10 June 2011
THE IRANIAN FOREIGN POLICY AND THE ARAB SPRING
Mr. Potkin AZARMEHR
Thank you Mr Chairman and the Italian Atlantic Committee for providing me with this opportunity, I have to say I feel very humble to be amongst such esteemed panelists and learned audience.
So the big question is, what will the Islamic Republic's next move in a post Arab spring period be. I think to answer that question, it would be appropriate to first review the regime's foreign policy and foreign aspirations up to now.
Most of the information I will rely on in my talk today will be based on: a) My 30 years experience of monitoring Iran related news on a daily basis; b) First hand information I have received from former Iranian diplomats who defected to the Green Movement. These diplomats have had over 25 years experience in the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and have been privy to information which will be useful for this talk
“Establishing the Islamic State world-wide belongs to the great goals of the revolution”. This statement was declared by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, and it has been adopted into the constitution of the Islamic Republic.
In fact, Export of the Revolution was announced as the doctrine of the state.
A doctrine that talks about a) the necessity of movement towards establishment of a united single world; b) community… for the rescue of deprived and oppressed nations throughout the world; c) helping mankind to develop towards the divine order.
Every country has a foreign policy and it has priorities within that policy. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran was essentially an anti-Western revolution. Iran changed from a pro-Western country into an anti-Western country.
Having a good relation with the West was not a priority for the regime and we see that, over the years, the Iranian regime's relations with the West has deteriorated further and further.
Similar to the Soviet Union, where the Soviet regime regarded Russia as the Mecca of Socialism, the Iranian regime regards Iran as Dar-al-Islam, the House of Islam, and the outside world as the Dar-al-Kofr, the land of non-believers.
The eldest brother of the powerful Larijani brothers, Javad Larijani, who heads the Islamic Human Rights Commission, himself a US educated Mathematics graduate, was one of the authors of this doctrine.
So now let’s look at the tools used by the regime to implement this doctrine. In order for this doctrine to take roots, the regime must have some foot soldiers and build proxy groups. Every Iranian diplomat is evaluated for promotion or demotion based on how he performs in two areas:
- In countries that oppose the Islamic Republic, find ways to inflict damage and stall negotiations;
- Find disgruntled misfits with a chip on their shoulder who have a grudge against their government and then introduce them to the Iranian embassy who will then take things further.
Allow me to concentrate on the latter first.
These foot soldiers can simply be religious affiliates, using the USSR example again, like members of the pro-Soviet Union puppet Communist parties, or training seminary students. Again just like the Soviet Union, the regime has invested heavily in training international seminary students who act like Communist cadres. In Imam Khomeini university in Ghazvin, you will find Shiite seminary students of all races and nationalities. Chinese, English, American, African, everybody.
These graduates will then return to their country of origin, they will receive help to build mosques, schools and run them and these places will become like party head-quarters and places of activities which serve the interests of the Islamic Republic.
As well as training seminary students, however, other sinister activities like military training and weapons and drug smuggling is also carried out.
In non-Shiite Islamic countries, where openly practicing as a Shiite is not permitted, the regime tries to champion the Islamic unity regardless of the sect. It play acts a role of a unifier.
There is a difference between Shiites and Sunnis as regards to the birth of Prophet Mohammad, it is a one week discrepancy. This 7 days between the two birth dates is called the Unity Week by the Iranian regime, and every year a Conference of Unity is held in Iran under the banner of bringing Shiites and Sunnis closer together. This is despite the fact that Sunnis are discriminated against in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Sunnis are still not allowed to have a simple mosque to worship in Tehran.
Once contacts are established and foot soldiers recruited, proxy groups to extend and implement the Islamic Republic's influence and safeguard its interests are formed.
I think all the time you can see the similarities between the old Soviet Union and the Islamic Republic: both ideological, both with global ambitions, both with proxy groups and cadres to extend their influence.
What is different is the ideology, one was an ideology based on Marx and Lenin's writings, another perhaps more dangerous because it is based on faith and religion.
Both rely heavily on propaganda. Khomeini once said “Propaganda can bring down a mountain”. In tune with that statement, the Islamic Republic has invested heavily in building TV stations which broadcast their biased propaganda in many languages, including Arabic, English and soon Spanish.
We have this bizarre situation where foreign reporters are banned from Iran, yet Islamic Republic reporters and media personnel freely operate across Europe and free countries.
In UK we have Press TV which constantly poisons and provokes the minds of young Muslims.
Rocketing oil prices, and huge petro-Dollar income for the regime has meant that through its proxy groups, it can engage itself in a sophisticated social network of schools, hospitals and charities etc., which further help its recruitment process.
It is the Islamic Republic's ability to use the loop holes in democratic countries, coupled with their use of foot soldiers backed with its financial and propaganda abilities that makes it a threat to the democracies in the West and indeed to the new would be democracies in the region.
Indeed we have seen every attempt by the Islamic Republic to jump on the band wagon of the Arab spring. In Egypt in particular, the regime was making a big song and dance that the uprising in Egypt was a continuation of the 1979 Islamic Republic.
It was hoping and it is still hoping for an Islamic Republic in Egypt which looks up to Iran as its Dar-al-Islam.
The Supreme Leader's sermon in Arabic made it blatantly clear what objectives the regime is pursuing in Egypt: “As joyous as we are to see the people in the region topple dictators, toppling the dictator does not necessarily guarantee freedom. As was our own experience in 1979 with the Shah. A revolution can just as easily allow an organized militant minority cease power and result in a worse dictatorship than before.”
I have listed the policies, the abilities and the strengths of the Islamic Republic of Iran in being able to exploit the recent developments in the region.
Catch fish from muddy waters as we say in Persian. However the Islamic Republic has one huge Achilles Heel too, and that lies in the fact that a regime which thrives on a rhetoric of liberation for the deprived and the dispossessed etc. has brought nothing but poverty, injustice and tyranny for its own people.
The best weapon we have to stop the Islamic Republic of Iran from catching fish from muddy waters is to remind people that if the Islamic regime did not bring liberation for its own people, it sure as hell will not bring liberation for others.