It Is in Iran’s Interest to Seek Equidistant Policy toward Russia, NATO

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tehran Time's Exclusive Interview with Arshin Adib-Moghaddam
By: Javad Heirannia

“It is in Iran’s interest to pursue an equidistant policy towards Russia and NATO,” says Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, head of the Iran center at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“In principle, NATO is not a threat to Iran, if the current trend of diplomacy with the United States continues,” Adib Moghaddam tells the Tehran Times.

He also says Russia will “interpret” efforts to bring Montenegro into NATO as a “provocation and as yet another example for NATO’s aggressive expansion towards the East.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What will be the reaction of NATO against Russian deployment of S-400 air defense systems in Syria?

A: NATO is hostage to its own history. As a relic of the Cold War, with all its devastating effects on international relations, it is not well positioned to foster peace and humanitarian diplomacy. After the end of the Cold War it should have been transformed into something very different. Instead, in the euphoria that ensued after the end of communism in the Soviet Union, successive U.S. administrations used the alliance for wars all over the world. Thus, NATO created its own self-fulfilling prophecies.

The crisis today is an outgrowth of this wider historical context and the ideology at the heart of organisations such as NATO. I mean we are not speaking about Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International here. NATO is a military alliance and it operates as such. Hence the reaction to the deployment of the S-400 in Syria will be a military one. NATO is likely to equip its frontline states, certainly Turkey, with further military hardware in order to create, a technological edge over the Russian weapons systems. This is a mini, mutually assured destruction between the Russian state, itself one that is oppressive and aggressive, and NATO which has been incapable to be a constructive force in any major crisis situation in West Asia and North Africa. This is, as indicated, due to its raison d’être as a military organisation. After the Cold War, I would have renamed NATO “Organisation for Global Diplomacy and Peace (OGDP). Sounds much nicer, doesn’t it? The U.S. had the historical opportunity to create a very different international order, to substitute a system of war, with a philosophy of peace. Humanity lost this unique chance due to the incompetence of the ruling classes, in East and West.

Q: Some argue since the Turkish politics toward Syria has not been in harmony with NATO in some cases it may decide to expel the country from the military bloc. Do you agree?

A: No I don’t. Turkey is in a very strong bargaining position both because of its geopolitical position and its deep involvement in West Asia and North Africa. Indeed, the ruling elites in the country realized, after the Cold War, that they had to re-establish their importance for NATO as a “frontline state”. The increasing involvement of Turkey in the region is partially due to that re-positioning of the country as an important actor in the politics of West Asia and North Africa (WANA).

Q: Why has NATO invited Montenegro to join the organization? Does it fall within NATO’s policy to expand its sphere toward the East?

A: NATO’s aggressive expansion eastwards is part of the problem with Russia. From the perspective of Moscow, an expansive military alliance steeped in the bipolar politics of the Cold War can only be perceived as a threat. Western politicians never understood that dynamic because of a lack of strategic intelligence. Russia on the other side has a better strategic appreciation of world politics, but the Russian state is autocratic and oppressive, so it does not have the capacity to counteract the ideology underlying NATO, freedom and democracy, with an equally powerful narrative. It is a simple fact that NATO members do have to adhere to democratic norms of appropriate behaviour in their domestic politics. Montenegro is an aspiring democracy in Europe. As a small country it is only natural that it seeks the security umbrella of NATO in the absence of any other alternative. The lesser evil, if you wish, certainly in comparison to Russian threats to Eastern Europe. The main challenge, I reiterate, is to bring Russia into the fold, to create trust building measures which should start by working together on international crises, in particular in Syria, but also in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Q: If Montenegro joins NATO, what will be the reaction of Russia?

A: As indicated, Russia will interpret this move as a provocation and as yet another example for NATO’s aggressive expansion towards the East. The country is likely to further militarise its western flank and to deploy even more weapons systems and troops on its western borders.

Q: What would be the impacts of NATO eastern expansion on Iran’s national security?

A: It is in Iran’s interest to pursue an equidistant policy towards Russia and NATO. In principle, NATO is not a threat to Iran, if the current trend of diplomacy with the United States continues. Cordial, diplomatic relations with the United States is the primary challenge to Iranian foreign policy. With Obama, it was possible as we have seen. With George W. Bush it was not and with a right-wing bigot such as Donald Trump it won’t be. So the Rouhani administration needs to cover as much diplomatic ground as possible under the current circumstances. I would envisage Iran working with NATO countries on international crises situations whenever it is conducive to their peaceful resolution which is in Iran’s interest. NATO is a regrettable reality of the current international system. But I deem Putin’s Russia even more threatening because of the lack of democratic oversight of the Russian state. For Iran, it is necessary to work with both actors, and to refrain from being dragged into their competition which is marginal to Iranian interests and the security of the Iranian people. As I have said in previous interviews: Neither East nor West, should be turned into both East and West, in order to extend Iran’s foreign policy orbit, outreach and impact.

Source: Tehran Times

More By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam:

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*US Realizing Iran Holds Many Keys to Regional Problems:

*Renewed Iranian-American Relations Stabilize World Politics:

*Photo Credit: Sputnik News, World Bulletin

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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