A chat with the Iranian foreign minister: He goes all amiable and reasonable, and wonders what all this fuss is about
- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
By Nathan R. Sherfinski
Best Defense diplomatic bureau
In an hour-long conference call hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi discussed a range of issues including: nuclear ambitions, Syria, and anti-American sentiment. His tone was measured and notably non-inflammatory.
Salehi, who received a PhD from MIT, described Iran as acting with rational manner in its foreign policy. He dismissed concerns that Iran’s nuclear program is intended for anything aside from civilian energy purposes. Salehi stated that Iran having a nuclear bomb would neither make the region more stable nor make rational sense. "Iran’s possession of a nuclear bomb would only invite attack and threaten other countries; it would not increase security in the region," he stated in response to a question on the issue. He contended that energy diversification was the sole purpose of Iran’s nuclear program. Furthermore, he reaffirmed Iran’s position as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Regarding Iranian support for Syria, he reiterated strict opposition to foreign intervention of any kind and aimed to communicate Iran’s role in resolving the conflict. "The Syrian people are entitled to democracy and freedom," he said. He went on to say, "We [Iran] have been in talks with the opposition for at least a year." He contended that a political, not a military, solution is the key to the issue and that Iran puts strong support behind U.N. efforts to resolve the situation. "We [Iran] are on the same wavelength with Brahimi, al-Arabi, and the quartet of countries," he stated. He did draw a red-line in Iranian support for the Syrian government. He asserted that, should the Syrian government use WMD, then Iran would pull its support for the government and any country that would employ WMD, "…loses legitimacy."
Salehi addressed the issue of anti-American sentiment, saying, "Iran has great respect for the United States." While he noted that Muslims must stand up for acts against the Prophet, he said that, "some went beyond what was expected." He contended his country is opposed to anti-Americanism or an "America-phobia," as he called it. He went on to say, "We [Iran] have no animosity toward the United States."
Nathan R. Sherfinski is a researcher at the Center for a New American Security.
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| The Cable |