Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan conducted a comprehensive interview with Iranian Ambassador who shared his detailed views about many regional and global geo-political and geo-strategic issues.
1. Do Pakistan and Iran have military cooperation? What are the prospects of having mutual military cooperation between the two countries?
Both the countries have affirmed a general enhancement of military cooperation between the two neighboring countries. We emphasized to strengthen bilateral cooperation in defense and other related fields. Both the countries have called for closer cooperation between military officials and defense experts from Iran and Pakistan. So, things are moving in right direction.
2. What is the future of NPT? What is your official stance on uranium enrichment?
Iran considers that any attempt to possess or produce nuclear weapons is totally barred, and our eminence Leader Ayatollah Khamenei considered it forbidden by the Shariaa. Possession of a nuclear weapon is not part of Iran’s policy, because we believe that such a weapon does not bring strength to any side. Iran has never been a state that supplies itself with nuclear weapons. We have provided transparency to the states of the world, and there have been hundreds of hours of surprise and unplanned inspections of nuclear installations by IAEA installations
Iran has reiterated its stance that uranium enrichment is its right to meet its energy requirements. Iran has signed the NPT a long time back which gives it the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. We are thoroughly cooperating with the IAEA and have given all explanations sought by the agency. IAEA chief Al Baradie in his report has clearly said that the Iranian nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The IAEA six months ago had sought clarifications from Iran. Iran had to clarify only six issues. These questions were related to plutonium, centrifuges, documents related to metals, source of pollution, polonium and Gechin. Iran has responded all these questions and now this file has been closed. Iran has satisfied the IAEA through its goodwill.
3. Why nuclear program important for you?
We are a independent country and we wish to make our country more stronger and securer We have good technical and financial justifications for having nuclear energy as an option. We have always thought of the policy of diversifying energy resources. We have used a technical/scientific program in the IAEA namely the VASP programme; with which countries use all their data to find out in a scientific way what share nuclear energy can play for them. Using this programme we have come to the conclusion that in the next twenty years, roughly by 2020, we will have up to 20,000 megawatts from nuclear energy. Right now in our national grid we have about 35,000 megawatts and if Bushehr becomes operational, the share of nuclear energy will be 1,000 out of 35,000 megawatts. But given the constant growth of industry and naturally for many other uses across the country, the energy demand is increasing. Therefore 20,000 megawatts by the year 2020 again will be perhaps a small portion of this sort of energy.
4. Is nuclear Iran pose threat to regional countries?
Time and again we clarified our intentions and plans towards our nuclear programs. We sincerely offer our nuclear energy capabilities for peaceful purpose to all the regional countries. So, it is wrong perception.
5. Why did Iran launch a satellite?
We would like to secure our sovereignty and national independence. We want to protect our geo-strategic interests in the region. We wish to become powerful. It is a powerful nationalist symbol for our people. It is a gift for the people of Iran on their 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic. We need perfection and expertise telecommunication technologies, satellite fields and this satellite launch is also a way to test launch vehicles and support our missile programs too. According to our Foreign Ministry “the satellite launch shows that Iran’s revolution was succeeding in “the conquest of high peaks of science and technology.”
6. Did Iran build the satellite and launcher on its own?
It is the outcome of our domestic talent and expression of our collective wisdom. Many countries helped us to do so. Russia launched a satellite for Iran in 2005, and China and Iran cooperated in building a research satellite that China launched in 2008. The world should not underestimate Iranian technical capabilities. Iran has the ability now to build relatively basic communications and earth observation satellites, and if it can continue to afford the expense of a space program, it will learn to build more sophisticated spacecraft.
7. Foreign policy is the reflection of socio-economic strength and international commitments. What are the main characteristics of your country’s foreign policy?
Iran is pursuing a policy of détente, dialogue based on mutual understanding, and non-intervention in other’s internal affairs. The main characteristics of our country’s foreign policy are maintaining of our territorial integrity and security, safeguarding of our evolving political system, providing our people with basic welfare, and pursuing a foreign policy that acknowledges our Muslim identity as a nation and operates within the context of values generated by Islam. The safeguarding of our evolving political system is also an important foreign policy objective for Iran. Iran enjoys satisfactory relationships with Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
8. What are the main security concerns of your country? What are the chances of regional energy cooperation among the Persian Gulf States? Furthermore what role Iran can play in this regard?
Iran is prepared to remove the fears and anxiety of friendly and neighboring states. We know that Gulf States want to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and that is their legitimate right. Many Iranian delegations have visited the states of the region to explain Tehran’s view on its nuclear file, and official talks were held in Tehran by delegations from area countries on the same issue. Iran assured the delegations of those countries in order not to give the United States and Western states any opportunity to exploit the matter. Iran is also prepared to have any kind of cooperation with the states of the region at the highest levels and in all fields.
9. What are the real motives behind your highly projected Persian Gulf collective security plan?
This idea has been put forward a long time ago, on the basis that the states of the region especially the Persian Gulf States have no way other than cooperation. Iran wants there to be collective security. We in fact believe in that idea which has been put forward, and which is being studied now. However, any security cooperation requires paving the ground for it. There is another aspect which is connected to economic and regional cooperation.
10. How you rate your diplomatic ties and socio-economic relations with Persian Gulf sates/Persian Gulf countries?
We have close and friendly relations with all the regional countries. We believe in strong regional cooperation, harmony, peace and stability.
11. Do you have any concern with OPEC?
Iran and Saudi Arabia are two important members of OPEC and it is natural that they should have common views or concerns with the functioning of the OPEC.
12. What is the significance of the ECO? Would you please evaluate Iran’s role in ECO?
As you know, the 10th summit meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was held in Tehran. According to the ECO data (2008) gross domestic product (GDP) of the member states of the organization has exceeded one trillion dollars in 2007-08. ECO members had an average economic growth rate of 5.6 percent. The ECO members’ international trade in 2007 surpassed $570 billion, whereas trade among the members in the same year was nearly $33 billion.
ECO region is vast, encompassing some 8.5 million square kilometers. The area is also marked by the unequal development of its members, ranging from industrial Turkey to agricultural Tajikistan, from wealthy Kazakhstan to devastated Afghanistan from oil-producing state Iran to nuclear equipped Pakistan. With a population of more than 400 million, the ECO region’s share of the global economy stands at only 2.8%.
Iran has been one of the main supporters of regional socio-economic cooperation, geo-political and geo-strategic integration. Iran presented different workable arrangements/ideas for joint regional security doctrines. Iran also offered its energy expertise and natural resources (oil & gas) for all the ECO member countries and regional states too. It also suggested having common single currency as well as free trade zone in the ECO states. Iran supported the idea to have a unified monetary system within the ECO. According to Iran the strategic status, the human resources, and the enormous talent of the members of ECO is invaluable assets which must be used for the betterment of all the ECO countries. Iran stressed the need to secure their own interests by reenergizing and building new regional alliances that cater to each other’s economic and energy needs and help solve each other’s problems.
13. How you rate USA’s relations with Iran? What are the prospects and constraints?
There has been misperception between the two countries. We have been at receiving end from the aggression, conspiracy and sanctions of the US. The US has not been capable of addressing the root causes of the difficulties between Iran and the US, which emanated from these misperceptions. America is passing through a change and we hope level of understanding would be high between the two countries in the days to come. We believe in respect for mutual sovereignty, territorial independence, and national geo-political and geo-strategic interests.
14. Hillary Clinton says “anti-ballistic missiles system in the East Europe is for Iran nuclear and ballistic missiles? How you respond it?
It is the wrong perception of the US. Our all weaponry is for self defence not offence. We have our own geopolitical and geo-strategic priorities.
15. How badly new US sanctions affected Iran’s economy?
Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, the country has been under constant US unilateral sanctions. The first U.S. sanctions against Iran were formalized in November of 1979, and during the hostage crisis, many sanctions were leveled against the Iranian government. By 1987 the import of Iranian goods into the United States had been banned. In 1995, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12957, banning U.S. investment in Iran’s energy sector, followed a few weeks later by Executive Order 12959 of May 6, 2000, eliminating all trade and investment and virtually all interaction between the United States and Iran. Again, the US imposed new but severe sanctions on Iran. It has multiplier effects on our socio-economic system but nevertheless, all these sanctions can not alter our principal stance on our national sovereignty and enrichment of peaceful nuclear program.
16. What are the prospects of socio-economic development/growth of Iran in 2009?
The economy of Iran is dominated by oil and gas exports which constituted 70% of government revenue and 80% of export earnings as of 2008. It has a large public sector, with an estimated 60% of the economy directly controlled and centrally planned by the state
17. Is United States’ fear of Iran’s influence in Latin America justified?
We are serious engaging many countries of Latin America countries to boost bilateral trade. We also wish to establish strong socio-economic ties with the countries of this part of the world. We have our own geo-political and geo-strategic interests and we have right to pursuing. We have energy cooperation with Cuba, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia. So, Robert Gates’ concern on Iran’s influence in Latin America is baseless.
18. According to the Economist, London, the recent Israel-Hamas conflict has created Tehran-Ankara-Gaza triangle. What is your comment please?
We stand for Muslim’s unity, cooperation, peace and harmony. We work for resolving different regional issues confronting to our brotherly Muslim countries. We are against every kind of aggression and violation of territorial sovereignty. We believe that all the conflicts should be settled through diplomacy and dialogue. The brutal aggression of Israel against the innocent Palestine people has awakened the Muslim countries and created new waves of sympathies. We and Turkey share many similarities on the issue of Israel-Palestine. We are in the favour of a independent Palestine state.
the oil market at present as a result of the rise in prices in the previous period. Naturally there are some topics that need to be discussed in that regard, and the two sides need to exchange views and consult about them.
19. Recently, Iran gets Afghan transit trade. What is its significance?
Iran always ready to cooperate its neighboring countries. Iran is ever ready to facilitate the other regional countries. We want peace and harmony in the region especially in Afghanistan. We want maximum utilization of our geo-political and geo-strategic assets and resources. We think that political stability in Afghanistan may open new avenues of peace, cooperation and collaboration in the region. Iran’s Chabahar seaport would be convenient to Afghanistan for its imports-exports. It would provide alternative route to go to Central Asia. The same or better facility can provide to our good neighbor Pakistan via this sea port to support Gowader or via Iran to CIS, Turky and Eu.
20. What are the socio-economic, geo-political and geo-strategic achievements of your country at its 30th revolution?
We celebrated 30th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution this year. It provides us spiritual emancipation, economic prosperity, social cohesion and solidarity of the people. In February 1979 the people of Iran under the guidance and leadership of Imam Khomenie brought about Islamic revolution. During the last thirty years, Iran’s leadership established a paradigm for other Muslim countries that Islamic system has the potential to make a nation great, and is also capable of coexisting with democracy, science and technology.
Since the Islamic revolution, Iran has made strides in all spheres of life education, health care, industry, defence production and culture. Iran has made progress in various walks of life. Iran had held elections even during the war with Iraq thus defying the predictions of the US and the West that it is dictatorship
21. What is the level of human rights and especially women empowerment in your country?
We have democratic political system. We believe in all the established golden democratic norms of the modern world. Our constitution has secured the basic human rights of its people. We have equal gender in our country. The large number of women parliamentarians verifies the empowerment of womanhood in Iran.