Musavi will use the invaluable accumulated experience of our veteran diplomats. Interview with Elaheh Koulayi, foreign affairs analyst.
What are the problems with Iran’s current foreign diplomacy and what are the solutions?
We are living in a country with unique features. Even if we have wanted to, it has been impossible for us to follow an isolationist or neutralist policy. Our geographical position makes it vital for us to have constructive interaction with the region and the world. Therefore, it seems that adopting an aggressive policy in foreign diplomacy neglecting what we have learnt from the past three decades has created an undesirable situation. We have not established fruitful interactions, we have not integrated with international or regional structures, and we have not fulfilled a role that matches with our capabilities.
Lack of a realistic mindset is our major problem. Knowing environmental realities, and their dynamic nature helps us to know how to achieve our goals and fulfill our national interests. I think it is the non-existence of such knowledge has brought us the present problems and makes change a necessity.
Some claim that asking for change means relinquishing our rights. In other words, if we want friendly relations we should abandon some of our rights. Is that true?
That is rooted in our understanding of the international relations. Look, in the international area we have to bargain. We have to give and take until we reach a point where we have constructive relations and we can also advance our interests. Of course, shouting slogans is easy, but actualizing them is much difficult. We can’t keep on disregarding global modus operandi and the role of international actors. We can’t overlook their considerations and sensitivities. We should look back and see how our measures have moved us away or towards our goals in the past thirty years.
I believe that our invaluable experiences after three decades give us an opportunity to have a level-headed analysis of our performance. During Khatami’s détente years we created a positive atmosphere to interact with the global community, we gained international support and we had fruitful cooperation. I don’t think we can deny that.
Our current isolation is the direct result of Ahmadinejad’s aggressive policy which has once again stirred Iranophobia and fueled the arms race in Middle East. It has also given opportunities to our regional rivals, decreased the level of bilateral ties and led to misunderstanding. If once United States and Britain fingerprinted our citizens, now Saudi Arabia does that. That’s only one example. Unfortunately, a long list of these true relinquishments can be prepared. If we re-opt constructive and realistic interaction with other countries, our foreign diplomacy will become a tool to serve the interests and needs of citizens, not to jeopardize them.
Which of the presidential candidates is the most capable in fulfilling these goals?
From what I’ve known about the nominees, Mir Hosein Musavi, with the veteran diplomatic team supporting him –whom unfortunately been boycotted in the diplomatic apparatus- can be the best option. The accumulated experience of our diplomatic body –despite all their mistakes- should be utilized. Musavi is able to establish positive ties with the international community and regional states. He will follow Khatami’s trust-building and détente policies. We are still reaping the fruits of Khatami’s foreign policies, though Ahmadinejad’s aggressive diplomacy has reversed all these achievements and jeopardized our standing.
I think that Musavi can follow Khatami’s realistic polices, while preserving the values and ideals of the Islamic Revolution, using the valuable experiences of diplomatic figures and overcoming inefficiencies. Utilizing our accumulated diplomatic experience, he can develop and implement a policy that Iranians reach the status they deserve and gain all their interests.
When Khatami ascended to presidency our international standing was much better. Can Musavi turn the affairs back to Khatami’s flourishing era?
It is difficult. but I think great men make their achievements through formidable challenges. So, although there are hardships, Musavi -who controlled the country through the years of war with Iraq- is the man who can overcome crisis and steer the ship towards a safe harbor.