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Iran Nuclear Deal: the victory of dialogue and diplomacy

 
Monday, 10 August 2015 11:04
 
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Epos converses with Dr. Masoumeh Velayati

by Nicolamaria Coppola (EPOS)
EPOS Conversations

 

Masoumeh Velayati is a Lecturer in Gender and Development at Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee, Scotland. She has a multi-disciplinary educational background in Islam, religion, and social science with particular focus on development, gender, and Islamic feminism. She has also experience of working in international development, as a result of which she designed, contributed and Co-ordinated MSc Programme in Development, Islam, and the Muslim World at Al-Maktoum College. She is the author of Islam, Gender and Development: Rural-Urban Migration of Women in Iran, published by Lexington Books in 2011.  She has also published several articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and edited books.

In the following exclusive interview for EPOS she discusses the deal on the nuclear issue reached by Iran and the West, highlighting the strenghts and the weakness of the agreement and analysing the political, economic and social impacts of it on the Islamic Republic, across the MENA region and the whole World.

Nicolamaria Coppola: It is conventional wisdom that Iran went to the negotiating table because of sanctions. The economy was in trouble, and the country was desperate, so they had to join. But it may well be that Iran went to the negotiating table because President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif convinced the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, that if they went to the table, they would get everything they wanted from President Obama. What do you think is the reason why Iran decided to negotiate on the nuclear issue and to reach an agreement with the West?

Masoumeh Velayati: There is no doubt that one of the reasons that Iran went to the negotiation table with the world powers was imposed sanctions that were further toughened by Ahmadinejad’ confrontational foreign policy. Sanctions seriously crippled every aspects of Iranian society, deteriorated the economy, isolated Iran from international community, threatened national security, and led to many other destructive socio-political outcomes. Therefore, Iran desperately needed to come out of isolation and engage with international community.

President Rouhani in fact won the majority of Iranian’s vote in 2013 mainly for his campaign promises to bring a moderation to the country, rationalise the country’s foreign policy, and to take Iran out of international isolation. Soon after the presidential victory, foreign policy and negotiation on nuclear issues became Rouhani’s top priority. As a pragmatic politician, a member of the Supreme National Security Council and the chief negotiator of Iranian nuclear programs with EU-3 in 2003, he selected skilled professionals and experienced diplomats. Unlike the internal matters, he did not compromise on nuclear negotiations and tried to have the support of the Supreme Leader for the success of his foreign policy.

However, I believe, it was not just Iran who needed this deal and agreement. It was also the United States and the Europeans who were in need of such a deal. Time has proven that the so-called ‘western’ policies on the Middle East have not very successful. These policies have not led to a great deal of peace and stability in the region. On the contrary, they have contributed to the appearance of new forms of extremism and religious fundamentalism not only in the Middle East, but also in the globe. I think they recognised this weakness and revised their policies, as Iran is an important player in the region and international relations.

Nicolamaria Coppola: As an Iranian citizen, what do you think of the deal?

Masoumeh Velayati: I am optimistic about the deal. This deal shows both sides (Iran and 5+1 powers) have reached a maturity, despite a long-term reciprocal mistrust and mutual suspicions. The deal indicates that dialogue, negotiation, conciliation and communication are the best and least costly options forward for dealing with any complicated international issues. This will hopefully have positive implications for the Middle East that have severely been stricken by preventable ongoing wars, conflicts and sectarian tensions resulting in destructions, destabilisation of regional securities, human tragedies, killings of thousands of innocent people, and  displacement of millions of people. In fact, this is the continuation of Khatami’s ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’ proposal’, based on which, the year 2001 was named by the UN as the Year of Dialogue among Civilisations. The deal so far has been the victory of dialogue, diplomacy and the use of collective logic over coerce, clash and intimidation.

Nicolamaria Coppola: How does a nuclear deal change Iran?

Masoumeh Velayati: First of all, to a great degree it has removed the shadow of war from Iran. Depending on policies that Iran may take in the future, it could improve the devastated economy; contribute to scientific and technological developments, and would hopefully ease the economic hardship that Iranian have long suffered for not years, but decades. It will connect Iran and Iranians with the world through trade, tourism, and other international collaborations. European companies and businesses have already started their race to secure a share in Iran after the deal implementation and the subsequent sanction removal.

European delegates such as Foreign Minister of France and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have already started their visit to Iran for the first time after more than a decade of political tensions and have hold talks with the President and other high rank members of parliament to discuss the implementation issues. David Cameron has talked with the Iranian President about improving diplomatic relations between two countries that were suspended since 2011. All of these are very positive steps as a result of the agreement, which will hopefully have wider potential influential impact for the regional issues.

Nicolamaria Coppola: How will the nuclear agreement affect the relationship between political groups inside Iran?

Masoumeh Velayati: It might not improve the relationship between political powers inside Iran in a short term. It depends on how the Congress will deal with the agreement and whether it will be rejected by the majority votes in the congress. There are some minor, but powerful forces inside Iran who control national media and press that their political existence depends on animosity with the west. They even bypass the Supreme Leader’s support for the negotiating Iranian diplomats and compare this agreement with some of the deals in early 20th century that Iran lost its sovereignty to dominant powers. Human rights of political and human rights activists and defenders are violated. It seems there is no political will to deal with particularly with political prisoners, particularly the leaders of the green revolution who are in the house arrest.

Nicolamaria Coppola: The President of the United States has argued that the Iran nuclear deal, which will almost certainly become the centerpiece of his foreign-policy legacy, is not «transformational». In a confident and telling interview with the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, President Barack Obama asserted that «We are not measuring this deal by whether it is changing the regime inside of Iran». What are your thoughts on that?

Masoumeh Velayati: The deal is transformational, not only inside of Iran, but also in the region. However, the form of transformation inside and outside of Iran depends on so many issues as well as power dynamics between and among international and regional political players. The deal will influence internal politics in terms of opening up and widening civil society that will change the balance of political powers inside Iran for a moderate approach. At regional level, it depends on the role of Iran, regional and international powers dealing with regional matters, civil wars, chaos and threats of extremism that have already shown security impacts on west and western interests around the world. All of these are transformational.

Nicolamaria Coppola: Is there potential for collaboration, coordination, discussion over the flashpoints with the United States after the historical agreement?

Masoumeh Velayati: In the past, during Khatami’s presidency, Iran has collaborated with the United States and western powers in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no reason that they do not collaborate again for regional stability. However, the question is how much Iran and western powers as well as strong regional powers, particularly Saudi Arabia, are ready to compromise their political interests in the Middle East for political solutions, a sustainable peace and reconciliation through collaboration with each other based on mutual respect and trust.

Nicolamaria Coppola: What does Iran want next?

Masoumeh Velayati: To be accepted as a legitimate member of the international community; particularly in dealing with the regional issues. So far there have been so much negative anti-Iran discourses that have created disproportionate distrust towards and fear about Iran in the region. The lengthy nuclear deal process with the international powers would hopefully contribute to the reduction of such level of mistrust and fear towards Iran at international arena.

Nicolamaria Coppola: How do you think the nuclear deal will affect Iran’s regional policy? Will it become more assertive and aggressive or moderate andrestrained?

Masoumeh Velayati: Regional security and development is important for Iran’s national security. In the past, Iran collaborated with the western countries in fight against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, due to confrontational policies of Bush administration, after all crucial collaboration, Iran was named as an axis of evil, which added to further isolation of Iran from international community.

In early 2005, under the President Khatami’s nuclear team, Iran had already offered voluntary restrictions on enrichments that were rejected by the European negotiators under the pressures from US and the Bush administration that all enrichment activities should be ceased. That was followed by UN Security Council resolutions and series of further sanctions between July 2006 and June 2013, during the confrontational presidency of Ahmadinejad. Hopefully, the deal will add to the legitimacy of Iran to play positive role in regional issues.

Nicolamaria Coppola: It seems that the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf share Israel’s concerns about the deal. What do you think about their growing apprehension regarding the nuclear agreement between the West and Iran? Are they afraid that the deal will lead to the rise of Iran’s economic power and political clout in the region? Was it the reason Obama tried to appease the GCC leaders in the Camp David summit and assure them relations with Iran will not be normalized soon?

Masoumeh Velayati: Iran has always claimed its nuclear programme is a Peaceful programme to expand its nuclear technology, particularly in the medical fields. Iran was itself one of the victims of mass-destruction weapons during the imposed war with Iraq in the 1980s. Israel and Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia tried hard to create alliance within western powers to blockade any deal with Iran to prevent any influential political role of Iran in the region. Western negotiating powers including United States tried to convey this message that the nuclear negotiations with Iran will not necessarily lead to the normalisation relations between Iran and the west. However, it is clear that the deal will reduce the influence of Israeli lobby that promote military options with Iran. Undoubtedly, Israel and GCC countries have been benefited economically, militarily, and politically from Iran’s isolation and the deal will have detrimental impact for these regional powers.

Nicolamaria Coppola: Do you see a time when you and the new Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, will sit down and have a constructive conversation about cooperation and mutual interests in the region?

Masoumeh Velayati: This deal and direct negotiation with United States after 35 years of hostility has already broken the taboo of sitting with enemies and establishing constructive conversations. Iran has to open up dialogue with its Arab neighbours, particularly Saudi Arabia, and end a cold war that has been created between two rivalry powers in the region.  However, the process would be slow and difficult due to the conflicts in Yemen and Syria that Iran and Saudi Arabia are in different ways are involved in. The deal between Iran and the western powers has already demonstrated that any complicated issues can be negotiated through dialogue and finding the middle ground in which all parties can benefit and end unnecessary bloodshed. The world has realised for a long lasting peace, negotiation is the only option.

Nicolamaria Coppola: How do you think the State will use the financial resources released after the removal of sanctions?

Masoumeh Velayati: Numbers of people falling below poverty lines has been increased and unemployment level is high due to the sanctions, mismanagement and so many other issues.  We all hope that the financial resources after the removal of the sanctions to be used for the economic development in Iran, creation of jobs, investing in out-dated industries and easing financial hardship. However, the opponents of the deal argue that the huge financial resources will have negative impact and will give Iran financial leverage to mingle with politics and sponsoring terrorism in the Middle East. If Iran and the regional and international community pursue collaborative relations, the second scenario is less likely to happen. We have to wait and see.

Nicolamaria Coppola: Will the nuclear deal have any real impact on the life of the ordinary people in Iran? Will the condition of the Iranian youth, especially of women, change after the agreement? In which way?

Masoumeh Velayati: Iran has a substantial young and educated population that has suffered from international humiliation, partly so because of isolationist and confrontational rhetoric and policies of its own government. Becoming part of international community and hopefully positively engaging in world affairs, will give the Iranians the sense of world citizens, of which they have long been deprived. However, the changes will not happen so sudden and that might frustrate the people.

Iranian youth and particularly women use any possible means to promote their rights through political participation, involvement in civil society or simply through education and social participation. Despite gender policy of Iranian state that by using traditional and religious ideologies put more emphasis on women’s domestic role, in the process of social change, Iranian youth and women are active agents of change and resourceful in responding to socio-political changes with the social and cultural contexts.

 

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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the interviewed’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy




Last modified on Tuesday, 05 April 2016 08:32
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