Friday, October 31, 2014
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What Iran Wants in 2014

TEHRAN – When I campaigned to become President of Iran, I promised to balance realism and the pursuit of the Islamic Republic’s ideals – and won Iranian voters’ support by a large margin. By virtue of the popular mandate that I received, I am committed to moderation and common sense, which is now guiding all of my government’s policies. That commitment led directly to the interim international agreement reached in November in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program. It will continue to guide our decision-making in 2014.

Indeed, in terms of foreign policy, my government is discarding extreme approaches. We seek effective and constructive diplomatic relations and a focus on mutual confidence-building with our neighbors and other regional and international actors, thereby enabling us to orient our foreign policy toward economic development at home. To this end, we will work to eliminate tensions in our foreign relations and strengthen our ties with traditional and new partners alike. This obviously requires domestic consensus-building and transparent goal-setting – processes that are now underway.

While we will avoid confrontation and antagonism, we will also actively pursue our larger interests. But, given an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, challenges can be addressed only through interaction and active cooperation among states. No country – including big powers – can effectively address on its own the challenges that it faces.

Indeed, developing and emerging economies’ rapid “catch-up growth” suggests that their aggregate economic weight is about to surpass that of the advanced world. Today’s developing and emerging countries are likely to account for nearly 60% of world GDP by 2030, up from around 40% in 2000, enabling them to play a much greater role on the world stage.

In such a period of transition, Iran can enhance its global role. The election this year, in which close to 75% of eligible voters turned out, showed how our religious democracy is maturing. Iran’s ancient culture and civilization, long state continuity, geopolitical position, social stability amid regional turmoil, and well-educated youth enable us to look to the future with confidence, and aspire to assume the major global role that our people deserve – a role that no actor in global politics can ignore.

We are also considering how to rebuild and improve our bilateral and multilateral relations with European and North American countries on the basis of mutual respect. This requires easing tensions and implementing a comprehensive approach that includes economic ties.

We can begin by avoiding any new strain in relations between Iran and the United States and, at the same time, endeavoring to eliminate inherited tensions that continue to mar relations between our countries. While we may not be able to forget the mistrust and suspicion that have haunted Iranians’ thinking about US governments for the last 60 years, now we must focus on the present and look to the future. That means rising above petty politics and leading, rather than following, pressure groups in our respective countries.

In our view, cooperating on issues of mutual interest and concern would contribute to easing tensions in our region as well. This means countering those in the US and our region who seek to distract international attention from issues in which they are directly involved and prevent Iran from enhancing its regional status. By diminishing the prospects for a permanent negotiated agreement on our nuclear program, such behavior increases the likelihood that the Iran-US standoff will continue.

Our region is grappling more than ever with sectarianism, group enmities, and potential new breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism. At the same time, the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria could haunt the region’s peoples for many years. We believe that, under such circumstances, a voice of moderation in the region could affect the course of events in a constructive and positive way.

There is no doubt that the turmoil in nearby countries affects the interests of many regional and global actors, which need to act in concert to ensure long-term stability. Iran, as a major regional power, is fully prepared to move in this direction, sparing no effort to facilitate solutions. So those who portray Iran as a threat and thus seek to undermine its regional and global credibility should cease – in the interest of peace and tranquility in the region and beyond.

I am profoundly disturbed over the humanitarian tragedy in Syria and the enormous suffering that the Syrian people have endured for almost three years. Representing a people who have experienced the horror of chemical weapons, my government strongly condemned their use in the Syrian conflict. I am also concerned that parts of Syrian territory have become breeding grounds for extremist ideologies and rallying points for terrorists, which is reminiscent of the situation on our eastern border in the 1990’s. This is an issue of concern to many other countries as well, and finding a durable political solution in Syria requires cooperation and joint efforts.

So we are pleased that in 2013 diplomacy prevailed over threats of military intervention in Syria. We must build on this headway and understand that Syria is in dire need of coordinated regional and international efforts. We are ready to contribute to peace and stability in Syria in the course of serious negotiations among regional and extra-regional parties. Here, too, we need to prevent the talks from becoming a zero-sum game.

That is no less true of Iran’s peaceful nuclear-energy program, which has been subject to enormous hype in recent decades. Since the early 1990’s, one prediction after another regarding how close Iran was to acquiring a nuclear bomb has proved baseless. Throughout this period, alarmists tried to paint Iran as a threat to the Middle East and the world.

We all know who the chief agitator is, and what purposes are to be served by hyping this issue. We know also that this claim fluctuates in proportion to the amount of international pressure to stop settlement construction and end the occupation of Palestinian lands. These false alarms continue, despite US national intelligence estimates according to which Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon.

In fact, we are committed not to work toward developing and producing a nuclear bomb. As enunciated in the fatwa issued by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, we strongly believe that the development, production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are contrary to Islamic norms. We never even contemplated the option of acquiring nuclear weapons, because we believe that such weapons could undermine our national-security interests; as a result, they have no place in Iran’s security doctrine. Even the perception that Iran may develop nuclear weapons is detrimental to our security and overall national interest.

During my presidential campaign, I committed myself to doing everything in my power to fast-track a resolution to the standoff over our nuclear-energy program. To fulfill this commitment and benefit from the window of opportunity that the recent election opened, my government is prepared to leave no stone unturned in seeking a mutually acceptable permanent solution. Following up on November’s interim agreement, we are ready to continue to work with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) and others with a view to ensuring our nuclear program’s full transparency.

The peaceful nuclear capability that we have achieved will be used within an internationally recognized framework of safeguards, and it will be accessible to multilateral monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency, as has been the case in the past several years. In this way, the international community can ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of our nuclear program. We will never forgo our right to benefit from nuclear energy; but we are ready to work toward removing any ambiguity and answer any reasonable question about our program.

The continuation of pressure, arm-twisting, intimidation, and measures aimed at cutting off Iranians’ access to a whole range of necessities – from technology to medicines and foodstuffs – can only poison the atmosphere and undermine the conditions needed to make progress.

As we showed in 2013, Iran is fully prepared to engage seriously with the international community and to negotiate with our interlocutors in good faith. We hope that our counterparts, too, are ready to take advantage of this window of opportunity.

Read more from "2013: Reversing Gears" here, or on Kindle and iBooks.

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  1. Commentedj. von Hettlingen

    President Rouhani is letting us learn more about what his government stands for and where Iran is heading. His goals are to avoid "confrontation and antagonism", to restore trust and to "improve bilateral and multilateral relations" with the international community. Whether his country will get what it wants in 2014, depends not only on the political climate at home, but also abroad.
    No doubt President Rouhani is quite a contrast to his pugnacious predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His pragmatic approach to the nuclear dispute had been hailed as political acumen by some, "charm offensive" or a "devious scheme" by others.
    Basked in recent success, which led to an interim agreement in Geneva last November, he is reaching out to the world, offering help, that would "ease tensions" and "affect the course of events in a constructive and positive way" in the Middle East. He is suggesting an Iranian role in mediating the Syrian conflict.
    Without naming countries directly, he accuses Israel of being a "chief agitator" in stoking fear of Iran's nuclear programme. He also puts the blame on Sunni Arab leaders for fanning the flames of sectarian violence in the region.
    With his statement in Project Syndicate, President Rouhani wants to make clear that his country both condemns the recent use of WMDs in Syria and will not pursue the construction of nuclear weapons. Let's hope that Supreme Leader Khamenei stands by him firmly and that his policies will not be derailed by the hardliners, especially those within the powerful Revolutionary Guards.

  2. CommentedEdward Ponderer

    The claimed Fatwa has been spoken of, and to my knowledge has never been produced despite numerous requests. Based upon Based upon President Rouhani's own communiques from 2006 discussed last year in Time Magazine, he intentionally misled Western diplomats to by time for further development toward's weapon's grade enriched uranium. There still remains, in terms of face value, every reason to believe--especially due to the repetition of the Fatwa myth in this article, and the clever manipulation of the interpretation of the wording of the present "treaty" that we are seeing the continuance of a smooth-talking diplomatic campaign--the only clear policy change from the Ahmadinejad administration being the realization that "you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

    Now, realistically as grownup considering serious real-world negotiations and not what is fed for foreign public consumption, can one expect better? No, but one can begin to set up a situation where though one can fabricated false promises and denials all they wish, but will be forced to follow through faithfully. That is, This begins with a unified agreement of all stake holders--including Israel and all Arab States--not backdoor negotiations.

    All things considered, as it stands now, through all the pretty words of peaceful development, one sees the continuation, nay acceleration, of covert operations in the development and spreading of (for now), conventional weapons (particularly missiles) into the Middle East for intentions of control through client groups, eventual direct conventional military operations backed by a nuclear threat, or potential if the internal debate goes to the radical, the use of nuclear weapons directly. The present situation will force increase of pressure for others to act in manner of a classic arms race. It should be remembered that the only limited nuclear war in history was that of the US and Japan at the end of WWII. It was horrible enough, but limited because only the US had these weapons. In the tinderbox of the Middle East, one has good reason to see the real possibility of the nuclear winter that formed the basis of the mutual assured destruction politics between the US and USSR during the Cold War.

  3. Commentedtemesgen abate

    His excellency exceeded my expectations.this discourse will chisel down further the misunderstandings still persisting and change the ambiance in public diplomacy.when the former Ahmadinejad rants after every Friday prayer,i felt squeamish.the rancor and ambiguous jests darkened the diplomatic spat.i too suspected the true nature of the Iranian nuclear quest.spoilers used the ambiguity to poison it further.now is an opportune moment to discern the truth from its kernel.the onus is now on international community to deliver on its bargain.

  4. Commentedhari naidu

    Given the political constraints in US Congress & Senate to potential removal of existing sanctions on Iran , as demonstrated by AIPAC - on behalf of Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu – as well as opposition in Iran, it’d appear more likely that POTUS will seek to expedite 2014 Geneva implementation talks with a view to test a final resolution of the impasse with Iran on its current nuclear ambitions.

    Asia Society (NY) conducted a video debate on the current issue with two US and one former Iranian senior policy experts that a genuine *political breakthrough* was achieved on 24 Nov 2013 in Geneva.

    For Iran nuclear policy wonks this is politically a rare transparent interview on the subject :

    http://asiasociety.org/video/policy/us-and-iran-breakthrough-moment-complete

    What remains to be seen, however, is whether Bibi Netanyahu/AIPAC lobby on the Hill will succeed in derailing the Geneva talks and its implementation.

    US policy experts want a focused P5+1 diplomacy now to achieve final status agreement with Iran in the New Year. They don’t want any other issue to be introduced including Syria.

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