Iran Should Seek Détente with Arabs

Friday, April 29, 2011

Interview with Ali Jannati
Former Iranian Ambassador to Kuwait

In the following interview with Iranian Diplomacy, Ali Jannati, former Iranian ambassador to Kuwait, reflects on recent tensions between Iran and Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and while criticizing domestic press, believes that Iran should seek détente and build confidence with its Arab neighbors.

Q: Tension has been escalating between Iran and member states of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council recently. They have been charging Iran of interfering with internal affairs of Bahrain. What does this exactly mean?

A: The only support offered by the Islamic Republic of Iran for recent uprisings has been through mass media. Iran has done its best to support popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen because it believes that people should be allowed to determine their own fate.

It is not acceptable in the modern world to have lifelong dictators in these countries whose rule in bequeathed to their offspring. Therefore, people have risen to establish democracy and participate in determination of their fate. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been supporting popular uprisings in all countries in line with its basic principles. Bahrain is no exception to that rule and Iran has taken the same media approach to it as other countries. Of course, the situation in Bahrain is more important to Tehran because it is located in our neighborhood and developments there will leave their mark on our country.

Q: What goals do those countries follow by incriminating Iran?

A: What they charge Iran with is a kind of projection reaction. They do not want to accept that they have problems at home which have made people to take to the streets. Therefore, they have to attribute their internal developments to foreign intervention and the Islamic Republic of Iran is the only country they can incriminate because of ethnic and religious grounds.

They want to put pressure on their people and charge them with being lackeys of foreign elements that try to benefit Iran. They want to scare Sunnis from Iran by claiming that Iran is trying to promote Shiism in the region and take over their countries once their own governments collapse. They are trying to prevent Shias from taking over and are doing this to distract their public opinion from internal problems.

Q: What Arab countries do to curb Iran’s influence?

A: Even when we had good relations with these countries, including under Mr. Khatami when Iran worked toward détente, both ruling elements and part of the elite were striving in two directions. Firstly, they tried to introduce Iran the region’s black sheep because of its non-Arab nature and claimed that Tehran was averse to Arab states. In fact, since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Iran’s main policy has been expansion of ties with all Muslim countries. Secondly, they banked on Shia-Sunni dichotomy and used Sunni clerics to this end. A major example is Saudi Arabia where Wahhabi and Salafi clerics are against Iran and the Iranian nation. One of their clerics recently announced that Iranians were Zoroastrians!

Q: What policy should Iran adopt in the face of such actions?

A: We must work toward détente. They are our neighbors and according to the old adage that “you shall not fight with your neighbor,” tension with them will not be good.

Throughout the post-revolution era, all Iranian governments have shared the willingness to have cordial ties with our neighbors. We have, therefore, been persistently following the policy of détente. But Arab countries are facing internal problems and are trying to intensify tension.

So, we should build confidence and pursue détente. I think that the current media attack on those countries is not expedient because we could have managed the situation in a much more logical way. We must take our stance on regional developments, but we are too hasty and destroy all bridges behind us.

Q: What about recent allegations by Kuwaiti officials about discovering an Iranian espionage network and why they put such emphasis on it?

A: This case was opened about eleven months ago, that is, in April 2010. I was Iran’s ambassador then and I met some high-ranking Kuwaiti officials and told them that the espionage charges were not true. I told them that the charges were cooked up by Kuwait’s embassy in Washington in cahoots with CIA and intelligence service of the Kuwaiti army.

They had devised this scenario to disturb Iran’s relations with Kuwait. At that time, Kuwaiti officials told me that they had nothing against Iran and were sure that Iran did not mean to destabilize Kuwait. Their positions were reflected by the print and other media. People who were closely related to the case, including lawyers of the accused announced that even court officials mocked intelligence agents who had nabbed a family, including brothers and sisters, as members of an espionage network.

The case was left there and attorneys believed that the accused would be freed. Then the crisis soared in the region and the case was reopened. It shows that Kuwait has been under tremendous pressure from regional states like Saudi Arabia to do this. I know that we do not have intelligence network in Kuwait and Iran has been never doing that. This case has been brought up by certain littoral states of the Persian Gulf that are pressuring Kuwait. Its prominence at this time reveals its political nature.

Source: Iranian Diplomacy
Translated By: Iran Review

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