Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Iranian Campaign for Regional Security

Adding substance to the recent proposal by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi for a new regional security paradigm to combat foreign interference, both Expediency Council head Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Prosecutor-General Qorban-Ali Dorri Najafabadi have advocated regional cooperation.

Rafsajani noted that some want to undermine regional security and “said that throughout its political and cultural history, Iran has strived to help establish intra-regional security as opposed to a security provided by the West.”

Najafabadi suggested the formation of a regional parliament. Such a body would provide Iran with a permanent route for participating in regional affairs and automatically exclude the foreign involvement that concerned Mohammadi, reversing the current situation in which Iran frequently finds itself frozen out of regional diplomacy.

Najafabadi also called for a regional defense plan, noting that "if a powerful bloc was formed in the region, the foreigners would never dare to interfere in the region’s affairs, and we would not witness problems such as those currently existing in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.”

Mohammadi’s and Najafabadi’s speeches fit smoothly with recent Iranian efforts to improve relations with Persian Gulf states and Egypt, as well as representing a much more skillful foreign policy campaign than the in-your-face rhetoric of Admadinejad that certain Western politicians have found so easy to exploit.

Among the developments worth watching for are:

1) Will such calls continue after the current celebrations of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the March 14 parliamentary election?
2) Will Iran follow up these “unofficial” conference speeches with more formal actions?

  • One example occurred on Feb 9, when Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad-Reza Sheibani, said in a meeting with opposition leader Michel Aoun Iran was ready to help solve Lebanon’s political impasse.
  • In another example, on Feb 4, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated Iran's support for a Mideast nuclear-free zone.
  • In a third example, Mottaki recently met in Saudi Arabia with President of the Islamic Development Bank, Ahmed Mohammed Ali.

3) Will any other countries respond to these Iranian initiatives?
4) Should such a regional “parliament” be formed, what will the manner of Iran’s participation be?


Who Is Dori Najaf-Abadi?

Appointed Minister of Intelligence and Security by Khatami in 1997, he resigned in
1999 under very confusing circumstances. See
this for a discussion. In any case, he landed on his feet and became Attorney General. He has been described both as relatively liberal and as a close associate of Khamenei, descriptions that typically do not go together. In 2005 he was quoted advocating severe internal security measures, such as were used by the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan and as are used by Saudi Arabia. At the time of Saddam Hussein’s trial, he issued a strong call for international recognition of Saddam’s crimes against Iran. In January he advocated putting Bush on trial for his psychological warfare against other countries. Based on the sketchy media reports of his recent remarks, he appears to be a firm nationalist interested in making a foreign policy name for himself as a practical thinker concerned about national security and a supporter of moderate ties to the rest of the region. His remarks resemble those of Supreme National Security Council member Ali Larijani and Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi much more than those of Ahmadinejad.

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