'Mr. Raisi has almost a clear understanding of Iran’s foreign policy'

Ex-FM Mottaki says Saudi Arabia tricked U.S. into Yemen war

July 2, 2021 - 19:41

TEHRAN — In an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times, former Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki says Saudi Arabia deceived the United States into the war against Yemen in 2015.

The former foreign minister, who served as the chief of the unity council of the principlists in the run-up to the June 18 presidential election, also says President-elect Ebrahim Raisi will prioritize relations with neighbors during his incoming administration. 

Mottaki who was trying to encourage principlists to gather around Judiciary Chief Raisi for the presidential election argues that the president-elect has a “clear understanding” of Iran’s foreign policy.

Following is the text of the interview: 

1- What is the attitude of President Raisi’s administration towards Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action? How will the administration negotiate if the negotiations are not over until July, and how do you predict the administration's response if the U.S. does not lift all sanctions.

The JCPOA is a “sad story” that has plagued the country for almost 18 years, the core of its issue is Iran's peaceful nuclear activities and if in 2003 the administration of the time knew that these plans and scenarios made in connection with Iran's peaceful nuclear activities would be a 17-18 year- long-term process, it might not make such decisions. A naive conception regarding the nuclear issue has made misunderstanding in a way that we cooperate, we show goodwill, and then the West accepts. We did it. We did all this in the talks, in the negotiations, in the interviews, in accepting the voluntary suspension of enrichment, in accepting the Additional Protocol voluntarily, and then Mr. ElBaradei, then Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), came to Iran for the last time and raised 12 basic questions and doubts and he said there is nothing else beyond these. We answered all those 12. But the Iran nuclear dossier was not closed. This shows that Westerners have a plan beyond our naive initial view of the nuclear issue. They wanted us to fulfill our obligations to the NPT in full, but not to have NPT privileges. This was in fact their intention. When we look at the issue in this way, what are our national interests? If first we had understood the problem correctly, we would have designed it in such a way that we would proceed in parallel. That is, we should both focus on protecting our national interests, using our privileges as a committed member of the NPT, and continuing our talks.

“In essence, Mr. Raisi's administration in foreign policy will be pursuing in fact an approach based on interaction.”Towards the end of the eighth government (the Khatami government), we just realized what the Westerners were planning and what they were aiming for. And their package, proposed around July and August 2005, was a package in exchange for a two-year suspension in exchange for implementing the Additional Protocol and in exchange for implementing all the leniencies we have shown regarding the nuclear issues. In this proposed package, the negotiators talked about drugs, customs and agricultural cooperation, but Iran's right to enrichment was not considered in the talks and so contrary to what they propagate, unlocking enrichment seals took place in the last months of the eighth administration, not the ninth administration (the Ahmadinejad administration). And the Westerners said that if you unlock the seal, we will take Iran's case to the Security Council and they did. But it happened in the ninth administration. In the ninth administration, we either have to approve what was done in the eighth administration or we have to obey the will of the West. The work of the eighth administration was approved by us. We cooperated and accompanied around two years, and they did not fulfill their obligations, so the seals must have been unlocked and we halt our commitments. But the other side of the coin was that we were referred to the Security Council. At this point we were at a crossroads in the ninth administration, whether to surrender and continue our cooperation without enrichment or to continue the decision of the eighth administration. We continued the decision of the eighth administration and then the cases went away. The JCPOA-related negotiations were ongoing with special privileges and permits that the eleventh and twelfth governments received from the system, in fact, they continued their negotiations.

I do not want to assess whether the JCPOA met our demands or not. Anyway, this deal was approved in the parliament with any quality and now the JCPOA is there and both sides, the Iranian side and 1+4 are facing their commitments to fulfil. Here again, we did not go through the right diplomatic process. That is, the nine-article letter of the Supreme Leader “a step for step” was included. But we with enthusiasm and haste, took one step after another, even our ambassador in London was interviewing why you don’t you deliver the 300 kilos of enriched uranium and do not take it out of the country. While for each of our steps they also have to take one step and they did not take any steps let alone what the Americans did. Unfortunately, in the face of the Americans' actions, which were not only a violation of the JCPOA due to Trump's withdrawal, we did not provide ourselves a possibility or opportunity to exercise the right that if the Americans did, we would have the right to use the trigger mechanism and take them to the Security Council.

While the Americans gave themselves the right of the trigger mechanism to take us to the Security Council if we violated it. It was a difficult situation. They left the JCPOA and we could not do anything except the public atmosphere which was negative towards the United States and of course for other reasons the atmosphere was negative towards the United States at the world level and Mr. Trump's defeat in the November 2020 elections was for this reason that Trump did not succeed in his foreign policy, not in the nuclear issue with Iran, but in the Venezuela issue, in the North Korean issue, regarding “the Deal of the Century” for Palestine, and these issues brought him down. In the final months of the current administration, they said that new JCPOA talks would begin in Vienna, given Mr. Biden's presidency and the signals he had given during the electoral campaign; they thought they would get the results they wanted, but the result was clear. That is, the system made it clear that we should lift the sanctions in the Vienna talks. We can verify this lifting and then we will return to our obligations.

 
That is, the system made it clear that in the Vienna talks lifting the sanctions must be a priority and we can verify this lift and then we will return to our obligations.

This was expressed in the words of the Supreme Leader. Because some people wanted to say that we were able to bring America back to the JCPOA and they considered this a victory. While the United States was in the JCPOA for less than three years; it was a matter of commitment to the JCPOA. Therefore, the Leader defined the matter very carefully and it turned out that negotiators in these two or three months of negotiations in Vienna, did not succeed in fulfilling this demand.
Now our word is clear and the new administration’s stance is that of the system and that is all sanctions must be lifted. We verify and then return to our commitments and these principles are not undermined. But if the Americans do not act, the new administration will usually make a decision based on its own interests and the facts on the ground.

Definitely, this pursuit will not be an attrition one and neglecting the interests of the Islamic Republic. We think that if the West, I mean China and Russia plus the West, come to the conclusion that, given the new administration in Iran, they should settle this issue. The Iranian side is ready. I mean, my perception of Mr. Raisi's position is that the new administration has this view and this approach. In essence, Mr. Raisi's administration in foreign policy will be pursuing in fact an approach based on interaction, an interaction that, as stated in Mashhad, guarantees the dignity of the Iranian people and includes national interests and moreover, the nature of this interaction of the Islamic Republic is an anti-domination interaction. Therefore, this administration authoritatively but diplomatically will defend the interests of Iran with all its might, and it may be an opportunity for the 5+1 to use this opportunity to reach a logical solution that guarantees the interests of Iran on the one hand and the result of their efforts on the other. 

“Mr. Raisi intends to seek a serious and comprehensive cooperation with the neighbors.”2- How do you see Mr. Raisi’s regional foreign policy? What will be his position on neighboring countries?

Mr. Raisi has almost a clear understanding of Iran’s performance in the field of foreign policy. In recent years, I believe that the missing links in these foreign relations have been well observed by him. In the rational approach of the Islamic Republic, one of our solutions to solve regional problems is cooperation and regional approaches. We believe that the problems of the countries of the region can be resolved among themselves in a peaceful framework and on the basis of mutual understanding. This means that we do not welcome extra-regional powers to solve regional problems. Another point that Mr. Raisi intends to seek a serious and comprehensive cooperation with neighbors. We have not seen the slightest serious planning in the current administration to work with our neighbors until the approval of the JCPOA and shortly thereafter. Therefore, our view is that the neighbors are one of the serious priorities of Mr. Raisi's administration for cooperation.

We have a population of more than 450 million people in our neighborhood. And if we take into account our immediate neighbors, there will be more than 600 million people. Therefore, one of the priorities is the neighboring countries, which we must plan carefully. And while we can find markets for all of our country's products that have export capacity in neighboring countries, apart from distant countries, this requires a plan. In the field of security issues in the region, we have had successful and unsuccessful experiences in the past. On the one hand, we are in ECO, on the other hand, we have interests regarding the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, and the cover almost all of our neighbors except two or three countries.

Therefore, we can become more active within the framework of ECO regional systems. We had plans for the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council in the past, but now it can be raised more seriously to have the fields of mutual political, economic and security cooperation with the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council. These are our neighbors and we will remain neighbors forever. Therefore, we must increase the power of crisis management. Our region is a region of turmoil and crisis. And sometimes countries fall into a quagmire of crisis. Now, for example, Saudi Arabia has been in this swamp for many years. In a constructive interaction, we can help the countries of the region to get out of this crisis. In the issue of Afghanistan and the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and other issues that we have in the region, we can have solutions based on the interests, authority and dignity of our people in cooperation with the countries of the region.

“Now our word is clear and the new administration’s stance is that of the system and that is all sanctions must be lifted.”3-You mentioned Saudi Arabia. What is your prediction of Mr. Raisi's policy towards non-aligned countries, which have sometimes caused problems for us? For example, plans such as the Hormuz peace initiative have been proposed by Iran but not welcomed. How can we interact with countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain? 

Sometimes we come to a common ground in the necessary area of interaction with others; sometimes, as you mentioned, in the necessary area, you may not agree with proposals and plans. So, someone who is in crisis should think about interacting with others to get out of that situation. 

Saudi Arabia thought and deceived the American officials that it would finish the work of Yemen in a very short time. The same way that Saddam deceived Western and Arab officials by claiming that he will arrive in Tehran in a week. Saudi Arabia has not been in this crisis for 15 days, not for a month, not for a quarter, not for a year or two, but for years now. Everyone in the world understands that Saudi Arabia is not the winner of this war. It is now necessary for Saudi Arabia to reach this conclusion that the Yemeni crisis has no military solution, because the Yemenis are fighting with guerrilla tactics. Neither Saudi’s ground forces will be able to confront the Yemeni ground forces, except for the areas it occupied, nor the aerial bombardments will lead any country to victory, from the Vietnam War to the Iran-Iraq war and other wars.

I made trips to countries in the region during the bombing of Lebanon during the 33-Day War by the Zionist regime. When I met with the President of Egypt, Mr. Hosni Mubarak, he said that the Israelis were here last week. And I told them you would definitely not win this war. Because you are fighting with classic tactics while Hezbollah is fighting you as guerrilla fighters. And you do not know where and with whom you are at war. And so it was. The first 15 days they were sure of victory, but the second 15 days the battle slowly turned in Hezbollah's favor, and eventually Hezbollah won.

Therefore, we will help Saudi Arabia to know that it will not be victorious in this war, and if it ever thought that it would cause serious damage to Yemen through starvation, misery, destruction and inhumane acts to force them to surrender empty-handed, they failed.

Today, the situation has changed. Today, the Yemenis can target any target anywhere in Saudi Arabia, except the two Muslim holy areas of Mecca and Medina. It is enough for a rational person in Saudi Arabia to convey this understanding to the Saudi authorities that as long as you continue, there is no news of victory and it is just the spread of damage. I call this a negative understanding. Not positive. And Saudi Arabia is almost coming to that conclusion. It coming to the conclusion that it is fruitless to cut ties with Iran. Some time ago, messages were raised by Saudi Arabia, and of course, I think that in this government and in the next government, this offer will be welcomed by Saudi Arabia, based on the principles and foundations that we have always had and defended.

 4-In your opinion, who will form Mr. Raisi's foreign policy team? What will be Mr. Raisi's actions to accelerate the trial of the assassins of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, given that Mr. Raisi was the Judiciary chief?

I have no information about your first question. Regarding the second question, I think that the prosecution of this crime will go through its stages in the Iranian courts. And the competent courts will issue a verdict against the killer and the perpetrators of this crime.
Internationally, we must pursue this crime. Encouraging our Iraqi friends who are with us as the victims of this crime by the United States will lead us to take joint action, and I believe that if the verdict is issued for the perpetrators of this crime, we should take further action in the field of international police to indict these people.

It requires intensive international political and judicial work to pursue this case, which, given the position of Mr. Raisi in the Judiciary and now as president, I think this issue will be seriously on the agenda of the next administration.

5-How do you assess the U.S. insistence on a longer and stronger nuclear agreement? And how do you see the outlook for U.S.-Iranian relations?

The case of Iran and the United States is a thick one. There are almost tens of years of history of interference, coup and violation of the rights of the Iranian nation before the revolution and tens of years of conspiracy to intervene and doing crime against the Iranian nation directly or indirectly.
Therefore, I do not think that the relationship between Iran and the United States can be raised in the short term, but the issues between Iran and the United States should be directed towards taking a position and a logical solution based on the rights and interests of the Iranian people.
That is, we have an issue in the region called the disruptive U.S. presence in the region. And this disruption has caused a lot of damage to us. The last of which is related to the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani. The cases are very wide. We have a logical position and that is the United States must end its intrusive and disruptive presence in the region.

“The views of Mr. Raisi are to define short-term, medium-term and long-term policies in foreign policy.”Every country must act within a framework. The United States cannot deploy its forces wherever it wants. Even its invasion of Iraq did not have a UN permit, unlike in Afghanistan. So, the United States must be notified regarding this fact that today America is not in a strong position and is not the America of ten years ago, or the America of thirty years ago. This U.S. must redefine itself. This United States is not allowed to enter or invade or have presence anywhere it wants. The next part is the issues that affect our region or (other)regions of the world. That is U.S. involvement in Latin America, in the Middle East (West Asia). U.S. policy means coercion for different parts of the world. It is natural that our positions are our rights and we react to these American approaches.

The third issue is content issues and issues in international organizations. Issues such as human rights, the global economy, disarmament. The first thing that needs to be removed from these concepts is, in fact, the double standards, discriminatory and political approach.

With regard to disarmament, the United States, the Soviet Union, and all the countries of the world were committed to reducing their chemical weapons with the formation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Americans need to answer to the world's public opinion as why they did not do this.
 
Regarding the nuclear issue, there is an acceptable logic in the world, and that is that nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for no one. Why do Americans want the second part to be discriminatory; that is, the United States and several other countries have nuclear weapons and others do not? And in the field of peaceful nuclear energy, some should not have.

The time of the logic is over in the world. The fact that the Supreme Leader points out that the United States has entered a period of decline means that American logic has entered a period of decline. The fact that the United States cannot exercise its leadership in the world shows that the United States has no ability to exert its will in the world.

The United States is now in a situation where it cannot do what it wants and it cannot prevent things it does not want. This is the situation of the U.S. The United States is not in a position to impose its will on the Iranian nation.

The views of Mr. Raisi are to define short-term, medium-term and long-term policies in foreign policy. In fact, it is evident in Mr. Raisi's statements and positions that he views global issues from an equal stand based on anti-hegemonic and transformational interaction in foreign policy.

6-How do you see Mr. Raisi's administration's plan to strengthen economic diplomacy with neighboring countries? And what are the possible scenarios for Afghanistan given the Taliban may take power in Afghanistan?

Almost from the late 80s, with the restructuring of the Foreign Ministry, we separated the Foreign Ministry from its effective and structured role in foreign economic relations. And the body has not been able to play a role in the country's economic diplomacy ever since.

We must make economic diplomacy one of the goals of foreign policy. That is, foreign policy should help the country's economy. I was once the ambassador to Turkey and I met with the Japanese ambassador to Turkey. I asked him what you are doing here. I had just become an ambassador. I was in the Foreign Policy Committee of the parliament for several years. He said my job here is just to find a market for Japanese companies in Turkey. That I can strengthen Japan's economic relations with Turkey. These should come in the statistics. This means that this year should be different from next year. Ten years later, I met with the Turkish ambassador to Japan when I was ambassador to Japan. I asked him how your relationship with the Japanese was. He said that we do not export to Japan, but it is the Japanese who import from Turkey. This means that Japanese imports from Turkey are also designed by Japan itself. We cannot say we have economic diplomacy as long as our imports and exports are not designed.

Today, when there was a crisis in relations between Russia and Europe, they sanctioned Russia and Russia sanctioned them. The Russians told us we want whatever you have. The main problem we had with the export items was that we could not send them continuously.

And it has always been one of the complaints of the Russians that we have to supply the market and this has to be regular. This requires general planning by the country and constant observance by the country's diplomatic apparatus. So, I think there will be changes in the structure and description of the Foreign Ministry's role in foreign relations in Mr. Raisi's administration. Countries that are very active in the economic sphere, such as South Korea, Brazil, and South Africa, when we look at their foreign ministries, we see that it is written by the Ministry of Foreign Policy and Foreign Economic Relations.

This means that these foreign economic relations are in fact managed by the Foreign Ministry of that country. When the first visit of the Brazilian foreign minister to Tehran took place during my tenure in office, he came to Tehran with 50 Brazilian companies to plan for economic work with Iran in the ninth government. I think you have mentioned an important point, and Mr. Raeisi, in general, his statements and positions, and the perception that we have of him, the field of diplomacy in the country will surely change, both structurally and functionally.

Regarding Afghanistan, unfortunately, there are external interventions in Afghanistan, whether interventions from the region or interventions mainly from outside the region. The existing capacities in Afghanistan are misused. That is, the United States went to Afghanistan claiming to fight the Taliban, terrorism, al-Qaeda, and counter-narcotics, but apparently did not address any of them.

I traveled to Afghanistan during Mr. Karzai's presidency. He told me that the contractors of Blackwater (organizations that have a mission to fight terrorism) in Afghanistan, apparently helping Afghanistan during the day and helping Afghan terrorists at night. And the Americans have always had a double standard on Afghanistan. On the one hand, fighting the Taliban and on the other hand, talking to the Taliban. We take into account the realities of the scene in Afghanistan, the national solidarity in Afghanistan. We support any peaceful participation of various Afghan currents in governing their country. We will confront any tensions on our borders with Afghanistan and we do not allow these tensions to affect our friendly ties. These are the principles and frameworks that will be considered in the next government. Based on my analysis and perception, we have to deal with the various components of Afghanistan while maintaining its central government structure and we must try to provide realistic solutions to Afghanistan.

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