acted very well with regard to Saudi Arabia. It is Saudi Arabia which must now compromise with Iran and not vice versa. Iran has done nothing. Saudi Arabia has committed crimes in some regions of Iran and must be held accountable for them. The Arab-Iranian view must be changed on both sides.
Last week, a presidential election was held in Syria and Bashar Assad was elected with a high number of votes as the president of this country. What is your assessment of this election?
Everyone knew that the developments in Syria would move towards this direction. Bashar Assad holds one part of the society. 30% of the Sunnis support Bashar Assad. About 16% of the Alawis, 8% of the Kurds and 6% of the Christians support him as well. Some countries followed the US policy in the crisis in Syria. Some made statements that Bashar would not remain in power for more than a few days. They must certainly review their policies. Despite the criticisms which exist against the political system of Syria, the reality cannot be ignored.
Bashar Assad has been able to control the power and I hope that this election would be a turning point to logically divide the power. There are a Syrian majority and Alawi, Kurd and Christian minorities in the Syrian society, thus, serious changes must be made in the domestic relations and in the power. The time has passed since when the global powers in Washington, London and Paris were able to remove the political systems with their infiltrating agents. The world has changed but it seems that the nature of dominant powers has not changed yet.