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Speaker of the Iranian Majlis Dr. Ali Larijani, Munich Security Conference speech, 6 February 2009

Munich Security Conference: Selected speeches

For a full list of speeches go to www.securityconference.de.

Speaker of the Iranian Majlis Dr. Ali Larijani, 6 February 2009

At the outset, I would like to thank the Chairman of the Conference and the honorable government of Germany.

I come from a region where in the past 30 years - and specifically in the most recent years - it has witnessed the highest number of conflicts. Some years ago we had to defend ourselves against an eight year war waged by Saddam against my country. Later the West waged a war against Saddam for his occupation of Kuwait and later still came the occupation of Iraq itself, which led to the killing and injury of more than 800,000 Iraqis, the flames of another war were tanned in Afghanistan, and more recently in another part of the region, Israel - with U.S. design - attacked Lebanon, and of course most recently, came the Israeli war against the brave and victimized people of Gaza. These conflicts were waged with different excuses, but terrorism and WMDs were the main casus belli.

The main question is: by waging such wars - which alone cost Iran 250,000 martyrs - did regional security improve? Did terrorism grow weaker? Or were nukes found in Iraq?

When occupying Afghanistan, the U.S. claimed that the goal there was to control drugs, fight terrorism and apprehend terrorist leaders. Which of these has been realized?
Back in 200l and immediately after occupation, the production of narcotics In Afghanistan was something close to 200 tons. But in 2008 the figure has shot to 8000 tons. The war against terrorism, by morphing into secret talks between certain NATO members and terrorist
representatives, has turned into a painful farce. With their handiwork plainly evident in the Herat prison incident and the subsequent escape of hundreds of inmates. Also, the leadership of terror groups is still very much intact. What goal has been secured then?

The new U.S. president has said that his Middle East envoy has been dispatched to the region to hear what different parties have to say, rather than to give orders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This initial approach is a positive signal which demonstrates the wrong past strategies only exacerbated security problems. One must be better aware of the cultural characteristics of different regions and the issues and problems they face. With this, I would like to talk now about the concerns of the region, in the hopes that they will be heeded.

- By organizing the 1953 coup in Iran the U.S. toppled Mosadegh’s nationalist administration and restored the Pahlavi dictatorship. This meddling resulted in Iran being kept back - it also helped the U.S. to gain control of our energy resources - and further resulted in decades of repression and torture which claimed the lives of many great Iranians.

- In 1978, by dispatching a team headed by General Huyser, the U.S. worked to organize another coup, but thanks to the vigilance of the Late Imam Khomeini (PBUH), it was foiled.

- After the victory of the Islamic revolution, through its embassy In Tehran, the U.S. designed and put in motion a number of efforts to break the country and hatched plots to assassinate revolutionary figures - documents of which are available.

- The U.S. encouraged Saddam to attack Iran and, in the course of the eight year conflict, provided him with every military support.

Sometimes, during the course of my nuclear talks with my dear friend Mr. Solana, discussing Islamic concepts, its different disciplines and the issues we have faced throughout the life of the Islamic Revolution, were unavoidable. Such discussions helped with a better understanding of the region.

If the new approach is based on an understanding of the realities, as they exist on the ground, it will be rational; otherwise clinging to delusions and issuing orders will not be helpful.

- After the Revolution the U.S. froze all Iranian assets.

- The U.S. broke Its nuclear contract with Iran, in the very first days of the

- After 9/l1, on the excuse of fighting terrorism and Iraqi WMDs, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. This was a great inconvenience both for the people of the region and the U.S. military.

- The 33 day war waged by Israel against Lebanon was carried out with U.S. assistance, in the hopes of uprooting the Hezbollah resistance. This was a delusion and Lebanese Hezbollah’s resolute defense forced Israel into a defeat.

- The shameful 22 day war by Israel against the proud people of Gaza, was given comprehensive U.S. support. The attack resulted in a huge humanitarian catastrophe, but the U.S. - despite its repeated mantra of defending human rights - chose to remain silent.

- In Iran’s nuclear issue, the U.S. has tried it’s very best to be the main detractor and to sabotage any possible diplomatic resolution.

Now with a change of tone and a few media postures, do you honestly expect this pain to go away? The other party must accept its mistakes and change strategies. Let me also say that the reason why such glaring mistakes have not deteriorated into a regional and widespread catastrophe targeting states which have engaged in such a misadventure, is because of the wisdom of the wise leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khameneie, who sensibly controlled and calmed the situation.

Mr. Chairman

Regrettably such misguided ways, as described sometime earlier, are rooted in notions that came to exist in Europe after the industrial revolution. The idea that the East is lethargic and thus must be colonized became so pervasive that it led to the formation of the Western hegemony. For the competition, they devised the concept of a 'balance of lead — the arms race, especially the nuclear arms race, are rooted in this strategy which peaked during the cold war.

Today we are in a different situation.
First of all, the theory of unilateralism - which propagated a reactionary take on the world and people - has reached a dead end.
Secondly, for various reasons, the East - including China, Malaysia, Turkey, Egypt and Iran - is in a different position now and Islamic awakening is not a phenomenon that can be wished away.
What is needed today is a rational, fair and realistic theory that will help to foster a durable security.

My friends, hegemony and terrorism are the two sides of the same coin. Maybe the chicken and the egg might be a better allegory. It’s a well known fact that most terrorists have been created in countries where the U.S. has had the most control. Let me also say that the time for Western colonial control over the East has come to an end and Eastern people are not second class citizens. It is not acceptable to bring into office one or two individuals - that were up until very recently considered as second class - and try to keep hundreds of millions of similar human beings backward and hungry.

It is not acceptable for the West to provide Israel - with a population of 2 or perhaps 3 million people - with 200 nuclear warheads, as well as advanced missiles and fighter jets and turn around and tell 1.5 billion Moslems that you do not have the right to utilize your nuclear know-how to produce electricity and other peaceful activities. For that matter, who is going to accept the election and displacement of 5 million Palestinian Moslems from their homeland?

Going back to terrorism in the Middle East, the incidents that took place in India and Pakistan demonstrate that the current strategy to fight terrorism in the region is wrong, and by insisting on it, the region has been turned into a powder keg.

As I said earlier, who can come to terms with the displacement of 5 million Palestinians and their replacement with people gathered from different parts of the world and relocated to Palestine to help shape Western hegemony?
It needs to be understood that by labelling Hamas as a terrorist organization reality will not change. Hamas came into power thru the direct vote of the people and won an election which was monitored by international observers. Regardless of this fact, they were met by the irrational behaviour of Western states – case in point was the silence of the West over the abduction of the Palestinian Parliaments’ Speaker and a number of its MPs. Still, I have heard a European politician, who follows Palestinian developments, has recently said, that Hamas must be accepted as a reality though late but yet appreciated.
In the same context, disparaging Hezbollah is not going to change the reality either. Hezbollah - as a deeply rooted conviction - is cherished by the people of Lebanon and the region. Any injustice to them will substantially increase hatred of the U.S. and Israel.

Some are trying use the media to foment anti-Islamic feelings among the Western public and to portray Moslems as violent and belligerent. One must ask whether Moslems had the slightest role to play in the First or the Second World War - except being a victim?

Islam respects Moses (PBUH), Jesus Christ (PBUH) and all other prophets and teaches its followers to live in peace with the followers of other religions. As I said earlier, a deeper understanding of the cultures of other communities is needed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

"Balance of Fear" was devised by Europe and the U.S. - after the Second World War - to help Western countries maintain control and to keep watch over each other. The very existence of WMDs and their positioning against each other is a clear example of the failure of man. This means there is no trust. Does this situation not resemble the lives of wolves rather than human beings?

To date what has been said and done about the need to decrease the number of WMDs -  or total disarmament — has been largely sermonizing and no tangible steps have been taken. I think the world is no longer content with sermons and is calling for the disarmament of this handful of major nuclear states.

As for Iran, nuclear weapons have no place in its defense doctrine and it is not working towards the bomb. Living under the shadow of WMDs is abhorrent to us. After twenty odd years, we are still caring for veterans who were targeted by Saddams chemical bombs - which were provided to him by Western states.
Iran on the other hand, has never had any designs on other states. The idea of attacking other states runs contrary to the philosophy of the Islamic Revolution.

As for the story of Iran’s nuclear program, we produced the know-how under The Agency’s watch and the confines of the NPT. However, we only became fully committed to a home grown program when the U.S. and a number of European countries broke their nuclear contracts with Iran. I am fully aware of and familiar with Iran’s nuclear program. After participating in long negotiations I came to realize that the dispute over Iran’s program was not over legal matters but other assumptions were behind this adventure.

Occasionally they tell us that we know you do not possess nuclear weapons right now but someday you might divert towards the bomb!! I ask you, do you think such reasoning has any place in the logical governance of the world? The same line of reasoning can be used for a knife!

Other times they say that by mastering nuclear technology, Iran will upset regional balance. Assuming that this is true, are we to understand that regional balance is a principle that we must all adhere to? All states are free to master advanced technologies. l have also heard that they have expressed concerns over an Iranian satellite that was recently placed in orbit. What possible cause for concern can that satellite be? This satellite is not a WMD!! For that matter, how come the concept of "balance" was never included in the American policy of unilateralism?

During the course of nuclear talks with Mr. ElBaradei and Mr. Solana, we announced on a number of occasions that Iran is ready to allay so-called Western fears and to continue its program in the form of a consortium and partner with other states. It a country is working towards the bomb, it will never table such proposals or agree to the confines of the NPT. Just as Israel has done. Incidentally, Western double standard over the issue has only increased distrust.
During its attack on Gaza, Israel used white phosphorus bombs. An Israeli commander has said that that phosphorus bombs were used by mistake! Can the world accept such a claim?! When discussing the vicious bombardment of innocent children by Israel, Mr. Peres in Davos said "We used to call their houses beforehand, saying we are going to attack!" Does anyone believe this?! Assumingly the children weren’t home to pickup the phone and hear Mr. Peres’ warning!
But the West never bothered to take a position to show its opposition to such inhumanity.

Another example of double standards can be seen in the military campaign waged by the U.S. in the region on the pretext of fighting terrorism. The campaign on the one hand resulted in the massacre of innocents and on the other hand resulted in official recognition, support and sanctuary given to another group of terrorists.

On occasion they would claim that they want to negotiate to find a diplomatic resolution to the issue, and at the same time talk of a carrot and stick and would later rush to the UNSC to issue a resolution.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The carrot and stick policy was and is defunct. It is completely without merit for the Iranian people. They pay it no heed. The concept is basically irrational. To insist on it would be tantamount to travelling on the wrong path.

Current global developments and the 21st century’s outlook call for a new set of relations. Old and tired regional security models need to be revised. The 21st century is the century of new strategies, frameworks and advanced and realistic models. It is also the time of new players. The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready and able to work with other states to produce new ideas that will help establish regional and comprehensive peace and security.

We fully believe in the long term benefit of working with other states to secure mutual economic, energy and security interests.

In past years the U.S. burned many bridges, but the new White House can rebuild them. But this requires a new and pragmatic strategy that is based on mutual respect and fair play. The old and tired carrot and stick cliché must be discarded.
The world is cautiously optimistic about change in the U.S. This is a golden opportunity for the U.S.
This strategy has a number of very important components:

  1. By choosing multilateralism, he can escape the vicious spiral of unilateralism and preemptive action.
  2. Instead of perpetuating the arms race, the president must work on the idea of an international collective security arrangement.
  3. When it comes to regional security, he must concentrate on indigenizing security instead of increasing the number of troops or military bases in regional states - that will only forces them into a vicious cycle of military control and terrorism.
  4. Instead of tolerating incompatible models, he must respect the cultural, economic and political characteristics of the region and facilitate the interaction of regional powers with the rest of the world. The president must also be sincere in his efforts at social engineering in different parts of the world. It must be understood that the imposition of incompatible models - and ones that are based on miscalculations - will lead to instability and insecurity.

Source: Munich Security Conference, www.securityconference.de.

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