Source: Iranian Diplomacy
IRD interview with Dr. Mohammad Sadr, the former deputy foreign minister of Iran for Arab and African affairs -
IRD: In your mind, what should be the position of Iranian Foreign policy toward the current developments of the Middle East?
Dr. Sadr: Normally the foreign policy of Iran should be in line with the demands of the people of those countries. They have one logical demand, and that is appointment of their rulers according to their own will. They say we do not want dictators like Qaddafi or Mubarak governing us for 30 or 40 years. This is a logical demand and Iran should support such a will.
However, when Iran is backing such a demand, it should not treat its own citizens. Foreign policy and internal policy should not be at odds with each other. According to the Prophet Mohammad, when we advise, we should act in line with that advice. Qaddafi has labeled his opponents as "addicted" or "cockroaches". If we are supporting the Libyan people demands and condemning the reaction of Qaddafi, accordingly the head of the Iranian government should not have labeled his opponents as "dirt and dust", and should respect their rights.
Otherwise any adopted positions will not be welcomed by the International community, since it is not acceptable that a government supports the demands and rights of the people of other countries but disregards the rights of its own citizens. The international community should realize that this is a real position, not false, or propaganda. If one is defending the liberties of the Libyan and Tunisian peoples, one should defend the liberty and freedom of the Iranian people.
Thus, in line with what has been mentioned, foreign policy is the continuation of internal policies. If these two are consistent with the demands of the people, then the world will definitely accept them. In the era of Mr. Khatami, such conditions occurred and we were successful at that time. But unfortunately in the present condition it is not like this.
IRD: Occasionally, concerns over Islamists taking power in the Middle East have been expressed by Western countries. To what extent are the latest developments in the Arab countries attributable to Islamist groups?
Dr. Sadr: More than anything else, Islamophobia has been an excuse in the hands of the dictators in the Middle East to perpetuate the dictatorships, and in their appeal for International support. As soon as the protest of the Egyptian people began, both Mubarak and Israel magnified the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in such a protest movement to be able to scare the West and to prevent the pressure of Western government on the Mubarak regime.
Qaddafi has introduced Osama bin Laden as the reason for unrest in his country, since bin Laden is the symbol of extremism in the region and Qaddafi intends to gain support through accusing his opponents of extremism.
Likewise Mubarak followed the same policy. However, the Muslim Brotherhood has behaved wisely and logically. The positions that they have taken blocked the negative propaganda by Mubarak and Israel. Its positions on the basis that they do not intend to take power in Egypt, and that they introduced Muhammad El Baradei as a good and well known candidate on the international level, were effective and wise.
Also in Tunisia Rashid Alghanoushi announced that he is not following the establishment of Islamic state. Israel and the dictators were planning to scare the international community using Islamophobia and thereby oppress these protests. Such reactions by Islamists prove that they were well aware of this plot by the dictators and Israel. In my opinion, although the majority of the people of such countries are Muslims, their demands are clear. They are demanding freedom, the rule of the people, human dignity and Islam.
IRD: A lot has been said about the similarity of recent revolutions and the Islamic Revolution. To what extent are they consistent with our goals?
Dr. Sadr: We should ask, what are our aims? We believe that Islam and Democracy are not at odds with each other. Basically, the goal of the Islamic Revolution was the operationalization of this viewpoint. "Islamic Republic" has the same meaning. It means a government in which the republic of the people choose their own rulers in free elections and change those leaders with their own votes. Meanwhile, the people have their own religious beliefs and Islamic rules are exercised. If we have such an interpretation, there are similarities between the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic and the developments in the region.
They are Muslims who are following freedom and independence. But if we have other interpretations and do not believe in freedom and oppress opponents, and do not let the nation manage its own destiny, there will not be any similarities. Our common characteristic with them is that we are all human beings, Muslims, pro-freedom and democracy, and are opposed to despotism.
IRD: What would be the influence of the latest developments on the relations of those countries with Israel?
Dr. Sadr: As mentioned above, the recent movements are the movement of Muslims who are following liberty and refusing despotism and dictatorship. Meanwhile, these movements are definitely against Israel. It means the people of these countries have no doubt that Israel is disregarding the rights of the Palestinian people. In fact, according to surveys, 75 percent of the Arab countries are anti-American because of the support of Israel by America.
It is clear that there is no one backing Israel in the Arab world. They hate Israel and call it an "occupier". However, this issue of how future governments will deal with Israel and with what method they will express their objections, is a matter that will be specified in the future. But certainly, no ally of Israel such as Mubarak will take power in the region again.
IRD: In your mind, is it true to say that the foreign policy of the West and America toward the Arab dictators, which usually are pro-Western, has changed?
Dr. Sadr: This is a compulsory change. Better said, the people of such countries have pushed the West to rule out support for these dictators. But the main slogan of America is human rights and freedom. This is why in the condition that the people of these countries have risen up to gain their own rights and liberties, America cannot support a dictator who is cracking down on the people. If no protests had occurred, America would never have put pressure on Mubarak to resign. This means that what is effective is the uprising of the people. It was the movement of the people which has made a change in American policies.
IRD: However, as we can see, America disregards human rights when it comes to the treatment by Israel of the Palestinian people.
Dr. Sadr: This is an important point. The slogan of America over human rights in the story of Palestine and Israel always faces a deadlock. The clear example of this issue is in the last UN resolution aimed at ceasing Israel settlements in the West Bank, which America vetoed. This proves the influence of Zionism in America. It means that although Obama's agenda is "change" and although he sends the new message to the Muslim world and announces that he is intending to establish new relations with them, however, over the sensitive issue of the approval of a resolution against Israel, he will take the enduring position of absolute U.S. support of Israel.
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