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Cordial Ties with Southern Neighbors, Serve Iran's National Interests Best

Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview with Qasem Mohebbe-Ali
Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Former Director General for Middle East

Q: Recent remarks made by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum [Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai] have been construed by some analysts as a sign that Arab countries of the Persian Gulf are gradually increasing their distance with anti-Iran positions of Saudi Arabia. Is this true?

A: Out of all the emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai has always taken a different approach to Iran and has had different views about relations with our country. This is true both in political and economic terms taking into account that the highest volume of bilateral trade, compared to other emirates, has existed between the two sides since a long time ago. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been always fond of Iran and, unlike other emirates of the UAE, he has never taken sharp stances against the Islamic Republic.

The problem, however, is that when Iran's relations with the West are characterized by tension, these [Persian Gulf littoral] states come under heavy international pressure and will have to move along the line of their national interests. As a result, due to high level of their relations with the Western countries and their dependence on the West for their security, they will have to behave more cautiously when it comes to relations with Iran. On the other hand, whenever our relations with the West are improved, that equation automatically changes in the opposite direction and this provides people like Sheikh Mohammed and even other countries with an opportunity to try to improve their relations with Iran.

Q: Will this situation cause the balance of regional political equations to tilt in favor of Iran?

A: Well, naturally, when international and diplomatic position of Iran improves, its neighboring states will also take different stances toward the country. In a previous interview, I laid emphasis on the main reasons and root cause of the negative attitudes that are rife among the Persian Gulf Arab countries toward Iran. The most important of those reasons include: tension in Iran's relations with the West, political misunderstanding about Iran's goals and approaches, as well as certain uncalculated, raw and adventurist remarks made by some Iranian officials, which are considered as threatening by the opposite side.

This situation escalated between the two sides due to increasing threats and tensions in the Persian Gulf region. Since the very survival of the littoral countries depends on this international waterway and trade exchanges that take place through it, such tensions and threats are directly related to peace, stability and security in this region. When Iran changes a policy, whose main outcomes are escalation of threats and disturbing the regional political balance, and replaces that policy with a new policy that promotes friendship, peace, stability and trade, other countries cannot ignore such a change in Iran's policy. In that case, perhaps Iran will be their best choice for trade and their best partner for the establishment of regional security. Therefore, they will think about friendship and cordiality with the Islamic Republic.

Of course, it should be noted that the past problems have been two-sided. In reality, all southern neighbors of Iran are smaller in area compared with the Islamic Republic. Therefore, they feel weakened and diminutive in the face of Iran as a big country with high economic, military, territorial, historical and civilizational potentials and backdrop. Such an attitude toward Iran will naturally fuel a sense of being threatened and humiliated. Therefore, it is for us to pay attention to these realities and change the equations. If we pose a threat, they will resort to foreign powers in order to save and protect themselves. This was proven when Iraq invaded its small southern neighbor, Kuwait. The invaded country made recourse to the Americans in order to get rid of [the former Iraqi dictator] Saddam [Hussein]. If such an attitude toward Iran continues, these countries will find refuge with transregional players in order to protect their stability and security. On the other hand, if Iran adopts a suitable policy, they will naturally find us the best friend that they can ever find.

Q: If his happens, will other countries change their positions as well?

A: Iran and Saudi Arabia are two regional powers with both common interests and areas of rivalry. During past years, the main problem was less emphasis that both sides put on the common interests, and heightened focus on areas of rivalry, which gradually turned into outright conflict of interests. Saudi Arabia is also part of this equation. In fact, Saudi Arabia will finally have to board the train of change in the region. Saudi Arabia is currently resisting change because it feels threatened and thinks that it has to give up part of the benefits it has already reaped during all the years that Iran has been under sanctions and isolated in the region. However, if Iran continues to go on with its suitable policy, Saudi Arabia will join the change process as well. A suitable Iranian policy is the one which will have peace, stability and security in all regional areas as its reality with regional political and economic development being its most important goal.

Q: It seems that a recent trip [to regional Arab countries] by [Iranian Foreign Minister] Mohammad Javad Zarif has been greatly successful in paving the way for the achievement of the above goals.

A: We are living in a region which is a breeding ground for many major global crises. This was why so much aggrandizement was applied to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear case. In fact, Iran's nuclear case aroused sensitivities worldwide because it was linked to the existing crises in the Middle East. Of course, regional crises are actually the end result of terrorism; instability; ethnic, sectarian, and religious conflicts as well as extremism. However, it was alleged that the Iranian nuclear case will further add fuel to the existing tensions in the region.

In order for us to be able to prove that our nuclear program is not aimed at threatening other countries or overthrow other governments, we need to reduce tensions. These are two goals which should be pursued in parallel. The regional visits paid by Mohammad Javad Zarif had two faces. In order to help facilitate the nuclear negotiations until a positive result is achieved, and break more important grounds in negotiations with the P5+1 group, we must also try in parallel to promote our policies in the region. These two goals are complementary and the final fruit of achieving them will be put in the same basket: a basket which can be better described as the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Key Words: Iran, National Interests, Southern Neighbors, United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Political Equations, Persian Gulf Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Mohebbe-Ali

Source: Khabaronline News Website
http://www.khabaronline.ir/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Qasem Mohebbe-Ali:

*Iran-Saudi Hostility: A Game Designed by Enemies: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran-Saudi-Hostility-A-Game-Designed-by-Enemies-2.htm

*Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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