Koleini, now an expert on strategic issues made the remarks in an interview with the news website Mashregh. The full test of his interview follows.
While the American and Israeli officials are threatening Iran over its efforts to achieve peaceful nuclear energy, certain regional Arab countries are also getting attuned to US and Israel's policies. The reason is that Arabs are trying by incriminating Iran to start an arms race in the region and create strategic friction. As the third round of nuclear talks between Iran and group P5+1 [US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany] approaches, we are witnessing escalation of warmongering and threatening remarks by the American officials on Iran. Different causes of this phenomenon have been discussed in the following interview with Farhad Koleini, a senior expert on strategic issues.
Q: The United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently confirmed in an interview with the ABC television channel that if nuclear negotiations with Iran fail to achieve a final result, the United States has plans for possible military strike against Iran. What is your opinion about his remarks?
A: The first question here is on what basis, Mr. Panetta has made such a claim and who are the main addressees of his remarks? Senator Joe Biden had already talked about possibility of all options against Iran. In addition, during his recent visit to Iran, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano tried to focus on Iran's obligations and practically foil the dominant discourse of Istanbul 2 negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 by emphasizing on the policy of sanctions. In this way, they are trying to influence Iran's positions by raising new threats. Therefore, we must see how serious and plausible Panetta's remarks can be? At present, due to its economic conditions and changes in military approaches, the US does not seem to be in a good position to implement such threats. Top officials of Pentagon have already announced their positions officially and, therefore, those positions should be studied with more care. Perhaps, they are only meant for domestic purposes.
Q: In addition to threatening remarks by the US officials, Israeli authorities are also taking intimidating positions. What is your opinion about this issue?
A: We see both a policy of sharing the game as well as differences in viewpoints. It is quite natural that the Zionist regime of Israel, as a destructive player, is constantly trying to change the situation of Iran's nuclear case from a win-win game and prevent an agreement to be achieved under standard conditions.
On the other hand, they [the Israelis] introduce themselves as Damocles' sword in order to get out of the current isolation that they are experiencing in the region. Israeli authorities are well aware of Iran's power to answer to any possible attack. Even the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said in a recent address that Iran will respond to any foreign attack in proportion to the level of the attack.
Q: Despite these facts, we are still seeing that in addition to the United States and Israel, some regional Arab states are also taking hostile positions against Iran. What is the main reason behind such positions?
A: Any situation in the existing fluid international environment can lead to certain conditions and effects. Therefore, some players are concerned about their positions because any change in situation may undermine their role and status and lead to major changes in security arrangements of the region. As a result, some parties are trying to create further obstacles and take advantage of them. Basically, Iran's nuclear case has a number of benefits for them. Therefore, they are trying through accusations to usher the region into an arms race and create strategic friction among regional players though past experiences have proven that such measures will not be effective at last.
Q: By imposing unilateral sanctions on one side, and raising frequent threats, on the other side, the Western countries are trying to mount pressure on Iran. Do you think that continuation of this trend can have any effect on the forthcoming nuclear negotiations between Tehran and the P5+1?
A: It will certainly have an effect on the overall process of negotiations. It will make Iran's positions more rigid and practically lead to the opposite result. The Western side has been trying through sanctions and threats to behave in its own special way after Baghdad talks and prove that its approach to negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 is a tactical one. Following Istanbul talks, they also did their best to prevent Istanbul 2 negotiations to emerge as a turning point.
Conditions which governed Baghdad negotiations after the first day and also conditions which have been created subsequent to Baghdad talks including the latest report by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, and continued use of threatening literature by the American officials are meant to convey negative messages to the P5+1 and Western member states of the group.
Q: Apart from such problems, we are witness to adoption of a purely political approach to Iran's nuclear issue by international organizations, on the one hand, and imposition of sanctions beyond the United Nations Security Council's resolutions, on the other hand. What possible meaning can such extra-legal measures have in view of the norms of international law?
A: Apparently, performance of the West and the P5+1 with regard to recognizing Iran's uranium enrichment right is not transparent and they avoid of dealing with this issue in a serious manner during negotiations. Therefore, they are trying to manage Iran's capability. As a result, their main approach is to stop nuclear research and development in Iran. This is why the contents of Amano's report prove that Western countries consider international organizations like IAEA a tool which should help them to achieve their goals.
Q: In view of the above facts, how do you analyze the outlook of Iran's forthcoming negotiations with the P5+1 in Moscow?
A: I personally believe that all developments result from the quality of diplomatic approaches as well as activities and moves of both negotiating parties. During Baghdad negotiations, both sides were more serious and did not suffice to general propositions. Therefore, Moscow talks can be very important provided that both sides' negotiating teams successfully engage in suitable interaction. The role that pre-negotiation teams and consultations can play is a very decisive factor which can result in rational moves in Moscow talks. Russia had already come up with a step-by-step plan and it also has gained experiences in Istanbul 2 and Baghdad talks. On the other hand, the Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian Foreign Ministry to look for a peaceful solution to Iran's nuclear case. Perhaps, this will provide a new opportunity for Russia to offer a more plausible idea and change West's "empty spoon" approach. I think if the existing trend continues, the West will continue to play in Israel's court and nobody should expect much from continuation of negotiations.