Ambassador: Iran and US Must Reach a Comprehensive Deal in Direct Talks
Ambassador Hossein Mousavian: The nuclear issue is not the real problem; the US objects to Iran’s influence in the region
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
We’re continuing our interview with Ambassador Hossein Mousavian. And he now joins us from Princeton University. Ambassador Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He’s a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. His latest book is The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir, published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Thanks very much for joining us again, Mr. Ambassador.
SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN, DIPLOMAT AND SCHOLAR: Thank you.
JAY: So, Mr. Ambassador, there’s a, you could say, prevailing opinion in official circles around the worldâ€”many countries, at leastâ€”that Iran is trying to develop what’s called break-out potential, to get to a certain point in the technology, in the enrichment of uranium, that it wouldn’t take it very long to build a bomb if it chose to do so. Now, American intelligence agencies, Israeli, they more or less acknowledge a decision to make that leap to actually building a bomb has not been taken, but they seem to sayâ€”and it seems Russia and China agree with this, ’cause they voted for sanctionsâ€”that they are moving to breakout potential. So you argue that that’s not true, that Iran simply has no intention of building a bomb, period. So why do you say that?
MOUSAVIAN: You remember, Paul, in 1980 Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. And all the regional Arab countriesâ€”United States, Europe, Soviet Union, East Bloc, West Blocâ€”they all supported the aggressor. Iran was not fighting with the aggressor, Saddam Hussein; Iran was fighting with all the international community as a whole. But without weapons of mass destruction, Iran could resist it and Iran could keep Saddam and all his troops out of Iran. Eight years war, Iran could resist the whole international community without weapons of mass destruction. Therefore it is a clear evidence and proof that Iran is capable.
Israel is very weak, you know. When Israelis, they say, we need nuclear weapon for our existence, it means they are already so vulnerable and weak that they want to guarantee their existence with nuclear weapon. Iran’s nuclear weapon is human resources, history, civilization, religion, ideology, which already has proven during eight years’ war. This is the first issue.
Secondly, remember, Paul, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons. Over 100,000 Iranians, they were either killed or injured by chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, the U.S. and Europeans, the Western countries, provided material and technology for Saddam Hussein to be and to use chemical weapons.
In that time, Iranian military, they asked their late supreme religious leader to reciprocate Saddam Hussein and Iraq by chemical weapons, which the leader, Imam Khomeini, gave them an instruction banning them from the use of weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, and he told them weapons of mass destruction is a kind of genocide, and he has religiously forbidden Iran. The fact: during the war, when the enemy used chemical weapons, 100,000 Iranians, they were killed and injured; but the religious authorities, they did not permitted Iranian military to reciprocate, is the best and the most credible reason and evidence that Iran is not after weapons of mass destruction.
JAY: Mr. Ambassador, let me give you an argument I’ve heard from the Israeli side, which is someday, sooner or later, there’s going to be an all-out war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah has far more rockets now and could do much more damage to Israel. Israel argues most of those rockets are getting to Hezbollah because either financed or supplied by Iran, and that Iran backing up Hezbollah is the more real existential threart to Israel, and that Israel’s nuclear monopoly, which they don’t admit to but everyone knows they have, is really the countering card here, the threat of that, and that if Iran were to break that monopoly, it would tip the balance against Israel in some all-out conflict with Hezbollah and Iran. They also point to the fact that during the war where Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Iran, they faced chemical weapons, that psychologically Iran feels like they need this sort of weapon to protect themselves from outside threat, and that Israel simply won’t accept that. What do you make of that argument?
MOUSAVIAN: Don’t forget, Paul, Iran was the first country in the Middle East initiated nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. And we should know, Paul, for Iran, Israel is not a major issue. Iran does not see threat from Israel. For Iran, Israel is too small. The real national security threat of Iran is United States. And Israelis with nuclear bomb, for 60 years they have not been able to resolve any of their problems with Palestinians and Muslim world and Arab countries. They have failed with their nuclear bomb.
And recently, as you mentioned, the war between Hamas and Israel, Hamas usedâ€”[wEl] Fajr-5 missiles, which Iran facilitated, this capability, for Hamas. This was just a very, very clear new evidence that [wEl] Fajr-5 missiles isâ€”if Iran has ten level of missile capability, [wEl] Fajr-5 is level tenth, the lowest, the weakest.
When Israel cannot defend itself and resist with the lowest level of Iranian missile capability through just a group, Hamas, how Israel is able to resist a powerful Iran in the region? And then is clear Israel failed in 2006 in a war with Hezbollah. Israel failed in 2008 in a war with Hamas. Israel failed with war in 2012 just last month with Hamas again with some very, very low sophisticated missiles organized, orchestrated by Iran. This is the capability of Israel. What they can do with their nuclear bomb? I mean, if they were able to solve their problem with today, Israelâ€”everyone knows today Israel is the most isolated country in the world. This is the implication of their nuclear bomb. This is what Iranians, they understand very well, and that’s why they are not worried.
JAY: Well, of course, another Israeli argument is based on the quote from Ahmadinejad, where he’s accused of saying he wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth or wipe it off the map. We know this has beenâ€”we’re told this has been misinterpreted, that what President Ahmadinejad really meant that history will show that the Zionist state will disappear. But whatever one makes of that statement, what are the intentions of Iran towards Israel? How committed is Iran to the, quote, elimination of the Zionist state?
MOUSAVIAN: Look, these kind of statements from Iran, if you hear, is just because a reaction to Israeli statements. This is for years. Israelis they are advocating war against Iran. During last four, five years, Paul, maybe you have heard 100 times from Israeli prime minister threatening Iran with military strike, pushing President Obama to attack Iran. If he’s doing this, what does he expect to hear from Tehran? I mean, these are all rhetorics, in my opinion, from both side. Neither Israel would be able to attack Iran, nor Iran would attack Israel. Iran publicly, at the level of defense minister, officially has announced that Iran would not start war against Israel.
And what you said about Ahmadinejad saying Israelwiping off the map, it was Israeali deputy prime minister four, five months ago in a public interview with an Israeli newspaper. Officially he said from the beginning we [incompr.] Ahmadinejad began saying Israel should be wiped off he map. We knew this was misinterpreted, but we used it. I mean, this is all this propaganda issue, and we should not really be deceived by these politics and propaganda.
JAY: And, Mr. Ambassador, some analysts make the argument that this really isn’t about a nuclear weapon at all for Israel and the United States. This is about one. They’ve never accepted the fact that there was a revolution in Iran that overthrew a major American ally. And more so, they don’t like the idea of Iran as a regional power, such an important regional power that’s not within the American sphere of influence and that this is what the nuclear opposition’s really about. So what do you make of that argument? Is this about nuclear weapons, or is this about regional politics?
MOUSAVIAN: I agree with those who believe nuclear issue is not the issue; it is the powerâ€”the rising power of Iran is the issue. And the U.S., Israel, and the West is just using nuclear issue. That’s it.
JAY: So, Mr. Ambassador, I’ll ask again: why not just let the IAEA inspect whatever they want and get rid of this idea that Iran’s moving towards breakout capacity capability?
MOUSAVIAN: Because from 1979, the Iranian Revolution, every year or every president has used a reason to introduce Iran as the major threat. Once they have blamed Iran as the state terrorism and they have tried to isolate Iran and they have tried to mobilize Iran, once they have accused Iran as the main obstacle to peace process, regardless of who has been ruling Iran, a moderate president like Rafsanjani or a reformist president like Khatami or a radical president like Ahmadinejad, the U.S continuously has kept Iran as threat number one, once by WMD issue, through WMD issue, today through nuclear issue, at time using terrorism issue. Even today if the nuclear issue is resolved, the U.S. would find immediately another issue to introduce Iran threat number one.
MOUSAVIAN: That’s why, Paul, it is for thirty years I’m emphasizing on a need for direct talks between Tehran and Washington. We need direct talk and improvement of relation between Iran and the United States. As long as the hostilities goes on, the U.S. would use issues as instrument.
JAY: Mr. Ambassador, do you think President Obama is interested in this?
MOUSAVIAN: President Obama is a part of the whole system. You know, President Obama came with engagement policy. I believe he was very sincere, he was very serious. And what he delivered after four years, which he presented to Americans during election campaign, he said, I have been the only president which imposed the most and the harshest and the most comprehensive sanctions ever against Tehran. This was the result of engagement policy because of the pressuresâ€”Congress pressure, AIPAC pressure. You know this is not only the president can decide in the U.S.
But my argument is this. We need a dual track, Paul, a dual-track policy, not the dual-track policy which the U.S. has been following for 30 yearsâ€”pressures, sanctions, and diplomacy; one track, between Iran and the P5+1, to resolve the nuclear issue in the framework which I elaborated before in our talks with you.
The second track is Iran-U.S. direct negotiations for a broader deal. We should understand, Paul, problems between Iran and the U.S. does not and do not lead to nuclear issue. It is a matter of energy. This is the matter of security in Persian Gulf. This is Iraq issue. This is Afghanistan issue. This is peace process, Israel-Palestinian issues, a row of issues. You know, that’s why always I believe we need a comprehensive package to put on table for Iran and the U.S. to have direct negotiations to resolve 30 years of hostilities. Otherwise, we are not going to get to anywhere.
JAY: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.
MOUSAVIAN: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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