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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

His Excellency Manouchehr Mottaki, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 2005, has come now for the third time to The Asia Society during the September – October period of the UN General Assembly In New York City.

Last year I had the opportunity to ask him about about Climate Change and why Iran, with its great scientists, and people involved at the UN level, does not embark in a leadership position in the area of renewable energy rather then striving for nuclear energy incurring only indignities. Others asked him about Iran’s stand on Israel.

This year – none of the above. One question from the floor asked about Israel – but was answered in the general line of the presentation – without the question been tackled at all. The Moderator was illustrious US Career Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, who served as impeccable host, presenting lots of compliments to his guest and making sure he is very comfortable. Further, The Asia Society simply managed to put the press away in a back room, and without the Q & A period reaching out to them – that is except the literally last question which asked about the possibility for regional negotiations in the crucial Middle East problem.   And the answer to that question was then submerged under the previous line of presentation that exposed beautifully the way Iran wants to be seen. No mention was made of the name Israel also in this   answer by the Minister.

The reality is   that many in Iran like actually some of the cocoons   created via the 1980 revolution that came as a reaction to some real injustices its people incurred from the hand of the US CIA when it undid the Mohammad Mosaddeq   April 28, 1951 – August 19, 1953 regime for its nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) and reinstated the   Shah who returned   on 22 August 1953, from the brief self-imposed exile in Rome. Also, some in the US Administration feared that Mossadeq was, or would become, dependent on the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, at a time of returning Soviet influence, and too close for comfort to have the cold War Tectonic Plates reach towards the Saudi and Iraqi oilfields.

The extent of the US role in Mossadeq’s overthrow was not formally acknowledged for many years, although the Eisenhower administration was quite vocal in its opposition to the policies of the ousted Iranian Prime Minister. In his memoirs, Eisenhower writes angrily about Mossadeq, and describes him as impractical and naive, though he stops short of admitting any overt involvement in the coup.

Eventually the CIA’s role became well-known, and caused controversy within the organization itself, and within the CIA congressional hearings of the 1970s. CIA supporters maintain that the plot against Mosaddeq was strategically necessary, and praise the efficiency of agents in carrying out the plan. Critics say the scheme was paranoid and colonial, as well as immoral.

In March 2000, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated her regret that Mosaddeq was ousted: “The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development, and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America.” In the same year, the New York Times published a detailed report about the coup based on alleged CIA documents. For his sudden rise in popularity inside and outside of Iran, and for his defiance of the British, Mosaddeq was named as Time Magazine’s 1951 Man of the Year. Other notables considered for the title that year included Dean Acheson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur.

In early 2004, the Egyptian government changed a street name in Cairo from Pahlavi to Mosaddeq, to facilitate closer relations with Iran.

 Now, these last few paragraphs, obviously, do not come from the monologue of Minister Mottaki, but I thought to bring this up because otherwise the show at the Asia Society cannot be understood, and the Ministers personality grasped.

***

The literally last question mentioned above, that came from the back-room filled with people from media was added when the announced “last question” that came from a lady sitting at the front-right table, clearly laudatory asked, “for those of us interested in the understanding of the history of the Middle East, when did Iran invade last one of its neighbors?”   The clear short answer was – “not in our lifetime.”

***

Had be given to me the opportunity to ask a question – what I had in mind was something like this:

“In light of what your excellency has said in regard to regional solutions for regional problems, and in light of justifiable aspirations by Iran to become an Asian powerhouse, what is your reaction to the Bahrain proposal at this year’s High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly, when Bahrain suggested the creation of a new UN organization comprising ALL STATES OF THE REGION – that wasinterpreted as meaning a Middle East organization that includes Israel?” This is exactly the most wanting direct question that was not put before our guest.

***

From The Speakers Profile and The Internet:

 Manouchehr Mottaki was born   May 12, 1953 in Bandar Gaz, in the northern Iranian Province of Golestan, and went to school there. Bandar-Gaz, during the Reza Shah Pahlavi rule, was an important city in the north with a national railroad and “several infrastructures.” It was considered   a transit bridge to the Soviet Union. After graduation, he joined the army and as per national plan joined the public education program by which was conducted by the government. He went to Khorasan province and established a school in a poor village around Mashhad, and taught there. After his service in the army, since he was interested in social and political issues, he decided to travel abroad both for experience and study. At that time India was a popular academic destination for young Iranians. So he traveled and studied for a few years in India, before the revolution in Iran.       He holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Bangalore University in India (1976). Mottaki also holds a master’s degree (MA) in international relations from the University of Tehran (1996).

 After the 1980 revolution, he was elected by the people of his home town and the neighboring cities as the first parliament representative and assigned by the other representatives as the head of the national security and foreign policy committee due to his politic and diplomatic talents. During his years in Majlis (Congress) and effective collaboration with the foreign ministry, he was employed then by the ministry after parliament.   Or, he made thus his career within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during 24 years of continuous presence in different positions through   the Majlis (Parliament)..

He served thus as member of parliament in the first Majlis, head of seventh political bureau of Foreign Ministry (1984),

Iran’s ambassador to Turkey (1985),

Foreign Ministry’s secretary general for Western European affairs (1989),

Deputy Foreign Minister – first for international affairs (1989) and then   for legal, consular and parliamentary affairs (1992).

 Iran’s ambassador to Japan (1994),

Advisor to foreign minister (1999),

Deputy head of Culture and Islamic Communications Organization (2001)

Chief of the Foreign Relations Committee of the 7th Majlis National Security and Foreign Relations Commission (2004).

During the 2005 presidential election, he was the campaign manager of Ali Larijani, the right-conservative candidate.

President Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, in 2005,   appointed him to the position of Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2005.

 

Mottaki quotations:

“Referring the case to the Security Council would be a lose-lose game, and we would prefer that this game does not happen. We see a win-win situation, that is where the EU and international community have confidence and the Islamic Republic of Iran reaches its legitimate right.”

“The Islamic Republic pays great cost to control and prevent transfer of narcotics to West.

“We do not accept global nuclear ‘apartheid’ and scientific ‘apartheid’.

“All voluntary measures taken over the past two-and-a-half or three years have been halted and we have no further commitment to the additional protocol and other voluntary commitments.”

“We should try to cool down the situation. We do not support any violence.”

“Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned.”

“The time for using language of threats is over, it’s time for negotiation. We express our readiness for negotiations based on justice and a comprehensive compromise. We want to peacefully solve the problem.

“Nuclear weapons are not in Iran’s defense doctrine.”

“The issue is quite simple. We would like to enjoy our membership as well as the other members of the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty. The country has followed the rules and regulations of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and wants to keep its rights.”

***

The Foreign Minister’s Introductory Presentation Before The Asia Society, Thursday, October 2, 2008:

Mottaki started by saying that since our last meeting here (2007), we had three events:

(1) The enjoyable visit of members of this Society in Tehran – he hopes this is a start for more such exchanges. This as a better way for mutual understanding – Scholars, Tourists, Students in such exchanges create the possibility to have more realistic picture of each other.

 

(2) LEBANON: A solution of more then 30 months of crisis was achieved after being initiated by different parties. Foreign Minister Mottaki wants to talk about how it was achieved – because the process is as important as the results.

It was a regional-based solution for the Lebanon crisis. The decision was that it has to be a solution based on votes by a 50+ plurality of all groups in the country – all groups in the country come to the table and a consensus is built – that was the tone of the Lebanon Policy agreement.

On the second day of the negotiations in Doha, at 2:30 AM, the feeling was that it all collapsed the negotiations were locked. Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League said go ahead, but others opposed. Mottaki was in contact with Doha and Beirut and   at 9 AM they took up the issue again, and it was settled after a day of negotiations by 9 PM.

One learned that use of force should expect a reaction from the other side. Then also that territorial integrity is an integral part of any solution. These lessons apply whenever you have conflict – this clearly also in the Georgia – Russia case.

 

(3) GEORGIA: The areas are already affected by crisis – energy, transportation, security.

The crisis started by use of force based on wrong information and miscalculation. The latter by not expecting reaction.

The second point is territorial integrity.

Its the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia now, before it was Kosovo, Does it result from the same policies? If so, are there other areas where action led to reaction? If Yes – What are these?

On the second day of the Georgia case there was an agreement signed with Poland. If this signing of the agreement with Poland has become another step, should we look for reaction in Syria? in Venezuela?

What is NATO going to do?

Iran is a neighbor of Azerbaijan and Armenia – so there is a regional concern and Iran has to take part in the initiatives – parallel with Europe. So he went to the region and to Berlin. Is NATO moving to accept Georgia as a member?                             The interesting question is then the borders.

***

 

Now it was the turn for Ambassador Frank G. Wisner to take his position as moderator and conversation partner.

He has retired from the US Foreign Service in 1997 with the highest rank – that of a Career Ambassador, but continued to be involved in special positions like the Special US envoy for the Kosovo Final Status (December 2005 – March 2008).   Now he is in the private sector.   In his career postings he was Ambassador to India, the Philippines, Egypt, Zambia… among other appointments, he was also Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.

He started by saying that Iran is a great nation that commands and deserves respect – yet for many of us it is difficult to see how Iran chooses to challenge the international community. How do you square your requirement for respect with a confrontation attitude he then asked the Minister.

Mottaki, who made his introductory presentation in English, but now used a translator for the conversation part of the event, started to smile.

His answer was: A very nice gathering and behavior – my response – What we see is   selective dealing and approach – and double standards.

Back in the 80s we extensively talked up issues. I suggest how the first Iraq war was dealt with and the second war – the war of Saddam against Kuwait. In all   these the underlying issue is the occupation of foreign lands. {I assume he means the Iraq war against Iran as the first war and the war of Iraq on Kuwait as the second war}   Back then the heated discussion was having a cease-fire not a settlement. So the first step is a cease-fire, another first step is withdrawal. We wanted to have the an “a” inserted so that it is clear that a withdrawal comes after the cease-fire. See, using “oil-for-food” money – even now a percentage goes to Kuwait, this while for 4 years we were engaged in lengthy negotiations that were ordered by the UN. Two Assistant Secretary-Generals that dealt with this are present here – they remember those negotiations. Sometimes just to keep things going we had to put proposals on the table. We felt these were in Iraq’s favor and Iraq asked – what do you pay us to accept?

On the nuclear issue – at the end of the day – it is officials of one country … But Islamic and Sharia teachings say that atomic bombs have no place in our defense.we also contend that nuclear weapons are nomore effective. Also military powr has lost effectiveness.

I outlined new agreements for the IAEA last year. 1,5 years ago, in Madrid, we said to the Agency we will give the right answers to the IAEA questions. Then the US turned over questions to the IAEA and they posed them to us. The agency said they have other questions and we started answering them one by one. For each set of questions they sent us a written letter that they accepted the answer as adequate. What expectations should Iran have? We expect the 5+1 to thank us for these efforts to answer all questions. We expected that at the September meeting to be told by the Agency that they put aside all questions, but they provided a second US set of contentions.

They were supposed to bring up questions in one set of timetable. These questions went beyond the timetable. but we accepted.

These questions, like the previous are baseless, we will not agre to the US directed routes. I believe if we continue the negotiations we will reach a point of agreement that will lead to action.

 

{All the above sounded to me like a reprise of the 1001 Nights stories – this time from Tehran. I wonder how many people in the room accepted these, though, as I remarked at the beginning of this article, I am probably one of the most inclined to allow some slack to the Iranians because of past US behavior – but this story contained really too much rope. It did not inspire safety at all.}

 

Now Ambassador Wisner had one more short question he said. The elections in the US. “Do you see from Iran’s point of view an opportunity for dialogue? What will be the modalities for negotiation?

A. A US President will have to reach out including the Middle East. If there are changes in the White House we will intently consider them. We take note of comments made by previous Presidents, who are not in power anymore, also candidates not yet elected. Comments made, promises given by them cannot yet be seriously considered. We have to wait and see.

As for an interest section, there is only stories in news media.

 

***

Q&A from the floor:

Answer On Israel of sorts:   Iran US relations are dependent on a number of issues. Unilateral Vs. Policies in the Middle East have complicated the situation. NO MENTION OF ISRAEL IN THE ANSWER.

 

Answer on Nuclear In The Middle East:   Atomic weapons cannot provide security. We all heard that the US had enough to destroy Russia. It helped in the balance of fear.

Six years have passed from the day your troops have entered Iraq – they have not succeeded. Why could not atomic weapons help in Afghanistan and Iraq? This year the 13th anniversary since the Islamic revolution in Iran.

if I were to list our grievances against the US it will be a long long list. Had we a nuclear bomb, could that have changed your actions in Iraq?

In tandem with development on hardware side, the software side. The US is not lacking in modern weapons, also in its economic might (except for the present problems). No serious changes will occur in the US. The problem is – insufficient reasoning to convince the international public opinion.

 

Answer to the last question on the Middle East: We go about our business about our nuclear problems. We provided the answers.

if a person is asleep- how hard you knock, it will not help. The US cannot accept Iran’s peaceful proposals because once they accept they will not be able to stay in this position.

US intelligence agencies announced that Iran does not work on nuclear bomb, but the uS did not accept. I know of five different reports. I think it is high time for them to accept this.

The 15 years they were against my country. What is wrong about changing policies – and see what was wrong for their country?

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