Iqbal Ahmad Khan
(Iran’s size, energy resources and strategic location combine to make it a major player in the peace and stability of the Gulf region and beyond. The current standoff between Washington and Tehran on the latter’s nuclear programme is fraught with serious consequences. Military action against Iran would ignite a long drawn conflict which would be devastating. Oil prices would soar and “the whole Gulf would become an inferno of exploding fuel tanks and shut-up facilities.” Yet the US and Iran have common perceptions on major contemporary issues. The mistrust and tensions of the past three decades can be replaced with cooperation. For its part Washington needs to rethink its attitude towards Iran while Tehran must come forward with sincere and pragmatic policies that are matched by action. – Editor).
Iran is indisputably the most powerful and strategically important country in the region comprising the Persian Gulf, Central and South-west Asia. Spread over 1.6 million sq. km. with a population of nearly 70 million and a US $190 billion GDP, Iran lying at the nexus of the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and South Asia has one of the most strategic locations in the world. It holds 10 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. It is OPEC’s second largest exporter and the world’s fourth biggest oil producer. It also has the world’s second largest reserves of natural gas (15 percent of the global total).
The other major player, the United States, while geographically not a part of the region, has extensive interests to protect. It has elaborate defence and security arrangements with regional countries, vital economic interests and a formidable military presence. The 1979 Iranian revolution not only toppled the staunchly pro-US Shah but established an Islamic republic whose initial rhetoric about the “export” of its revolution generated regional tensions and put Iran-US relations on the groove of hostility. The standoff between Washington and Tehran has skewed political, economic and social development of the neighbouring states and impacted adversely on regional security and stability.
US-Iran tensions revolve around or have a bearing on a number of issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear programme, the invasion of Iraq and the consequent turmoil, the US-led war on terror, the decades old unresolved Palestinian question coupled with Washington’s blind support of Israel and, increasing Iranian influence in the region, in particular the Persian Gulf – a 600-mile-long body of water which separates Iran from the Arabian Peninsula. The Persian Gulf is considered to be one of the world’s most strategic waterways due to its importance in global oil transportation. At the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf narrows to only 34 miles. The Persian Gulf countries account for roughly 27 percent of the global oil production while holding 57 percent of the world’s proven crude oil reserves. Besides oil, the Gulf region has huge reserves (2,462 trillion cubic feet-Tcf) of natural gas, accounting for 45 percent of total proven world gas reserves. Added to this is the assessment of experts that the Persian Gulf oil is extremely economical to produce.
In the near three decades since the Iranian revolution, Washington’s perception of Tehran, its policies and practices, has remained fundamentally unaltered, namely that Iran poses a serious threat to the interests of the US and that of its allies, both in the region and beyond. The priority that the US assigns to the Iran factor in its foreign policy was emphasized by Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, in an address on 11 May 2006 at The Washington Institute. He asserted:
“…(there) is no greater challenge to the United States than to confront the unique threat from the Iranian government, and particularly from the new and radical regime of President Ahmadinejad……There is the challenge that Iran is developing, without any question, a nuclear weapons capability that if it succeeds in that venture will be a direct challenge to all that we need to accomplish in the Middle East, to our security and the security of our friends and allies in the greater Middle East region…….
“There is the challenge of terrorism, and a lot of us who have served in the U.S. government since the late ‘70s and early ‘80s remember that it was Iran that unleashed this wave of terrorism against the United States beginning in the early 1980s in Lebanon.
“And finally, there is the challenge of democracy or the lack of democracy and freedom in Iran itself, and the need for the United States and our European allies and other countries to be engaged as best we can in a very difficult environment to help support those in Iran who believe that the future of Iran should be a democratic future.
“Iran is a strong state. If you look at the speeches of President Ahmadinejad or of Ali Larijani, the secretary of the Iranian national security council, this particular Iranian government aspires to be the most powerful state in the Middle East, the most influential, and it is certainly trying to expand its influence as we speak throughout the Middle East. And we talked to our good friends in the Gulf, and neighbours beyond and there is a great deal of concern about this latest trend in Iranian foreign policy. And we are as determined to resist an expansion of Iranian influence on a regional basis as we are absolutely determined to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, and determined to confront it as it poses this terrorist threat to the United States.”
In the US perception Iran’s nuclear program, despite the latter’s repeated assertions that it is meant exclusively for civilian purposes, is unquestionably weapons oriented and is the most obvious manifestation of Tehran’s desire to achieve great power status. It poses a serious threat to Israel and is meant to empower Iran in dominating the region. In an interview on Israeli TV, President Bush made no bones of how the US viewed Iran’s nuclear program. He categorically stated:
“…(it was)secretly designed to produce nuclear weapons and that Israel and the United States were united in their objective in ensuring that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons ….. diplomacy should be used to persuade Iran to suspend its nuclear program and if it failed the United Nations Security Council should impose sanctions. But in the event that diplomatic efforts did not bear fruit then all options were on the table……The use of force is the last option for any president. You know we have used force in the recent past to secure our country.” 
The other country which is keeping a close watch on Iran’s nuclear activity is Israel. Israel, whose bid to acquire nuclear weapons goes back several decades, has successfully stockpiled a daunting nuclear arsenal and is the sole nuclear power in the volatile Middle Eastern region. It is determined to maintain its monopoly come what may, an objective in which it has the full backing of the United States, which is committed to support Israel in maintaining a clear strategic edge over its rivals in the region.
The Israeli concerns and likely course of action have been lucidly spelt out by Yossi Mekelberg, Associate Fellow, Middle East Program at Chatham House. In an article titled “From War of Words to Words of War” he claims that Iran’s nuclear programme is widely seen by the international community as aimed at developing a nuclear military capacity, rather than for civilian purposes alone. It represents a very dangerous dimension of the already strained and rapidly deteriorating relations between Tehran on the one hand and Washington and Jerusalem on the other. Concerns about the programme, combined with the inflammatory rhetoric from Iran’s President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders, meant that the likelihood of military action by Israel against Iran’s nuclear installations was increasing every day the international community did not act, although this was not Israel’s or the United States’ preferred option. Both preferred that Iran dismantle its nuclear programme altogether, but Israel might be satisfied if Iran accepted tight international supervision to ensure that it stopped enriching uranium to weapons grade and that its nuclear programme did not develop nuclear weapons.
According to Yossi Meckelberg, in January 2005 the head of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, Meir Dagan, warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that Iran’s nuclear programme was close to the ‘point of no return’, where Tehran would no longer need outside or international help to enrich uranium for use in atomic weapons. Meanwhile, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, concluded that Iran is ‘single-handedly the world’s most serious security threat’.
Israel, Yossi Mekelberg goes on to assert, had genuine concerns about Iran developing weapons of mass destruction and its intentions, but has always had an interest in internationalizing the problem, rather than addressing the issue on its own. Mobilizing the international community to address this, whether through peaceful diplomacy, sanctions or even military action would spare Israel from confronting Iran directly.
There is a great dilemma on the part of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear programme. They are extremely concerned that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in a volatile region like the Middle East could prove catastrophic. Yet, when compared to the heavy weights – Iran, Israel and the United States – they simply do not possess the clout necessary to shape future developments in their favour. Individually each, barring Saudi Arabia, and that too only recently, has maintained an uneasy silence and remained on the sidelines. Collectively too they have not been able to pack a punch which would force the principal players to feel their impact. It was only in December 2006 at the Riyadh summit that the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council announced in the final communiqué plans to seek nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while repeating its demand to make the Middle East a nuclear weapons free zone. The GCC leaders ordered that a “GCC-wide study be conducted to formulate a joint programme in the field of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, in keeping with international standards and regulations.” They called for a peaceful settlement of the conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme, and demanded that Israel, the only country in the Middle East believed to have nuclear weapons, join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. “We want no bombs… Our policy is to have a region free of weapons of mass destruction,” the Saudi foreign minister said. “This is why we call on Israel to renounce (nuclear weapons). The ‘original sin’ was from Israel as it established a nuclear reactor with the only purpose of producing nuclear weapons.”
The strategy of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf has been accurately encapsulated by Emile el-Hokayem and Matteo Legrenzi in an article titled “The Arab Gulf States in the Shadow of the Iranian Nuclear Challenge.” The authors contend:
“the Arab Gulf concern has not translated into an integrated campaign to obtain Iranian cooperation with European negotiators. Essentially, their strategy seeks to keep the discussion away from the public arena, placate Iran to avoid antagonizing a powerful neighbour and rely on EU diplomacy and American military forces to constrain and deter Iran. This two-level strategy, criticized by many as duplicitous, characterizes relations between Iran and its Arab Gulf neighbours. It is arguably a cost-effective way of conducting their relations with the foremost regional power, a more pragmatic approach than both the many idealistic collective security schemes put forward by solicitous academics and the policy of confrontation suggested by more hawkish American analysts.”
An indirect and creative way through which Arab Gulf states are tackling the Iranian nuclear challenge is by emphasizing the environmental hazards linked to Iran’s nuclear programme. The legitimate and genuine concerns Arab Gulf states have about nuclear safety are grounded in two widely-shared assessments: first, that the nuclear technology acquired and developed by Iran presents a high degree of risk and unreliability, second, that the populations and basic infrastructure of the Gulf monarchies are, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, concentrated on the coastal region and would be highly vulnerable to a nuclear accident. UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan expressed the fear of the Gulf states when he said that a “radioactive leak from an Iranian nuclear power plant could cause an enormous ecological catastrophe by polluting the waters of the Gulf.” The Arab countries of the Persian Gulf suffering from insufficient natural water supplies rely heavily on desalination plants to make up the shortfall. Earlier, a Saudi journalist had complained that “the Bushehr nuclear reactor is closer to Manama or Doha than to the Iranian capital.”
The asymmetry of power between the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Iran explains, but only partially, the role of the former as mere spectators in the ongoing negotiations on the nuclear issue. The apparent unwillingness on the part of the leadership in these states to resolutely engage Iran in order to ensure that its programme remains peaceful is explained by the sympathy that it evokes among their own people. The mastery over nuclear technology by a Muslim country is popularly viewed as challenging the Western (read United States) monopoly of nuclear weapons as well as that of Israel in the Middle East. This sentiment is frequently reflected in a cross-section of the Arab media. In her weekly column in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Syrian Minister of Expatriate Affairs Buthayna Sha’ban wrote:
“Those in the know understand (that) all this fuss is because this time it is a Muslim state that has obtained nuclear know-how and technology…..One of the wars being waged by the West against the Muslims is the war on the front of thought, science, and technology; its aim is to prevent the Muslims from possessing the tools of knowledge and advanced technology… The backwardness of the Muslims, and among them the Arabs, in science and technology is the fundamental cause of the West’s disdain for them, of the insult to the places holy to them, and of the occupation of their lands. The saving of the honor of Islam… [depends on the Muslims’] acceptance of the scientific and cultural challenge, using thought, logic, and vigorous goal-oriented efforts. The U.S. has described Iran as [a country] on the path of provocation; [indeed], there is no doubt that this is the path that the Arab and Islamic nations must take…”
An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Watan advised:
“it would be fitting for the international community to look for the reason that led Iran to strive to attain nuclear capability… before it begins to take harsher stances. The U.S. and the international community, in accordance with the principle of non-discrimination, should set Israel at the top of the agenda, so as to expose its nuclear capability. This is because ignoring [Israel’s nuclear capabilities] will lead Iran to become more stubborn and this is not good for the region or for its peoples.”
Ali Al-Safadi, columnist for the Jordanian government daily Al-Dustour, echoed the Al-Watan editorial in a column titled “The International Lack of Balance Regarding Iran and Israel”:
“What the international [arena] demands from Iran is not demanded from other countries, particularly from Israel. The West, which is keenly opposed to Iran’s nuclear programme… helped Israel build its nuclear artillery, which is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the region. Why is Israel permitted to do what is forbidden to Iran?
Mazen Hamed, columnist for the Qatari daily Al-Watan, argued that it was US provocation that had led Iran to develop missiles and nuclear weapons:
“How should [Iran] act when American cannons overlook it from the long border with Iraq and Afghanistan? How should it act when it is surrounded by the American navy and threatened by air, sea, and land? How should it act when its allies in Syria and Lebanon are besieged at home and abroad? What should the Iranians do, now that their country has become the main party in the ‘axis of evil?’ What should they do, in face of [a prospective] attack on their military and nuclear facilities, about which they read every day? What should they do in light of the plans to incite against [the Iranian] revolution [i.e. regime], which are aimed at [bringing about] regime change, which they read about every day? In light of all this, it is natural for Iran to turn to defending itself and creating the means that will enable it to block or prevent such invasions, if they occur…”
Ureib Al-Rintawi, columnist for the Jordanian government daily Al-Dustour, congratulated Iran on its nuclear achievements, and criticized the Arabs for “marching in place” and not even coming close to obtaining nuclear capability:
“…Congratulations to Iran on its accomplishments under very difficult regional and international circumstances, and congratulations to its leaders and its sources of [religious] authority… To hell with our failed initiatives to ‘turn the Middle East into a WMD-free zone.’ These initiatives convince no one not even the initiators and promoters themselves.
The nuclear stand-off in the region is compounded by the spectacular developments, virtually all negative, following the US invasion of Iraq. The US attack was meant to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian and despotic regime and put in its place a secular, democratic dispensation underpinned by a vibrant Iraqi nationalism. The new Iraq was to be a bastion of democracy and a beacon for other countries of the region, including its Arab neighbours seeking to evolve a more open society and a participatory government. This obviously has not happened. Instead, one is witnessing the fracturing of Iraq on ethnic and sectarian lines. In this chaotic situation non-state actors and foreign states have moved in to pursue their respective agendas by creating proxies and networks designed to promote their interests. According to a survey conducted by PEW despite concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the United States presence in Iraq is cited at least, as often as Iran, and in many countries more often, as a danger to stability in the Middle East and to world peace.
Washington cites massive Iranian interference in Iraqi domestic affairs as one of the main reasons for its inability to achieve its original objectives in Iraq. With the passage of time US allegations have become incrementally shrill. It claims that Iran is training and equipping Iraqi militants increasingly with sophisticated weapons, who then attack the United States and other coalition troops engaged in restoring order and stability in Iraq. In the process they undermine the nascent democracy in Iraq. In a testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 29 March 2007 Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs claimed:
“beyond its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran has endeavoured to sow chaos and instability throughout the region, particularly in the precarious democracies of Iraq and Lebanon, where Iran funded militants seek to thwart the democratic will of the Iraqi and Lebanese people…….In Iraq, Iran continues to provide lethal support to select groups of Shia militants who target and kill United States and coalition troops, as well as innocent Iraqis. We have made clear to Tehran that this is absolutely unacceptable, and our troops on the ground in Iraq are acting to disrupt Iran’s networks in Iraq that provide deadly weapons to Iraqi groups.”
As evidence of an Iranian policy aimed at countering the US military presence in the region, Washington also alleges that Tehran is supplying weapons to the insurgents in Afghanistan, even though they have good relations with the government of President Hamid Karzai. On a visit to Germany in June 2007, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealed that he had seen recent intelligence reports which made it “pretty clear that there’s a fairly substantial flow of weapons into Afghanistan. Given the quantities that we’re seeing, it is difficult to believe that it’s associated with smuggling or the drug business or that it’s taking place without the knowledge of the Iranian government.” The Defense Secretary said that this was ironic, because Iran had good relations with the Afghan leadership, adding that it was anybody’s guess what Iran’s motives might be beyond causing trouble for the United States. Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns was more direct, when he told CNN that there was “irrefutable evidence” that Iran was supplying the Taliban with arms. “It’s coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps command, which is a basic unit of the Iranian government.”
Iran’s national security objective in Iraq is to ensure that at no time in the future should Iraq emerge as a military power which could threaten and wage war on Iran as happened under Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. In addition to a diminution in Iraq’s power, Iran also desires that the government in Baghdad be friendly to Tehran and supportive of its political, economic and national security objectives in the region. Iran would also like an early withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and a distancing of the Iraqi government from the United States.
Iran’s official policy towards Iraq was clearly enunciated by the Supreme Leader of the country, Sayyed Ali Khamenei, when he received the visiting Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, in August 2007 in Tehran. Iran, he said, fully supported the popular government of Iraq. Underscoring the importance of unity among various Iraqi factions, he said that solidarity among Sunnis and Shias, Arabs and Kurds, and other Iraqi groups was a religious necessity which should be realized through cooperation with the al-Maliki government. Khamenie described the presence of occupying forces in Iraq as a catastrophe. “The occupiers are trying to convince the world that Iraq would be destroyed if they left the country while their withdrawal would in fact open the way for Iraqi officials to solve their problems….. The bloodshed and other problems in Iraq are due to the presence of the occupying forces or their failure to perform their duty,” Khamenei observed. He praised Iraqi clergymen, notably Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf, for being vigilant and attentive in the service of the Iraqi nation.
Irrespective of whether Iran is playing a positive or a negative role, or bits of both, in Iraq, the United States invasion and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has plunged the country and the entire region, into an ever deepening crisis. The disintegration of Iraq could have serious implications for the stability and territorial integrity of adjoining states. Those with restive Kurd populations are apprehensive about the emergence of an independent Kurdish state from the ashes of Iraq; those with sizeable Shia populations are equally concerned about sectarian harmony within their borders, particularly when they recall the revolutionary messages beamed to their Shia populations in the 1980s following the success of Imam Khomeini’s revolution.
Iran’s policies and practices concerning the Shia populations of the countries of the region have bred fear, suspicion and unease among its neighbours in the Middle East including the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. King Abdullah bin Al Hussein of Jordan in the now famous “ Shiite Crescent “ interview with the Washington Post in December 2004 on the eve of the Iraqi elections warned that:
(i) Iran was trying to influence the Iraqi elections in a bid to create an Islamic government that would dramatically shift the geopolitical balance between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the Middle East.
(ii) More than 1 million Iranians had crossed the 910-mile border into Iraq, many to vote in the election — with the encouragement of the Iranian government.
(iii) Iran was paying salaries and providing welfare to unemployed Iraqis to build pro-Iranian public sentiment. Some Iranians, trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, are members of militias that could fuel trouble in Iraq after the election.
(iv) If pro-Iran parties or politicians came to dominate the new Iraqi government, a new “crescent” of dominant Shiite movements or governments stretching from Iran into Iraq, Syria and Lebanon would emerge and alter the traditional balance of power between the two main Islamic sects.
(v) The creation of a new Shiite crescent would particularly destabilize Gulf countries with Shiite populations. “Even Saudi Arabia is not immune from this. It would be a major problem. And then that would propel the possibility of a Shiite-Sunni conflict even more, as you’re taking it out of the borders of Iraq,” the king said.
The Shia factor in Middle Eastern politics was also highlighted, much to the chagrin of Iraqi leaders of all denominations, when in an interview to Al-Arabiya television president Hosni Mubarak claimed that the majority of the Iraqi Shias were loyal to Iran and not to the countries they were living in.
In yet another manifestation of alarm at the Shia revival, Abdullah bin Jabrain, a key member of Saudi Arabia’s clerical establishment declared Shiites around the world to be heretics and urged Sunni Muslims to expel them from their land. The International Herald Tribune also reported that in December 2006 another top Saudi cleric Abdul Rahman al-Barak considered close to the kingdom’s royal family, urged Sunnis worldwide to oppose reconciliation with Shiites.
The nature and implications of a rejuvenated Shia community rising from the turmoil in Iraq have been spelt out in a brilliant article in the journal, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2006 by Vali Nasr, an adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York and author of “The Shia Revival: How conflicts within Islam will shape the Future.” According to Vali Nasr:
(i) By liberating and empowering Iraq’s Shiite majority, the Bush administration helped launch a broad Shiite revival that will upset the sectarian balance in Iraq and the Middle East for years to come
(ii) The sheer size of their population today makes them a potentially powerful constituency. Shiites account for about 90 percent of Iranians, some 70 percent of the people living in the Persian Gulf region, and approximately 50 percent of those in the arc from Lebanon to Pakistan — some 140 million people in all. Many, long marginalized from power, are now clamoring for greater rights and more political influence. Recent events in Iraq have already mobilized the Shiites of Saudi Arabia (about 10 percent of the population) and during the 2005 Saudi municipal elections, turnout in Shiite-dominated regions was twice as high as it was elsewhere. Hassan al-Saffar, the leader of the Saudi Shiites, encouraged them to vote by comparing Saudi Arabia to Iraq and implying that Saudi Shiites too stood to benefit from participating. The mantra “one man, one vote,” which galvanized Shiites in Iraq, is resonating elsewhere. The Shiites of Lebanon (who amount to about 45 percent of the country’s population) have touted the formula, as have the Shiites in Bahrain (who represent about 75 percent of the population there).
(iii) Iraq’s liberation has also generated new cultural, economic and political ties among Shiite communities across the Middle East. Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, coming from countries ranging from Lebanon to Pakistan, have visited Najaf and other holy Shiite cities in Iraq, creating transnational networks of seminaries, mosques, and clerics that tie Iraq to every other Shiite community, including, most important, that of Iran. Pictures of Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Lebanese cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah (often referred to as Hezbollah’s spiritual leader) are ubiquitous in Bahrain
(iv) It may also be more fractious. Just as the Iraqi Shiites’ rise to power has brought hope to Shiites throughout the Middle East, so has it bred anxiety among the region’s Sunnis. De-Baathification, which removed significant obstacles to the Shiites’ assumption of power in Iraq, is maligned as an important cause of the ongoing Sunni insurgency
(v) Stemming adversarial sectarian politics will require satisfying Shiite demands while placating Sunni anger and alleviating Sunni anxiety, in Iraq and throughout the region. This delicate balancing act will be central to Middle Eastern politics for the next decade. It will also redefine the region’s relations with the United States. What the US government sows in Iraq, it will reap in Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf.
(vi) The emerging Shiite revival need not be a source of concern for the United States, even though it has rattled some US allies in the Middle East. In fact, it presents Washington with new opportunities to pursue its interests in the region. Building bridges with the region’s Shiites could become the one clear achievement of Washington’s tortured involvement in Iraq. Succeeding at that task, however, would mean engaging Iran, the country with the world’s largest Shiite population and a growing regional power, which has a vast and intricate network of influence among the Shiites across the Middle East, most notably in Iraq. US-Iranian relations today tend to centre on nuclear issues and the militant rhetoric of Iran’s leadership. But set against the backdrop of the war in Iraq, they also have direct implications for the political future of the Shiites and that of the Middle East itself.
The tension and instability spawned by the nuclear and Iraqi issues is further exacerbated by the continuous fallout from the festering Palestinian dispute, where the United States is simply not prepared to brook any opposition to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and repression of the Palestinians. Iran’s view of the issue, which President Ahmadinejad presented in his September 2006 address to the United Nations General Assembly runs counter to the United States’ unhindered support of Israel. An anguished Iranian president told the world body:
“…a government was established in the territory of others with a population collected from across the world at the expense of driving millions of rightful inhabitants of the land into a diaspora and homelessness. This is a great tragedy with hardly a precedent in history. Refugees continue to live in temporary refugee camps and many have died still hoping to one day return to their homeland. Can any logic, law or legal reasoning justify this tragedy? Can any member of the United Nations accept such a tragedy occurring in their own homeland? The pretexts for the creation of the regime occupying Al-Qods Al-Sharif are so weak that its proponents want to silence any voice trying to merely speak about them as they fear that the shedding of light on the facts would undermine the raison d’etre of this regime.
“The tragedy does not end with the establishment of a regime in the territory of others. Regrettably, from its inception, the regime has been a constant source of threat and insecurity in the Middle East region, waging war and spilling blood and impeding the progress of regional countries, and has also been used by some powers as an instrument of division, coercion, and pressure on the people of the region…… Just watch what is happening in Palestinian lands. People are being bombarded in their own homes and their children murdered in their own streets and alleys. But no authority, not even the Security Council, can afford them any support or protection.”
What is of great concern to the United States and Israel is that Iran’s support to Palestine is not confined to mere rhetoric. Its practical manifestation is witnessed in significant Iranian financial and material assistance to Syria, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Hizbollah of Lebanon, which in 2006 was successful, much to the discomfort of the United States, in thwarting an Israeli attempt to defang and eliminate it. Iran’s pro-Palestinian stance and Hizbollah’s sterling performance have touched a sympathetic cord within the Arab Middle East. This growing Iranian influence has alarmed the United States as it has the autocratic Middle Eastern regimes whose own performance on Palestine left much to be desired.
It is disconcerting for the United States to find Iran looming large on the Iraqi landscape evoking strong sympathies within the majority Shia community; it is equally a matter of concern that the Iran-backed Hamas is the democratic choice of the majority Palestinians and, in neighboring Lebanon the Hizballah are admired for defending Lebanon against Israel’s wanton aggression; in Afghanistan, Iran is considered a friend and a generous donor and generally the Arab street regards the United States and its surrogate Israel a far greater threat to Middle East peace and security than Iran or its nuclear ambitions.
In an effort to contain the growing Iranian influence in the region and as part of counter-terrorism measures, the United States has forged defense relationships with some of Iran’s neighbours and established a military presence in the region tantamount to a virtual encirclement of Iran. The United States maintains nearly 40,000 troops on bases in allied Arab countries that face Iran across the Persian Gulf, including about 25,000 in Kuwait, 6,500 in Qatar, 3,000 in Bahrain, 1,300 in the United Arab Emirates and a few hundred in Oman and Saudi Arabia, according to figures from the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre. To the north, Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and a US ally; the United States also has a military presence in the Caucasus and certain Central Asian states, which allow NATO aircraft to over-fly their airspace for crucial access to Central Asia as well as Afghanistan; in Iraq the presence of more than 150,000 US troops has only served to exacerbate tensions; the island kingdom of Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and Qatar to the enormous Al-Udeid air base, from where the US Air Force commands all American air operations over the Middle East. In order to demonstrate its strength the US conducts military exercises regularly. In March 2007 the US Navy demonstrated its largest show of force in the Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with 15 ships, 125 aircraft and 13,000 sailors taking part in an exercise that veered within a few dozen miles of Iran’s coast.
In the latest move the US government has reportedly decided to provide its allies in the Middle East advanced weaponry in order to, amongst other things, counter the growing influence of Iran in the volatile region. According to an Observer report the centrepiece of the deal is an agreement between the US and a group of Persian Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia worth at least $20bn. At the same time, 10-year military aid packages will be renewed with Israel and Egypt. Its main thrust is the supply of advanced American weapons to long-term Arab allies in the Gulf – Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf states: the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. All these countries have been jittery over the growing power of Iran and the possibility that Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. The supply of American arms to the countries not only gives them greater military power to counter Iran but also cements them further as American allies.
In fact, so great is the White House’s fear over Iran’s intentions, comments The Observer, that the deal appears to ride roughshod over other American strategic concerns – such as Israeli fears over arming Arab countries and concern that Saudi Arabia has been supporting Sunni militants in Iraq. A senior Pentagon official said the deals were being made to cope with what has been a changing strategic threat from Iran and other forces.
The deal will focus on improvements to the countries’ air and missile defence systems. It will also upgrade their navies and air forces, giving them a greater strike capability. Some of the sales will also cover technology that can turn standard bombs into so-called ‘precision-guided’ bombs of the type that have become common with US forces.
Parallel to its military encirclement of Iran, the United States has adopted a host of measures designed to hurt Iran financially and economically. The Iran Sanctions Act (formerly Iran-Libya Sanctions Act) constitutes a warning to foreign entities against investing in Iran’s oil and gas sectors. The United States also constantly pressurizes foreign governments especially in Europe and Asia to reduce official export credits they provide to Iran. It has played a key role in the unanimous adoption by the Security Council of resolutions calling upon Iran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and warning that further sanctions would be imposed in the event of non-compliance. At the time of writing this paper the United States is reportedly contemplating declaring the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization, a move that some believe could unleash a backlash in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
The United States government has also been generously funding programmes designed to promote democracy and human rights in Iran as well as VOA Farsi TV service and Radio Farda which call for democratic and open government in Iran. For the financial year 2008, the government has requested over $100 million in Iran funding, including roughly $20 million for VOA’s Persian service and $8.1 million for Radio Farda and $75 million in economic support funds to civil society and human rights projects in Iran.
The irony of Iran-US confrontation is that in some of the important theatres of conflict namely Iraq and Afghanistan and on the pre-eminent question of oil, Iran and United States’ goals coincide. In Iraq, both desire a united, stable and democratic country; in Afghanistan they are friends to and supportive of president Karzai’s government; and it is in their common interest that there continue to be a smooth, uninterrupted flow of oil, which is critical to Iran’s economy and security as it is to global prosperity. Iran realizes that a fragmented Iraq on its borders would be a source of multiple problems, including providing a magnet for its own Kurdish people trying to unite with their brethren in an independent Kurdish state. Similarly, for the United States a dismembered Iraq would signal a colossal failure of its determination to establish a secular and democratic Iraq. In Afghanistan too the alternative to president Karzai in the shape of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is neither acceptable to Iran nor the United States.
The real dilemma for Iran is whether the removal of the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban regime from Afghanistan and that of the dreaded Saddam Hussein from Iraq represented a plus from the national security viewpoint or in fact impacted negatively on its security. In Afghanistan, the fanatical Taliban dispensation has been replaced by a nascent liberal democracy which owed its birth and sustenance to the United States and other western powers and was clearly supportive of a major US and allied military presence in the country. In Iraq, the departure of Saddam Hussein was indeed hailed by Iranians of all persuasion but the political chaos and unimaginable violence that has followed in the wake of the American invasion has perhaps irretrievably fractured Iraqi society and the political and economic structure, with dangerous consequences for all neighbouring countries including Iran. To boot, it has brought 150,000 US troops to the western border of Iran. The prospect of being hemmed in by a major US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Persian Gulf poses a clear and present danger from the standpoint of the Iranian leadership. Iran would like to see a stable and secure Iraq and an Afghanistan united under president Karzai but sans the United States, because on balance it perceives the intimidating US presence a greater threat.
As for oil, Iran’s economy is in the final analysis its security and stability and the fate of the regime is inextricably linked to its production, a stable market and uninterrupted oil exports. Sales of oil and natural gas account for the bulk, between two-thirds and three-quarters, of Iran’s governmental income and make up roughly 80 percent of its exports. Spurred on by artificially low energy prices, Iranians are among the world’s largest consumers of gasoline.
The government of President Ahmadinejad relies heavily on high global energy prices to underwrite his vast social programmes and populist-minded subsidies (gasoline, bread, heating oil). His latest budget which boosts government spending by 20 percent contains over 300 such social programmes including affordable housing and job retraining initiatives. Tehran spends between $20 billion and $30 billion per year, or 15 percent of Iran’s GDP, on heating oil and energy subsidies, according to Market Oracle, a UK-based firm that analyzes financial markets.
Oil is perhaps the most important natural resource, not just for those who own it, but for all the countries of the world. In a globalized and interconnected world it is inextricably tied to the world’s political stability and economic development. In the event of a serious and prolonged disruption in oil supplies from the Persian Gulf, the global economy and, as a corollary, global security would be gravely threatened. The security and stability of the Persian Gulf is, therefore, of vital interest to the United States, Europe and Japan, as it is to emerging powers like China and India.
The ownership of a vital natural resource such as oil can prove to be both an asset and a liability. Oil is a tangible source of national power and lends clout and prestige to a state. It mitigates the disadvantages a country might face on account of its territorial size and population. But it can also be a liability as Kuwait learnt in 1990 when it was invaded by its giant neighbour Iraq, which had exhausted its human and material resources in the 8-year war with Iran and coveted the oil laden fields of Kuwait. Ironically, Kuwait during the war had provided Iraq billions of dollars to help it ward off the Iranian counter-offensive.
The critical importance of this precious natural resource is not lost upon the United States. In 2003 US gross oil imports from the Persian Gulf were recorded at 2.5 million bbl/d, which accounted for about 22 percent of US net oil imports and 12 percent of US oil demand. Its allies in Western Europe (defined as European countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development-OECD) averaged 2.6 million bbl/d and Japan with imports of 4.2 million bbl/d sharply increased its dependence on the Persian Gulf from 57 percent of total oil imports in 1988 to a high of 78 percent in 2003.
The US foreign policy objective in the region is to secure uninterrupted flow of Persian Gulf oil to the US and its allies as well as to ensure that control over the major oil production facilities remains in the hands of countries and governments which are friendly to the United States. The overthrow in 1979 of the Shah of Iran and the establishment in Tehran of a revolutionary Islamic regime whose policies ran counter to US interests and some aspects of which were perceived by pro-US monarchies and sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf with trepidation, caused the US to view the new regime as hostile to its vital interests in the region.
It is indeed most unfortunate that even though there is a confluence of Iranian and American interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, free flow of oil and combating Al-Qaeda, the confrontation between the two countries continues to escalate. It appears that Iran’s nuclear programme, its opposition to Israel and the accumulated distrust and acrimony of nearly three decades cancel out the potential for a Iran-US rapprochement that lies in overlapping interests in other key areas. The United States is virulently opposed to Iran’s nuclear programme, which it believes is aimed at regional dominance and threatens Israel. Thus far, the United States has followed the diplomatic route in addressing the issue. Initially, it was left to the US’ European allies to negotiate an acceptable resolution of the problem. When the EU3-Iran talks came to a dead-end, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, was activated and thereafter the UNSC which has unanimously adopted two resolutions calling upon Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and seriously negotiate or face further sanctions.
Dangerously, both for the region and for global prosperity, neither the United States nor its regional protégé Israel have ruled out the use of force in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. At a briefing with Radio Free Liberty on 21 August 2007, the US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns stated:
“We have some time to make diplomacy successful. We know that diplomacy is a combination of offering — as we have — to help Iran to help cope with its electricity shortages by helping to build a civil nuclear power system. But also being willing to sanction. And to increase economic pressure on Iran, should that be necessary, and it is definitely necessary. Frankly I think the United States has made a good faith effort. I believe we should continue that effort. I think we should stay focused on diplomacy, and as I said before, exhaust diplomacy. But President Bush has been very clear, and many senior members of both parties of the Congress have also been very clear: the United States ultimately has a variety of options, including, of course we’ve never taken the military option off the table, but we certainly prefer and are dedicated to a peaceful diplomatic solution and I think that will be the focus of the international efforts — diplomacy — over the coming months as we try to get the Iranians to accept our offer to negotiate.”
As for Israel, Yossi Mekelberg, Associate Fellow, Middle East Program at Chatham House believes that in the absence of diplomatic leverage on Iran and the fact that Israel cannot hurt it economically, the decision-makers in Jerusalem might come to believe that their only option, if international efforts failed to halt the Iranian nuclear programme, was a military strike, probably by air. Former Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, when asked how far Israel was willing to go to stop the Iranian program, replied ‘Two thousand kilometres’ – roughly the distance between Israel and Iran’s nuclear facilities at Natanz and Esfahan. To improve its intelligence-gathering capabilities, Israel launched a satellite which can take clear photographs of locations around the world, including in Iran. Yet, Israel is well aware that a military strike on Iran would be very complex and did not guarantee success; that it had no capacity to destroy the entire Iranian nuclear infrastructure; and that the response in the wider Middle East and Islamic world, especially in the short term, might be severe. While the international community might not be sorry to see the Iranian nuclear programme suffer a serious setback, most would be quick to condemn Israel for acting unilaterally, for risking an Iranian reaction and endangering international stability. Various countries, either individually or collectively, might look for ways to retaliate and punish Israel.
Israel’s policy, as expressed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was to present the threat of a nuclear Iran as a challenge to the whole international system. Olmert said in an interview in April 2006 that Israel should not be at the forefront of this conflict, and emphasized the danger posed by Iran to the “well-being of Europe and America just as much as to the state of Israel.” He even declared that: “To assume that Israel would be the first to go into a military confrontation with Iran represented a misunderstanding of the issue.” In a speech on 24 January 2007 to the Herzliya Conference, regarded as setting the Israeli agenda for the year to come, the Prime Minister put the Iranian issue at the top of the country’s priorities. He made it clear that for the state of Israel, Iran posed a real threat, and that “there is not one among us who does not sense the dangers inherent in this threat, not only to Israel, but also to the future of the region and the stability of the world order.” Although Olmert was still at pains to emphasize the need for international action, his speech was laced with intimations that if the international community failed to stop Iran, Israel would take the necessary steps to do so: “We have the right to full freedom of action to act in defence of our vital interests. We will not hesitate to use it. I do not suggest that anyone mistakes our restraint and responsibility, or presumes that it will harm our determination and capability to act when necessary.” 
US or Israeli attack on Iran would spell disaster for the United States and the region. I do not believe that anybody in his right senses in the United States would be contemplating an invasion and occupation of Iran with a view to eliminate their nuclear programme and install a government in Tehran of their choice. If at all such a hair-brained scheme does find favour with the United States it could meet a fate worse than Vietnam. Unlike neighbouring Iraq where the United States for the past four years has been battling an assorted pack of militias which are also fighting each other, in Iran they would be met with ferocious resistance by a proud, united and a highly motivated nation which would rally behind the regime of president Ahmadinejad.
Even an attack limited to targeting Iran’s nuclear installations would at best delay Iran’s nuclear programme. On the other hand, it would serve to strengthen the present Iranian government as the people shore up the Islamic Republic in the face of US/Israel aggression. The current anti-American trend in the region would gain further momentum, as it would among Muslims worldwide, where the strike would be seen as yet another evidence of the US anti-Muslim campaign. The worst affected would be the autocratic governments of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. Already their close military and economic embrace of the United States and perceived impotency on the Palestinian question has given rise to unease and frustration among their peoples. Even though there is concern among the governments and peoples of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, the real threat to the Middle East is believed to be from Israel with its massive nuclear arsenal.
A conflict with Iran would not only reinforce the anti-American trend in the region and beyond but would contribute tangibly to the lowering of US power and prestige. In April 2006 Zbigniew Brzezinski, president Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor during the Iranian Revolution and the subsequent US embassy crisis (1979-81) told David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “I think of war with Iran as the ending of America’s present role in the world…Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it is still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we’ll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world.”
. As for the regional or even global economy, the price of oil would skyrocket undermining global growth. It would seriously affect countries like Pakistan whose limited foreign exchange earnings would be increasingly diverted towards paying the energy bill rather than for development, lack of which has been a significant factor in spreading frustration and extremism within their populace. Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the former Saudi Ambassador in Washington graphically described the impact on oil prices in the event that diplomacy failed and war broke out over Iran’s nuclear programme. He told a Brookings Institution gathering in June 2006 that if “there is military conflict, if bombs are dropped, ships are blown up, oil facilities on our side of the Gulf are targeted….just the idea of somebody firing a missile at an installation somewhere would shoot up the price of oil astronomically….Not just our installations but the whole Gulf would become an inferno of exploding fuel tanks and shut-up facilities.” In short, a US or Israeli attack on Iran would violate international law, engender regional instability, undermine political stability, retard economic development, further the West-Muslim divide and make the ground more fertile for extremism and terrorism.
It is most unlikely that a clear winner would emerge if the Iran-US cold war turned hot. What is certain is that once again the region and its peoples would be subjected to the horrors of conflict with all its attendant misery, the damaging of their environment and a dissipation of their resources. In all the major problems – Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Nuclear, Terrorism and Oil – that the United States faces in the region, Iran is in a position to play a constructive role. It is unrealistic to expect that Iran can be beaten into submission. It is too strong for that. The most reasonable and sensible course is to engage Iran as an equal interlocutor and without setting preconditions. The recent talks between Iranian and US diplomats on Iraq is a good beginning, but the scope of the interaction needs to be expanded to cover other subjects, in particular the nuclear issue. The last thing that Iran desires is tension and conflict. It has had more than its fair share of turmoil. Yet, it would be but logical for a country subjected to aggression and now to encirclement to adopt measures that would give it security and peace of mind. This explains to a great extent the rationale behind the country’s nuclear programme. In the context of its historical experience Iran has always felt vulnerable to foreign interests and intervention. What deputy foreign minister Larijani pointed out in a major foreign policy address is as relevant today as it was in August 1989 when he pointed out:
“…our region is a region of controls. Its geography is very simple. Some of the countries are under the control of Britain, some are under US control….First of all these [powers] want to keep their influence, and second they want to expand their influence. From this geography we grasp the dynamics of control in the region…..The dialectic of our relations with the world is very clear. We cannot overlook the possibility of someone wanting to gain control over us. ….The US is one of those countries which has always meant to control each time it has tried to contact us. So we have told them a big ‘No’ and they have left after losing their dignity.”
A conflict with Iran would spell catastrophe for the Persian Gulf and beyond. It is definitely not in the interest of Iran, whose economic backbone is oil. Tehran’s record of the past nearly 30 years shows that it has not been a destabilizing factor in the region. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, the decade-long US-backed mujahideen resistance to the Soviet presence, Iraq’s eight-year “imposed war” on Iran, the dismemberment of the Soviet Union and the rise of independent states on Iran’s northern borders in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and the US-led war on Iraq produced shock waves that swept across the region. None of these cataclysmic events were of Tehran’s making. In fact, Iran was a victim (Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in September 1980), a healer (succour to 2 million Afghan refugees and calling for the withdrawal of Soviet troops), and a bystander (collapse of the Soviet Union).
A secure and stable Persian Gulf is in the vital interest of Iran as it is in the vital interest of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and of the United States. It is in this context that Tehran’s blueprint for the security and stability of the Persian Gulf should be seen. The 10-point proposal was unveiled by Dr. Hassan Rowhani, representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at the World Economic Forum meeting in Doha in April 2007. Its salient features were:
(i) Establishment of the Persian Gulf Security and Cooperation Organization that would include the six members of the n Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plus Iran and Iraq, based on Article 8 of UN Security Council Resolution 598.
(ii) Organizing a collective security system for fighting terrorism, extremism, sectarianism, organized crime, drug smuggling and dealing with other common security concerns.
(iii) Gradual removal of various limitations for political, security, economic, and cultural cooperation as a final goal.
(iv) Development of commercial cooperation with regard to existing trade capacities and joint investments in economic plans for establishing a free trade bloc between regional countries.
(v) Devising a plan for guaranteeing the production and export of energy in the region in order to safeguard the interests of regional states and stabilize the international energy market.
(vi) Building trust between the regional countries concerning nuclear issues, including monitoring and verification of each others’ nuclear programmes in a voluntary and non-intrusive manner.
(vii) Establishment of a joint (nuclear) enrichment consortium between the regional countries for producing (nuclear) fuel and other peaceful uses of nuclear energy under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
(viii) Serious cooperation among regional countries for the establishment of a WMD-free Middle East.
(ix) Terminating the regional arms race in order to release funds for economic development and fighting poverty.
(x) Withdrawal of foreign military forces from the region and the establishment of a system in which regional countries would provide full security in the Persian Gulf region.
Dr. Rowhani’s proposal covers vital contemporary issues – oil, terrorism, nuclear, arms race, foreign military presence and regional free trade. The proposed organization brings within its fold, in addition to the six GCC countries, both Iran and Iraq. The dilemma for the militarily weak and predominantly Sunni (with the exception of Bahrain) GCC countries is whether they should step out of the US security umbrella and engage with the region’s heavyweights, the Shiite states of Iran and Iraq in a new security set-up. The answer is that they need to break new ground if they want to unhitch the client relationship that has characterized their ties with the West, in particular the United States. Iran, on the other hand, must come out with sincere and pragmatic policies matched with action and eschew inflammatory rhetoric in order to instil confidence among its neighbours that it neither intends to interfere in their internal affairs nor wishes to assume the role of a regional hegemon. An end to the arms race, withdrawal of foreign military forces and mutually reinforcing confidence measures would promote stability and security in this sensitive region, provide a fillip to economic development and remove an important cause of radicalism and extremism within the states of the region. It is in this manner that the Persian Gulf region can contribute significantly to international peace and prosperity.
 Iqbal Ahmad Khan is a former Pakistan ambassador to Iran.
 Department of Energy, United States Government.
 Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Michael Stein Address on “US Middle Policy,” at The Washington Institute , Washington, DC, 11 May 2006.
 USA Today, 13 August 2005.
 Yossi Mekelberg, Associate Fellow, Middle East Program at Chatham House. “From War of Words to Words of War, March 2007.
 Arab News, 11 December 2006.
 Emile el-Hokayem and Matteo Legrenzi, “The Arab Gulf States in the .Shadow of the Iranian Nuclear Challenge,” 26 May 2006.
 Arab Times, 13 May 2007.
 Tariq Al-Homayed, “I Cry Out in the Gulf, “ Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, 13 April 2006.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London), 17 April 2006.
 Al- Watan, (Saudi Arabia), 14 April 2006.
 Al-Dustour, (Jordan), 16 April 2006.
 Al-Watan, Qatar), 14 April 2006.
 Al-Dustour, (Jordan), 13 April 2006.
 PEW Global Attitudes Project, 2006.
 BBC World, 13 June 2007.
 Robin Wright and Peter Blake, Washington Post, 8 December 2004.
 Salah Nasrawi, Associated Press, 9 April 2006.
 International Herald Tribune, 22 January 2007.
 Vali Nasr, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2006.
 President Ahmadinejad’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on 20 September 2006.
 Associated Press, 29 March 2007.
 The Observer, 29 July 2007.
 Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs’ testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 29 March 2007.
 Council of Foreign Relations “Backgrounder” prepared by Lionel Beehner, 16 February 2007.
 Yossi Mekelberg, Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme at Chatham House, “From War of Words to Words of War,” March 2007.
 Cited by Joseph A. Kechichiea in his article “Can Conservative Arab Monarchies Endure a Fourth War in the Persian Gulf?” Middle East Journal, Spring 2007.
 Oil prices could triple upon a US invasion of Iraq, Arab New, 21 June 2006 as quoted in Joseph A. Kechichian’s article “Can Conservative Arab Monarchies Endure a Fourth War in the Persian Gulf?” Middle East Journal, Spring 2007.
 Deputy Foreign Minister Larijani’s interview in Resalat, Tehran 7 August 1989, as quoted in The Centre of the Universe, by Graham E. Fuller.
 Mehr News Agency, 10 April 2007.