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Iran’s Perspectives on the Issue of National Security

Speech by H.E. Dr. Kamal Kharrazi, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

New York
September 28, 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It gives me great pleasure to address this distinguished group and I wish to express my gratitude to the Asia Society, in particular Dr. Vishakha N. Desai, the president of this society, for her warm invitation. The role of the Asia Society as a prominent institute in promoting better understanding on major issues affecting international peace and security is well-known. At a time when stakes are high and stability and security in our region face tremendous challenges, this role is becoming all the more important. I hope our discussion, today, serves this purpose.

I would like to focus my discussion today on reviewing Iran’s perspectives on the issue of national security within the context of our vested security interests and concerns. From a broader perspective, I will identify the interplay of these interests and concerns with the issue of regional stability. I will attempt to identify the areas in which Iran’s potentials and capabilities can be utilized in the interest of regional as well as global peace and security.

Iran’s approach toward the issue of national security

Iran is a resourceful country blessed with vast territory, solid national identity and rich cultural heritage and tradition. Iran harbors no expansionist ambition in the conduct of its foreign relations. As the history of past two and a half century in the region shows, no conflict or war has ever been initiated by my country. The Islamic Republic of Iran views its security in a broad concept. Political, economic, cultural and military factors shape our multifaceted approach toward the issue of national security. Geopolitical imperatives together with our national development plans have fostered our nation’s prosperity in various fields at an era of globalization, rendering our national security as well as regional and global stability interlinked, interdependent and mutually reinforcing. As a major supplier of world’s energy and with a unique position for the transit of goods and energy in our region, Iran’s national interests can be defined and articulated only in interaction with regional and global factors.

Thus, any crisis and instability in our neighbors has immediate impact on Iran’s security. Equally, any possible instability in Iran will naturally have grave consequences not only for the region but also for global peace and security. This explains why my country so enthusiastically pursues a policy based on the expansion of good-neighborly relations, mutual respect and confidence building. Moreover, it shows why Iran on numerous occasions, including the case of troubled spots in Central Asia and Caucasus region, has endeavored to act as a mediator and stabilizing force.

Moreover, our constructive policy with respect to 1991 crisis in the Persian Gulf that helped in the termination of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, together with our pivotal role in assisting Afghani resistance to replace the Taliban regime, provide distinct illustrations of this approach. Crisis and tension in the region contradict Iran’s national interests. This dire reality teaches us to attempt to enhance our national security only through approaches which value and advocate integration, inclusion and constructive engagement rather than isolation, exclusion and confrontation. At times, the pursuit of this principled policy and approach has been costly for us. For example, this has been the case in combating drug trafficking springing from our eastern borders, mainly from Afghanistan, with its problem of terrorism and other forms of transnational crimes. Indeed, we continue to pay a heavy price in a battle that all members of the global community should shoulder their responsibility.

After this short preface, let me now deal very briefly with five topical issues: Iraq, regional stability, reform and democracy, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq

By the same token, Iran follows the developments in Iraq with great concern. The collapse of Saddam regime, whose atrocities and aggressive policies caused untold misery and destruction for Iranian nation, Iraqi people and other nations in the region, indeed provides a great sense of relief for Iran and people of the region. It must be noted, however, that the consequences of the military intervention and occupation of Iraq by foreign forces continue to threaten the very security of Iraq and neighboring states. Persistence of disorder and violence coupled with the massive civilian casualties, pervasive destruction of social and economic infrastructures of Iraq and desecration of religious sanctuaries have been colossal.

The stakes are high and the costs are enormous as security appears to spiral out of control. Indeed, the scope and intensity of violence have raised serious questions about the real objectives of military intervention and occupation of Iraq. This murky situation is the outgrowth of underestimating the complexity of the region and the sensitivity of Iraqi people and other Muslim nations in the region to foreign occupation.

Given the historical realities and geopolitical imperatives, Iran considers the stability in Iraq as its own stability. From the ideological standpoint and pragmatic considerations, violence and chaos in Iraq run contrary to the national interests of Iran. Violence and chaos destroy the various infrastructures of Iraq, minimizing the chance of the emergence of Iraq as a free and democratic state. Naturally, the ensuing situation adversely affects my country. Indeed, had there been a democratic government in Iraq in the 1980s, the Iraqi invasion of Iran would have never transpired. Historical and cultural commonalities between the Iranian nation and Iraqi people make it essential that we lend our full support to territorial integrity, political independence and the establishment of a stable and democratic Iraq. Besides, we believe a multiethnic society based on tolerance is integral to a stable Iraq.

Needless to say that the economic prosperity of Iraq and expansion of economic, trade and cultural ties between two countries will contribute to further flourishing of Iran’s economy, especially in our border provinces with Iraq. We have unequivocally expressed our readiness to provide the necessary facilities for Iraq’s private and public sector to flourish in trade and other areas and also facilitate visits of pilgrims from either side. One may expect that such type of ties could empower moderate and constructive elements and contain militant forces. We believe that coalition forces should give way to development of such type of relationship between Iraq and its neighbors. Indeed, misperception and the obsession on the part of the United States with respect to Iran’s influence and role in Iraq is a major obstacle in utilizing Iran’s potentials to help Iraqi people and the Interim Government of Iraq to restore normalcy and stability in that country. Undoubtedly, reliance on common interests, rather than differences, would be instrumental in interaction and engagement among regional and global actors to stabilize the situation in Iraq

We believe that the Iraqi people have the right and ability to determine their destiny. Based on this conviction, Iran was the first country in the region that welcomed the creation of the Governing Council and subsequently lent its support to the establishment of the Interim Government of Iraq. A free, independent and a prosperous Iraq with a government representing all classes in society, including a fair representation for the Shiite majority, and the holding free and fair elections as scheduled, are essential steps toward the realization of full sovereignty of Iraq and its stability.