|Panel discussion: Sanctions had zero effect on progress of Iran’s nuclear program||
ASTANA, Kazakhstan – At an international conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, panelists criticized the West for leading harsh sanctions against Tehran, saying the sanctions failed to halt the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.
The conference, sponsored by Samruk Kazyna, brought together 600 participants from about 30 countries, with politicians, analysts, and top journalists discussing a wide range of issues, top among them the Iranian nuclear issue.
The two-day conference opened with a message from Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev who hailed constructive dialogue during difficult political times.
At the panel discussion Trita Parsi, the chairman of the National Iranian American Council, said sanctions have had “zero effect” on development of Iran’s nuclear program.
Parsi said sanctions have just put pressure on the Iranian people.
“Sanctions have had ‘zero effect’ on progression of Iran’s program,” Parsi told the panel discussion arranged by the Eurasian Media Forum in Astana on April 24-25.
“Sanctions (against Iran) have also been an obstacle to peace in the (Middle East) region,” Parsi noted.
“You cannot create stability by ignoring an important player (Iran)… but unfortunately this is happening.”
So far, he said, the Obama administration has had no “legacy of successful foreign policy” and “Iran is the most possible issue to resolve in the Middle East” now that Hassan Rouhani has been elected as president in Iran.
“This (the Iranian nuclear issue) is an opportunity for Obama” which its “resolution is much easier that the Syrian crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
If Iran is being engaged by the West then “you have the promises of a successful Middle East” in particular and “global security” in general, the chairman of the National Iranian-American Council opined.
‘U.S. ignored diplomatic breakthrough by Brazil and Turkey’
Parsi also said the Western countries, particularly the U.S, aborted efforts in the past to strike a nuclear deal with Iran.
For example, he said, based on an American proposal the Brazilian and Turkish leaders visited Tehran in May 2010 and signed an agreement with Iran according to which the Islamic Republic was to ship its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium to Russia for reprocessing, but Obama, under a pressure from the Congress, rejected the deal and along with Russia and China Washington approved a new round of sanctions against the Islamic Republic at the UN Security Council.
In fact the U.S. “ignored the diplomatic breakthrough” at the time, he explained.
There are many examples when the U.S. could pursue diplomacy but it did not, he added.
However, he said the United States has moved from its former unrealistic position and was no longer insisting that there should be no uranium enrichment by Iran. He added Iran has also gone a long way to do a compromise under its new government.
‘Iranians are not suicidal’
Rajiv Sikri said, the former secretary of the Indian Foreign Ministry said, “Sanctions did not stop Iran’s nuclear program.”
Sanctions have failed and only created anti-American sentiment among the Iranian public, Sikri insisted.
India did not approve of unilateral sanctions, he said, adding that the sanctions were a form of blackmail that hurt other countries including India.
Iran’s position in the nuclear row with the West is “understandable” as Iran needs assurance and respect for its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, the former top diplomat noted.
“The Iranians are smart and they are not suicidal,” Sikri opined.
Sikri also said Washington accuses Iran of tyranny while it is “doing perfectly well with dictators in Arab states.”
He also said Iran could make a responsible contribution to stability in the Middle East and the wider region.
‘Israel has been trying to present a monstrous image of Iran’
Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister, who was present at the panel discussion, tried to demonize Iran for its nuclear program. However, he was countered by Safarov, the director of the Center for Modern Iranian Research, who said Israel has been trying incessantly to present a “monstrous” picture of Iran to the outside world and “distort” the views of Iranian officials.
Safarov also said Iran has become self-sufficient because of sanctions.
The Iran expert added that the West intentionally does not want to “trust” Iran because it is not in its “interest”.
He also said he has never heard by any technician or expert that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
He further said U.S. officials are sending contradictory remarks to kill the Geneva nuclear agreement by saying that Iran’s nuclear missiles program should also be part of the negotiations in a possible final nuclear deal, or the European Union raising the issue of human rights.
Safarov added that the West does not want the Islamic Republic to have close relationship with Russia.
He also said he is “optimistic” about the resolution of the Iranian nuclear program.
‘Crisis over Iran’s nuclear program is artificial’
Mohammad Kazem Sajadpour, the advisor to the Iranian foreign minister, described the commotion created over Iran’s nuclear program as an “artificial crisis”.
He said the sanctions on Iran are “totally unjustified”.
“These sanctions have been imposed unjustly on false assumption that we intend to build nuclear weapons, but we have never had a military nuclear program.”
All sanctions should be lifted in order to create an atmosphere of mutual trust, he remarked.
Sajadpour also described the interim nuclear deal signed between Iran the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) in Geneva last November as a “turning point”.
Now the question is how to go beyond the interim deal and achieve a “final deal”, he stated.
He went on to say that negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group have been progressing well and every party has been trying to play a “constructive” role.
The advisor to foreign minister said some countries in the Middle East which he said he does not want to mention are “trying hard” the abort the move toward a “final deal”.
Iran has been actively pushing for a nuclear disarmament at international conferences, the diplomat said.
‘No peace without Iran’
Sajadpour added, “You cannot have peace without Iran. You cannot have peace by ignoring Iran as a great regional power.”
“The more we understand Iran the better we will have a world.”
‘Iran is a diverse society’
The veteran diplomat added that Iran with a 75-milliion population is a “diverse society” with “different views”.
“To try to understand Iran correctly is very important,” he noted. “Iran should be looked as it is.”
Gingrich says Iran is an enormous country with tremendous history
At the panel discussion Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, predicted that if Iran shows “transparency” and “accountability” in its nuclear drive the relations between Iran and the U.S. will improve.
He said the entire world has agreed that Iran has a right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
He also called Iran “an enormous country with tremendous history”.
Euhd Barak makes gaffe
Ehud Barak who still claimed Iran was trying to build nuclear weapons made a gaffe by saying if Switzerland or Sweden were to develop nuclear weapons Israel was not concerned. The remarks by Barak were countered by top Russian TV presenter and journalist Vladimir Pozner who asked: “Mr. Barak, aren’t you afraid of nuclear proliferation?”
General Sameh Seif Elyazal, the chairman of the Al-Jumhuriay Research Center for Political and Security Studies in Egypt, criticized Israel for refusing to sign the NPT and said the Arab world is seriously worried that Israel is not showing a bit of transparency in its nuclear program.
On the new world order, Elyazal said, “There are not universal values and you cannot impose your values.”
Russia happy over the Geneva nuclear deal
Konstantin Zatulin, the director of the Institute of CIS countries from Russia, said Moscow is happy about the Geneva nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the six major powers.
“We are happy that a military solution was not required and also that ways were outlined for a solution of the Iranian problem.”
Zatulin also said, “Nobody in the 21st century has the right to define what the world order means.”
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