Can raising the issue of the Holocaust be analyzed only within the framework of aberrant behavior? Doesn't it indicate a 180 degree turn in Iran's foreign policy?
SK: Many of these kinds of behaviors are not even in the interest of the stability of the Islamic Republic. In contrast to our belief, another paradigm rules over the international community. We cannot involve ourselves with all global issues; rather, we can manage our own national interests. We can use events, opportunities, and situations to our best interests. My analysis is that in many cases opportunities turned into threats. For example, regarding our relations with France, Mr. Velayati visited Paris at the beginning of Sarkozy's presidency. That trip could have been transformed into an exceptional opportunity for Iran, but due to the contradiction that was created, despite prior arrangements, it became futile. Or we could have used Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran as a strategic opportunity.
How can the behavior of one person dominate the general policies of the regime with regard to foreign policy?
SK: It is the same all over the world. Britain claimed for 30 years that it knew Iran better, and if any crisis was created and reached an emergency level, it made efforts to manage the crisis in order not to enter into political and propaganda challenges with Iran. But an inexperienced government came to power in Britain which, due to the incorrect behavior of the prime minister and the foreign minister, created a crisis from an unusual, yet natural, incident leading to the cutting off of relations between Iran and Britain. This is the case while they always claimed that, contrary to Americans, they had never cut their relations with Iran.
It seems that the reformist and the following governments have had a similar view of Syria. Recent developments in Syria indicate that the Foreign Ministry has not been able to properly manage the situation in Syria.
SK: Our strategy in the Middle East is drawn up by the leader. Due to certain reasons, Syria is the depth of Iran’s strategic policy in the Middle East. Syria is the backbone of the resistance. Syria is the linking ring of the resistance movement to the Mediterranean Sea. Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq, and Iran form a very important ring of revolutionary relations in the Middle East, and have displayed a newly founded movement during recent years. I know that the security behavior of the Ba'ath Party has been, and is, violent and everybody knows that the ruling government of Syria has made two strategic mistakes during the last decade; a late withdrawal from Lebanon and a late reaction in the turning of power and in civil participation. But the issue of today's Syria has created a new phenomenon in world power relations. There is no doubt in the mismanagement of Syrians, but due to its revolutionary positions with regard to its relations within the Arab and Islamic world and its relations with Iran and Hezbollah and Shiite geopolitics, it is seriously threatened by the political, security, and military systems of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and, to some extent, Turkey.
How is it that we interpret developments in countries like Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and Bahrain as “freedom seeking”, but when it comes to Syria, we interpret them differently? What is the reason?
SK: A major part of the nature of protests in Syria is related to the need for people's participation in their affairs and the turning over of power. The spirit of freedom and freedom seeking exists in the nature of all human beings. This has always been Iran's strategic advice to Bashar Assad. He must deal with these types of demands more logically. He must provide for the need for tribal and religious pluralism in society. We must not agree with bloodshed or violent behavior in Syria, and based on the information that I have Iran has made great efforts to encourage the Syrians to change their behavior based on the logic of reform of the system and the present situation. But what has happened in Syria is a kind of "city war". Several thousand armed forces have been directed towards Syria from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan; as they also did in Algeria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. This is an unfair prescription by the West for the internal developments of the world of Islam.
Today, Syria is transformed into a base of an Al-Qaeda type of Salafist movement. The Americans have once experienced this in Afghanistan and allowed Al-Qaeda to form. Al-Qaeda infiltrated even inside the bedrooms of big powers and deprived them of sleep. They are now legitimizing the new Al-Qaeda in Syria. But in the future, they will become problems for the big powers. Dual-standard policies are being enforced by the Western countries in Syria. On the one hand, they talk about human rights and democracy, and on the other, they support terrorist and Salafist groups. We hope that in the next few days, Bashar can take some initiatives so that we can witness the turning of power and the establishment of democracy in Syria. Global arrogance and colonialism are attempting to defeat Syria as a symbol and the backbone of the resistance. Thereafter, they want to disarm Hezbollah and then focus on Iran. But, I am confident that they will not succeed with regard to Iran.
Can we apply the same role we played in Afghanistan to Syria? What should we do now in Syria?
SK: We should work with the Turks and the Saudis to find a comprehensive plan which should include the turning of power and reforms.
But Syria has become a point of contention between Iran and Turkey. Before that, we had good relations with Turkey.
SK: Turkey has now realized that they asked for too much in Syria. Turkey claims that it can ensure the backbone of the resistance through other methods. We know that they are mistaken and we cannot accept their words.
What can our common point be with Turkey on Syria?
SK: Our common point is to reach a comprehensive plan with Turkey in which the turning of power, elections, the presence of Sunnis, Alawis, Christians and Kurds in power is recognized.
How can we reach an agreement with Saudi Arabia on Turkey?
SK: With the Saudis, the situation is much more complicated. Since the return of Prince Bandar from America and since he became in charge of the security of the country, the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia has changed strategically. At the moment, we cannot define common interests with Saudi Arabia in this regard because they are doing the same thing that the Israelis are doing. Saudi Arabia is engaged in weakening the resistance just as the Israelis wish.
Have Israelis come to the conclusion that they can envision a Syria without Assad?
SK: The Israelis act very shrewdly. At this juncture, they want to receive maximum concessions from Bashar. Out of the present situation, they want to solve the question of the Golan Heights and if they cannot do that, they are eager to see a disintegrated Syria and would like to turn it into an indifferent country, like Jordan.