Interview with Iranian political scientist Prof. Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh



Kourosh Ziabari – Fars News Agency: An Iranian scholar and university professor says that Israel will pull out all the stops to damage the constructive environment of the negotiations between Iran and the six world powers, but it cannot realize its plans for preventing Iran and the P5+1 from reaching a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.

“Assuredly, they will do their best. They do whatever they can to harm the process of agreement between Iran and the West. They made it sure and clear to everybody in the world that they will do their best to harm the process of the talks. We know that they would not stop, at any rate, using their lobbies and other tools in their hands to harm the negotiations. But experience shows that there’s a limit to what they can do,” said Prof. Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, a geopolitics professor at the University of Tehran in an interview with Fars News Agency.

Mojtahedzadeh is a renowned Iranian political scientist and historian. He leads the Urosevic Research Foundation and has been a board member of the Society for Contemporary Iranian Studies at the University of London and a member of the British Institute of Persian Studies. Mojtahedzadeh is a visiting professor at the Georgetown University and has been a consultant to the United Nations University in Tokyo. Prof. Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh has carried out extensive studies and research projects on the history, geography and politics of the Persian Gulf and has published several books in this regard, including the book “The UAE and Iranian Islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa” published in 2007 in Paris.

On the beginning of the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action signed between Iran and the six world powers (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States plus Germany), FNA conducted an interview with Prof. Mojtahedzadeh and asked him his viewpoints about the Geneva deal and its future. What follows is the text of the interview.

Q: My first question is on the recent nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers. What’s your assessment of this agreement? How can it contribute to the alleviation of international concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities and the improvement of Iran’s ties with the Western world?

A: I believe whatever has been discussed and agreed upon, we have to know that the two sides have decided to arrive at an agreement, and it can have some sorts of impacts such as alleviating the international concerns on Iran’s nuclear program.

After all, the six powers are talking to Iran on behalf of the international community and they naturally decide what the best is for alleviating the concerns of the international community, because again whatever these concerns are, they are their own creation and they know how to deal with it; they know how to go about it in their discussions with Iran that would result in some sort of outcome.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, what is expected of Iran to do in this regard is to act in a way that is in accordance with the agreement and to prove to the West and especially to the skeptical societies that it has no intention of going about military use of nuclear energy and I’m sure that would be included in the agreement. Observing Iranian policies in this regard for so many years and closely examining the surrounding developments, I’m sure that Iranians will be able to prove, beyond any doubt, that they mean what they say and that their program is limited to the economic use of the nuclear industry. That will be quite helpful in alleviating and eliminating the international concerns, and I hope that will be achieved.

Q: You’ve surely observed that only a few days following the conclusion of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers, the US officials rushed to make statements, saying that “we have stopped Iran’s nuclear program and slowed it down” or “we have prevented Iran from developing nuclear energy” and that the nuclear agreement does not guarantee Iran’s enrichment right. What’s your viewpoint on that? Can such statements help the process of talks now that Iran and the six countries are sitting at the negotiation table and trying to reach a long-term deal?

A: It’s regrettable that the US authorities have unexpectedly come up with that sort of comments, which were not timely at all. But again, to be absolutely truthful, with this agreement, the international community and the Western powers have recognized Iran’s right to enrichment. These are political and out-of-place statements and there are no doubts about it, because Iran’s right to enrichment was recognized at the time when Iran signed the NPT agreement like any other country.

Considering that the Americans also have to address the Jewish communities, the Jewish lobby, the Israelis and the neo-cons in the Congress that put too much pressure on the administration not to give too much to the Iranians, they found themselves in a position to deny the fact that Iran is entitled to the right of enrichment. This was an unfortunate misunderstanding, which I wish did not occur, but it has occurred, but at the same time, the two sides acted in a way that made each other understand that they should be very careful in what they say with regard to such a delicate agreement they have reached, because, as I said, it is not only Iran and the six world powers observing the situation; there are others who have adverse interests and they have to be satisfied somehow and assured that their concerns will not be ignored. This is one thing. Has this had any effect on the actual process of the agreement? I doubt it very much because both sides acted swiftly to remove the misunderstandings and in that regard, the Iranians acted quite wisely by withdrawing the experts from the technical negotiations in Vienna temporarily and that had a right effect which made the Europeans to come forward and mediate and make sure that the Americans would not repeat those sort of threats. Fortunately, the matters are solved now and I don’t think it would have any effect today on the process of the negotiations.

Q: So, what’s your viewpoint on the recent round of sanctions imposed on 17 Iranian individuals and companies by the European Union? Don’t you consider the new sanctions a violation of the terms of the Geneva agreement or something that can be detrimental to the spirit of the agreement?

A: This is more or less the same thing that happened with America. We just talked about the American government undertaking of expanding new sanctions, which are due but are not new and had been approved previously and are being put in action now. And they, as I understand, decided not to speak too much about it and bring the matter to an end, probably not an end in the actual implementation; rather, an end in the argument. I’m really surprised how could the Europeans who acted to bring the two sides [Iran and the United States] together on the similar episode and facilitate the negotiations take such an action. They realized that it was not right to do that sort of thing and that this decision should not have been put in effect.

In that regard, I explained in several interviews a similar situation that could emerge if the Iranians suddenly decided, at this stage of time, to operate thousands of new centrifuges that they had previously purchased and planned to use, and if anybody complained, they would say that we had purchased them before and they are not new. Certainly, the Americans and Europeans would not accept that sort of argument and behavior. The same goes with Iran and the argument that is being presented regarding the new sanctions. Nothing should be done to increase the misunderstanding between the two sides. I’m glad to say that thus far, nothing has been done by the Iranians to increase the misunderstandings but the American and Europeans have done such a thing, though they now regret it, but we are not sure that they are withdrawing those actions completely and entirely.

Q: You may admit that both Iran and the United States have some kind of mistrust towards each other. On one hand, Iran is suspicious that the West may violate the terms of the Geneva deal and impose new sanctions and run the whole process of the agreement, and on the other hand, the Western powers say Iran may continue the activities which it has promised to abandon by virtue of the Joint Plan of Action. How should this wall of mistrust be destroyed and mutual confidence be restored between Iran and the Sextet of the world powers so that the final comprehensive agreement can be realized?

A: The best scenario is that the two sides fully understand that there are forces, within Iran, within the United States, in Europe and outside who want to see the end of this agreement and the destruction of the process of the agreement, and I’m sure that they have to be extra-vigilant not to allow this sort of thing come in between and cause misunderstanding.

The example of what we have started to talk about happened in the US and Europe; I’m referring to the imposition of the new sanctions against Iran. It was done to somehow make Israel and the Jewish lobby happy and conciliate it not to cause too much trouble. But, they were not vigilant enough to realize that going too far in that direction will cause misunderstanding in the actual context that is the context of negotiations with Iran. So they have to be very careful. The Iranian government is more or less in the same situation. Therefore, the both parties are liable to the same conditions and the creation of misunderstandings and have to be extra-vigilant, oversee the situation carefully in what they say and what they do, and maintain a sort of working balance in their mind, in their talks and actions.

Q: You talked about the role of the Israeli lobby in the US political developments. Can the influential Israeli interest groups and Jewish advocacy organizations harm the process of the talks between Iran and the six world powers and prevent them from reaching a comprehensive, final solution to Iran’s nuclear standoff?

A: Assuredly, they will do their best. They do whatever they can to harm the process of agreement between Iran and the West. They made it sure and clear to everybody in the world that they will do their best to harm the process of the talks. We know that they would not stop, at any rate, using their lobbies and other tools in their hands to harm the negotiations. But experience shows that there’s a limit to what they can do. This is why when we go back a couple of months ago and remember what Netanyahu said when the negotiations were taking place in Geneva, he somehow gave up and first said that this was a “historic mistake” against their wishes and what they wanted, and then accused America of giving up too much to the Iranians and then later on, he said that it seems it would be better if we, instead of using pressure, turn to diplomacy in relations with Iran.

So, in my opinion, I think what the Israelis, the Jewish lobby and the Congressmen working for them have done has reached its zenith and has gone as far as it could go, and there’s no capacity for absorbing more pressure of that kind from that quarter. Of course, I don’t mean that they will give up what they can do to destroy the agreement, but at the same time, I’m optimistic that the process has gone a little bit beyond the Israeli strategy of destruction, and cannot say that it has gone beyond the point of no-return. I’m very worried about what they can do to harm the process, but I’m not too worried.

Q: Iran has made some concessions in the nuclear talks. It has agreed to freeze the enrichment of uranium above 5%, committed itself not to install new centrifuges at the Fordow and Natanz enrichment facilities, and not to pursue reprocessing activities at the Arak heavy water reactor. In return it has got some sanctions relief such as in the automobile industry, petrochemical products, gold and other precious metals, etc. What elements can be included in the final, comprehensive agreement that can be satisfactory and acceptable to the both Iran and the six world powers?

A: From the Iranian point of view, I think they have done what they could do and what they promised to do and they will stick by it. I’m sure. But, what the West has given to Iran, is not that much big. We all know that the scale of the sanctions is so vast and so deep that they will have a great deal to put forward as a chip for the agreement. I’m sure the final agreement will have to take into account that all sanctions, most of which are illegal and inhumane, have to be removed. All the sanctions should be removed. That is, when in accordance with the current agreement, they will satisfy each other and adopt confidence-building measures.

In that respect, the West will have no excuse whatsoever, to hold back some of the sanctions and other inhumane measures they have adopted against Iran. They will have to come up with a final solution and normalization of relations. I don’t mean diplomatic relations, because it’s a different matter; I mean the normalization of de facto relations. In this case, nobody will have anything in their hands to use against the other side some time in the future. As I said, at the beginning, the Iranians have not given up more than what they could offer, but as the talks continue, the situation needs to be reversed, because Iranians will be left with nothing more to give up. But the West has a lot to give up, including the sanctions which are inhumane and imposed. So by the end of the one-year period, which is planned by the both sides, they will equally move toward the removal of all the misunderstandings and lack of mutual trust.

This interview was originally published by Fars News Agency.