Dr. Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour, Iran's former ambassador to the United Nations Office at Geneva has taken part in an interview with Khabaronline news website to answer various questions on the effects of the recent nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers on Iran's regional relations in the Middle East, and the outlook of Tehran's ties with Washington. What follows is recapitulation of the salient points of the interview as prepared by Iran Review website.
The first outcome of the nuclear deal for Iran has been establishment of relatively balanced relations between this country and big powers. During history of Iran's foreign relations throughout the past few centuries, big powers have been highlighted as a lasting challenge. There has been no precedent in history of Iran's foreign relations when 5-6 global powers have sit with Iran for negotiations, treating the country, as put by legal experts, on an equal standing. This development shows that Iran's regional power, Iran's conditions and the achievements of the Islamic Revolution in Iran have been accepted by the other parties.
The second point is that the present trend proves that diplomacy is now part of the national power of Iran. The Islamic Republic has proved its good command of diplomacy and writing diplomatic texts and proved that, unlike some regional countries, it does not assign the formulation of its diplomatic texts to foreign legal experts.
The third point which is important about Iran from a strategic viewpoint is that Iran succeeded through the nuclear deal to challenge the West's policy of containment. The main goals of the sanctions that were imposed on Iran were to weaken the country, to widen the gap between people and the government and, ultimately, to start a war. Today, even if the approval of the deal faces obstacles at the US Congress, it would be very difficult for the United States to revive the past conditions.
The fourth outcome of the deal for Iran, in my opinion, is liberation of Iran's strategic energy. Those people at the US Congress and Israeli circles, who pursued no other goal but to cause trouble for the Iranian people, aimed to restrict Iran's potential. That is, they wanted to limit Iran's flight ceiling to a determined level. From a political viewpoint, the extent of Iran's presence in the region is very important for them and I believe that the nuclear deal will give Iran great latitude in political, economic and even media fields.
The fifth point is that following the nuclear deal, the rise of Iran as an emerging regional power with transregional impacts has been accepted as an undeniable reality. I am of the opinion that this agreement increases various aspects of Iran's power and recognition of that power is an important and large-scale phenomenon.
Nuclear agreement's outcomes for the region
On a regional level, the nuclear deal has, for the first time, created a unique gap between Israel and the United States, which is by no means acceptable to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That is, if one wanted to summarize this in an analytical manner, it could be said that this is a unique political page in Iran's anti-Israeli records and no other regional player was able to play such a role. Following the Iran deal, the pressure on Israel in order to accede to international treaties will increase exponentially.
The second point about the outcomes of the agreement on a regional level is that before the deal, Iran threat was aggrandized by propagandists as the foremost threat to the entire region. Iranophobia was a major project for this group so that Israel and its treatment of Palestinians had been pushed to the margins. Today, everybody knows that terrorism, extremism and violence are more serious threats to regional peace and security and what was described as Iran threat was mostly an illusionary and imaginary concept.
The third point about regional outcomes of the nuclear agreement is the passivity of some Arab actors in this regard. At present, projects implemented by those actors to divide the region along Arab and non-Arab lines are being challenged because part of the Arab world has taken sides with Iran and is challenging the claim that Iran is the main threat to the Arab world. As a result, those who tried to promote this concept have been pushed into passivity.
Outcomes of Iran deal for international system
From an international angle, this is the first time after the Cold War period that big powers have engaged in negotiations with a regional power and for a long time. Today, those big powers have to concede to the negotiations and this will be an important characteristic of international relations in the future.
Another important point is that the Iran deal proved the importance of personal roles at international level. From now on, the role played by individuals cannot be ignored in international politics and our time is not merely the era of political dwarfs but it is an era of people who can change directions and blaze new trails through innovation and creativity.
Iran's nuclear case and regional security
Iran's nuclear case had its own complicated and multifaceted logic. The logic underlying this case was different from the logic involved in other regional cases. The Syria case, for example, follows a totally different logic than that of Yemen. The case of Iraq also follows a logic that is totally different from the other two cases. Simplifications that are done in general by the Western media and some domestic media give rise to mental expectations that are far from the reality. I think that with regard to any of these regional cases, we must see what actors are involved, what game Iran is playing and why Iran changes its game; I mean, with what logic and for what reason?
Relations between Iran and the United States are complicated relations characterized by various factors and elements and, at least, three groups of factors are at work in this issue. One group consists of structural factors, which encompass both material structures and spiritual structures. Such structures can be neither ignored easily, nor generalized. Iran is a regional power and the United States is a global power. A regional power like Iran will not give in to the global hegemony.
Spiritual structures are very important here. Iran is a country that has experienced a revolution. The Iranian revolution was a serious and inclusive revolution; a revolution against the monarchial regime that was supported by the United States. These structures are an issue here. In the meantime, the measures taken by the United States over many years against Iran, including the behavior of US President Barak Obama's administration in enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929, which was followed by one of the worst wave of international sanctions against Iran, cannot be ignored.
The second group of factors pertains to human factors. It is related to leaders, the elite, and people and is also about their attitudes, perceptions and interpretations. Such interpretations and perceptions may be wrong, but their existence is part of the reality. The current debates in the United States over Iran involve a group of human beings and institutions and persons, but they can per se become problematic and cause crisis in future relations between the two sides.
The third group of factors is related to policies that are made. This is where structural factors are combined with human factors and lead to a decision on the policy that should be adopted. The policy that the United States has adopted on Iran following the revolution has been based on considering Iran as enemy. Some American officials believe that the structure of this enemy's government should be totally changed, while others say it should be contained or weakened. Obama, for his part, says his administration has reduced the number of cases between the two countries by one and nuclear issue of Iran has been resolved through interaction. In Iran, there is also a viewpoint that the important factor is the United States' behavior. This structure that I pointed to and the human factors that I referred to, and policies that were explained here have been all tied to a general concept, which is very profound distrust between the two sides. Some people in Iran believe that the United States' behavior can be a determining factor for future relations. Taking all these factors into account, it would be obvious that having immediate and short-term expectations that the resolution of the nuclear case would open new chapters in bilateral and official relations between the two countries is far from the reality.
Relations with Saudi Arabia
There are two viewpoints in Saudi Arabia, where a new generation of politicians is facing an old generation. One group maintains that regional issues should be resolved, while the other group believes that past conditions can be restored though tension and militarization of the regional environment. I believe that the government of Iran has been honest in its conduct and steps it has taken to mend fences with Arab neighbors; however, two points should be taken into account here. One point is that Arab countries do not form a unified front. We cannot talk about unified Arabs as a concept because there are serious differences in viewpoints among our Arab neighbors. There are also different viewpoints inside Iran. In reality, however, security interests of nations and governments in this region are intertwined and security of one country cannot be ensured by fomenting insecurity in another country. On the contrary, when the entire region is made secure, security of all countries will be guaranteed.
The nuclear case proved that all debates on Iran's nuclear issue have been based on the wrong premise of military nature of Iran's nuclear program and now everybody knows this is not the case. I think Iran's steadfastness in that case has proven this, and Iran's regional policy will further prove that the Islamic Republic does not want to see insecurity in other countries, but seeks collective security in the region and correctness of this viewpoint will be proved. My experience shows that during the past thirty-odd years, there have been many cases when Iran's remarks were not accepted at first. However, Iran has finally had its way through foresight, preciseness and caution because maintaining security of Iran in this restive region is a complicated task. Iran's discourse is based on maintaining peace and tranquility in the region while reducing tensions and protecting the rights of people. It will be finally proven that Iran has been telling the truth and there should be no doubt that what Iran says will be finally accepted in due time.
*Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour is the former Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative for the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Geneva. Prior to taking up this post, he was the Director of the Institute for Political and International Studies, the research branch of Iran's Foreign Ministry. Sajjadpour received his Ph.D. in political science from George Washington University and was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard. He has taught at the College of International Relations of Tehran University, as well as at Azad University and Iran's National Defense University.
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