Iran plays up its peacemaker role
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
NEW YORK - On Tuesday, in his brief meeting with Iranian President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon asked for Iran's
assistance with the political process in Iraq and expressed appreciation for
Tehran's mediating role in the Caucasus.
Basking in the glory of Iran's improving image as a conflict mediator, Iranian
officials visiting the UN headquarters for the annual meeting of the General
Assembly are intent on taking this one step further by seeking the formation of
a new global alliance for peace, together with other developing nations.
This idea, initially raised by Ahmadinejad in his speech before the UN last
September, is now on the verge of being fleshed out in
more detail as a result of a new sense of urgency felt by many (developing)
nations that new and concrete initiatives are needed to avoid the scourge of
wars and conflicts and to bolster the UN's peace efforts.
Priding themselves on Iran's long history, culture and tradition of peaceful
coexistence among nations, both Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr
Mottaki spoke on Monday evening, at a private reception, of the underlying
reason for sounding confident about the present state of Iran's foreign
relations. Thus, while Mottaki emphasized Iran's ability to "communicate with
all parties" in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere, Ahmadinejad attributed Iran's
foreign policy success to the "growing disenchantment of the world with today's
Clearly, Iran today has fixed its gaze to higher levels and senses an
opportunity in the midst of the global financial crisis and the dissatisfaction
of the world with what Ahmadinejad called, in an interview with the Los Angeles
Times, US President George W Bush's "logic of force", for presenting an
alternative vision for "cooperative global management" that is not "hegemonic"
and rather oriented toward "respect for the rights of all nations, large or
small" and "justice".
"I have attended more than 300 meetings, assemblies and conferences since I
became president, and I tell you everywhere I go I hear people complaining
about the present global status quo," he was quoted as saying.
In the LA Times interview, Ahmadinejad stated, "We do not believe that the US
policy perspective, looking at the rest of the world as a field of
confrontation, will give global results." Still, despite adopting a
non-confrontational discourse and speaking the language of post-hegemony and
global peace, Ahmadinejad was still accused, by an Agence France-Presse wire
report, of "defending a confrontational stance toward West".
Yet, in the same report, there is no hint of such a confrontational attitude
and, in fact, Ahmadinejad has been quoted as stating a rather obvious fact that
it is not Iran's military in surrounding territories, but rather the US's.
"Our nuclear policy is and always has been peaceful and we have faithfully
implemented the terms of our work plan with the IAEA [International Atomic
Energy Agency]," Mottaki told the author, indicating a degree of his
frustration with the UN watchdog agency's refusal to give Iran a clean bill of
health, despite Iran's nuclear transparency and the absence of any evidence of
However, Iran is delighted by the new statement supporting Iran's nuclear right
issued by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and Ahmadinejad's New York trip is
geared to shore up international support against what Iran terms as "illegal UN
Regarding the latter, the US and its European allies are engaged in a desperate
effort to impose fresh sanctions on Iran, capitalizing on this week's IAEA
deliberations on Iran and the warning by its chief, Mohamad ElBaradei, that
Iran should be more cooperative with respect to the "outstanding issue" of
certain weaponization studies.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that ElBaradei's latest report
confirms that the atomic agency has not detected any diversion of nuclear
material toward those alleged studies, and repeatedly attests to the
low-enriched activities at the fuel enrichment plant in Natanz, contrary to the
never subsiding allegations circulating in the Western media.
In the US this week - from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times and
Washington Post - major US newspapers are inundated with anti-Iran commentaries
and editorial accusing Iran of being on the way to becoming "nuclear-armed" and
calling for stern new sanctions and other coercive measures to prevent this
"nightmare". Case in point: in a collaborative piece in the Wall Street
Journal, Richard Holbrooke, R James Woolsey, Dennis B Ross and Mark D Wallace
announced the creation of a new high-powered group against nuclear Iran.
These authors, including a former UN envoy to the UN and a former head of the
US Central Intelligence Agency, are not alone. Across the political spectrum in
Washington, frantic efforts are underway to give a boost to the US's anti-Iran
diplomacy at the UN, given the new US-Russia tensions that may hamper those
efforts. For his part, President George W Bush in his UN speech chided Russia
for attacking Georgia and called on the world community to stand firm against
the nuclear ambitions of both North Korea and Iran.
In his UN speech, Ahmadinejad called for free elections in the Israel-occupied
territories, hit out at hegemonic, bullying policies, called for the
establishment of an interfaith community of justice in place of today's
"hegemonic system" and reiterated Iran's inalienable right to nuclear
technology, adding that Iran refused to abide by "illegal demands". He
criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's role in Afghanistan and
Georgia, and refrained from any criticism of Russia. Blending theology with
diplomacy, Ahmadinejad once again capitalized on accumulating Third World
dissatisfactions and sought to portray himself as a champion of Third World
Ahmadinejad's fiery UN presentation, particularly his attacks on US
interventionism in Iraq, Latin America and elsewhere, and his predictions that
the American empire "is at its rope" may be music to many Third World ears, yet
a few NAM diplomats openly wondered if less incendiary rhetoric not so imbued
with theological wisdom may have been more appropriate.
Several other diplomats expressed a more friendly reaction, and one African
diplomat told the author he thought Ahmadinejad's "Utopian" vision of an
alternative world community based on justice and mutual respect was welcome in
At a press conference after his speech at the General Assembly, Ahmadinejad
elaborated on the nuclear and other related issues. He said the IAEA chief
director told him in Tehran last year that he was satisfied with Iran's
cooperation and in his March 2008 report was going to ask Iran's file to be
normalized. And yet, due to US propaganda and fabrications, was put under
pressure and prevented from doing so.
He blamed the US for unilaterally cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran
and expressed Iran's preparedness to restore ties with Washington as long as
the US respected Iran and was willing to engage in diplomatic relations "as
On Iraq, Ahmadinejad questioned the reason for keeping Iraq under the UN's
Chapter III, and claimed that the Americans were doing this to pressure Iraqis
and gain advantages in their country. Still, he said that Iran respects the
decisions of the Iraqi government and stated Iran's preparedness to cooperate
with other nations in the fight against international terrorism.
With respect to Afghanistan, he blamed NATO and said that since the "day they
came, drug traffic and terrorism has multiplied and no matter how loudly we
raise the alarms that they are making a dreadful error, they are not
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New
Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of
"Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume
XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote "Keeping
Iran's nuclear potential latent", Harvard International Review, and is author
Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction. For his
Wikipedia entry, click here.