If the reformists were in power, how would they have dealt with the issue of Syria?
SK: The reformists were not, and are not, outside the system. Perhaps they could have spoken more easily with Assad.
You mean this government cannot easily talk with Assad?
SK: Maybe they don't have the motivation to do so, and perhaps they do not believe in such action. We could have built a bridge between the government and the opposition.
We did that in Iraq.
SK: Yes we did that both in Iraq and Afghanistan. We negotiated with the Kurds and the Sunnis in Iraq. Even Ayatollah Sistani and the others in Iraq did not accept that the Shiites should assume all of the power solely because they are the majority. In Lebanon also, Iran mediated between Hezbollah Shiites and Amal Shiites and the Sunnis and the Christians. Basically, we should not have allowed the events in Syria to reach to this point. We should have mediated and managed the situation to solve the problems.
We consider Syria as the backbone of the resistance and are duty bound to support this country. But Hamas, as one the major elements in this issue, are getting closer to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and do not accept our interpretation. There is no reason that they should think similarly. This is our view of the resistance, and we know that our view in the long run is correct.
Why is our view correct?
SK: Because the backbone of resistance should not be broken. The world powers intend to break the backbone of resistance and create discord between them and Iran.
But Hamas has established better relations with Qatar and Turkey.
SK: These are dual games which Qatar and Saudi Arabia have initiated. They have also brought Turkey into their games to take advantage of the whole situation. The accelerating movement of Turkey against Syria does not, at least openly, exist. Historical precedence indicates that the only policy which has proved successful during the past 50-60 years against Israel is "resistance". It was this resistance and the triangle of Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran which broke the backbone of Israel. The resistance was so strong that the first time the Israeli forces fled from the scene and the second time, in the 33 days of war, they came with the intention of destroying Hezbollah but were badly defeated. This was while the analysis of many Arab countries was that Hezbollah would have been heavily defeated by Israel. It does not mean that Hamas has the same position. If Bashar Assad stays in power for 6-7 more months, the situation will completely change.
What is going to happen?
SK: Everybody will seek to establish normal relations with Assad.
Is it because they cannot create a substitute for Bashar?
SK: Bashar is still very influential. In the recent elections in Syria, more than 34% participated. Bashar has influence over a major group of the Sunnis. The image which is shown of Assad, trying to portray him as similar to Mubarak and Qaddafi, is not correct. Bashar, by nature, is different from them. Although I have strong criticism of Bashar's internal behavior, we should not accept world's negative propaganda.
There is an analysis that if Bashar Assad falls, the political system of Iraq will also be challenged. How correct, in your view, is this analysis?
SK: Saudi Arabia and Qatar follow this scenario and have made great efforts to weaken Iraq's stability, but so far they have not succeeded. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel have the same position and fight against the progressive forces of the world of Islam and the Arab World.
If reformists are present in the next government, what changes should be made in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic?
SK: If reformists come to power, changes will certainly be made in the methods. Our policies will not change. Our foreign policy is ideological, just like the foreign policy of the US and Israel. We have our own ideology with regard to foreign policy.
But the principles and norms of foreign policy have been drawn within the framework of values of the pre- Arab Spring. Now, how can we establish relations with the new systems in the region with the same policies?
SK: Iran's situation is very strategic. We should think less of ourselves. Mr. Morsi has recently sent a message for Iran.
But in his first foreign trip, he visited Saudi Arabia.
SK: This is because 4-5 million Egyptian laborers live in Saudi Arabia. There are about 9-10 million unemployed in Egypt. About 4 million Egyptians live in cemeteries. A major part of this country’s income is provided by Saudi Arabia and the US. Their living is based on Saudi money and US support. And changes will not happen overnight.
Shouldn't we change our analysis and view of the Middle East region?
SK: We should draw up an intelligent diplomacy in accordance with the world developments and changes. But we have not been able to move towards our national interests with our behavior. The first step that we should take is to have initiatives in the nuclear issue. We should not necessarily give everything up. We have logic but have paid huge expenses for this matter without using our power.
But our main opponent in the nuclear issue is the US.
SK: So what? Isn't it possible to solve problems with the US? Experience has shown that despite their arrogant nature, Americans are more realistic than not. We can reach a common agreement with the US with regard to the issues of regional security in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East and also in the issue of energy security and transit and other important issues of the world. In my opinion, problems can be solved, but it depends on who is involved, in what position, when, how and why.
I repeat my question. How can this challenge with the US be solved?
SK: A comprehensive plan can be drawn with both sides' determination. A plan in which cooperation guarantees in all political and security aspects are mutual, and cooperation is better defined.