Former Iranian president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, gave an interview in a security studies journal recently, and I thought it might be important to share some key passages here. They were translated from the Fars News Agency by the USG Open Source Center. Rafsanjani is head of the Expediency Council, which resolves conflicts between the civil parliament and the clerical Guardianship Council. It also advises Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Rafsanjani gave some support to the Green Movement of 2009, which protested alleged election fraud in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When that movement was largely defeated, Rafsanjani was left weakened. He resigned from the Guardianship Council in 2011. The semi-official Fars News, which reported on the interview that had appeared in a specialized security journal, is clearly outraged at what Rafsanjani says about the need to reach out to the US.
I’ve chosen three key passages of a pragmatic sort, and will discuss them out of order. First, Rafsanjani alleged that he was the one who argued to Ayatollah Khomeini in the late 1980s that a pragmatic reevaluation of Iran’s relationship to the US needed to be carried out. He points out that Iran has relations with China and Russia, and says he is puzzled that the US should be treated differently than the other superpowers. He underlined that Iran wouldn’t be in its current straits if it had maintained better relations with Saudi Arabia (which is now trying to flood the market so as to help take Iranian petroleum out).
And, he affirmed that Iran does not want a nuclear weapon. He went on to try to explain something he said years ago, about Israel being vulnerable to a single nuclear strike; he said what he had meant to convey was that Israel should rethink being a nuclear power, since it is so small that it would be destroyed by a first strike. He said he was not making a threat but rather trying to give the Israelis good advice.
Rafsanjani says that he wrote Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomaini late in the latter’s life urging some sort of compromise with the United States of America.
“There are difficult passages and if you do not help us pass through them, they will be difficult to pass through after you… Ties with America were one of these issues. I wrote that, after all, our current practice — of not speaking to or having ties with America — could not persist forever. America is the super power of the world. What is the difference between Europe and the US, China and the US, or Russia and the US from our point of view? Why should we not negotiate with the US if we negotiate with them? Talks do not mean that we should surrender to them. We will negotiate and if they accept our positions or we accept their positions, then it would be all over.”
Rafsanjani implicitly critiqued Iran’s present leaders for allowing an Iran-Saudi polarization to build up. On pragmatic grounds, he urges that the Islamic Republic of Iran repair its relations with Riyadh.
“Having relations with Saudi Arabia is not a minor issue for the region. First of all, it is a wealthy country and the majority of the scholars from Muslim countries have ties with Saudi Arabia first and foremost considering the hajj and pilgrimages and second because of their own interests. It (Saudi Arabia) renovates their (Muslim countries) mosques, provides facilities, prints Korans and has provided numerous facilities for spread of their religious issues. Most of the works Al-Azhar University has done in Egypt, even the academic works, are now in the hands of Saudi Arabia.
“More important is the issue of oil. Would the West impose sanctions on us, if Saudi Arabia had good ties with us? Only Saudi Arabia could take Iran’s place. Saudi Arabia does not need to do anything. If it produces oil according to OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) limits, no one could harass us. As the world economy could not carry on without our oil, I believe that it is still possible to establish good relations. However, there are people here who, as you see, do not want that. You are an expert in international relations and foreign policy and know well that if they say one word without thinking, it would immediately be reflected. Some harsh words from both sides should not be tolerated and should be corrected.”…
About overcoming the nuclear deadlock, Hashemi-Rafsanjani said:
“We really do not seek to build nuclear weapons and a nuclear military system. In a Friday prayer sermon in Tehran, I even once said that an atomic bomb would not benefit the occupation regime of Israel. Eventually, if one day a nuclear conflict takes place, Israel as a small country, will not be able to bear an atomic bomb. It is a small country and all its facilities would be destroyed. However, they interpreted this advice as a threat. We really believe that there should not be any nuclear weapon in the region and this is a part of the principles of our politics.”
Iran’s Rafsanjani Discusses Failed Efforts To Engage US
Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s strange statements about negotiating and having relations with the US at the same time when the most hostile policies are against Iran and on the peak of anti-US sentiments around the world …
Fars News Agency
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
(Description of Source: Tehran Fars News Agency in Persian — hardline semi-official news agency, headed as of 24 July 2011 by Nezameddin Musavi; http://www.farsnews.com)
Document Type: OSC Translated Text