Former Supreme National Security Chief: Crass talk is not foreign policy

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Hojjat al-Islam Hassan Rowhani, the former Chief of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, who currently heads the Centre for Strategic Research, has made a number of critical comments vis-à-vis Iran’s foreign policy in recent years, claiming “it is not clear whether this approach was engagement or confrontation”.

The comments were made in the course of a meeting entitled “Change in Foreign Policy in light of the Vision Plan”.

Rowhani, who remains a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, also stated, “the manoeuvring undertaken by the authorities of a country have an impact in increasing or decreasing the cost to a country. Authorities have titles in their possession, which are not for themselves but are the trust of the nation. The nation placed these titles in their control so they can be used to the benefit of the people. Moreover, these titles must not be ruined and must be returned in a fit state to the people until they hand it over to another individual”.

“Indisputably foreign policy must entail much preparation to the end of reaching the position of the first economic [power] in the region. The economy and economic growth without the use of foreign policy resources is not possible and without it, economic growth of 8 percent as laid out in the vision plan cannot be reached. Some researchers studied how to reach this goal, other than by means of domestic resources and how much foreign capital we need; and the number is a high one. Now it must be seen whether in the last seven years of which approximately a third has elapsed [i.e. the Vision Plan is predicated on a 20 year projection] foreign policy has prepared the necessary ground for economic growth in accordance with the plan or not…If foreign capital enters the country, it is brings the technology of the day along with it”.

“This plan says Iran must be a model of religious democracy, as well as in efficiency, continuous and precipitous development and also as an ethical society [act as] a model. In recent years we are witness to good opportunities in the region. Many changes which even if not on a par with the revolution they were forward movements, but how much of a role did we have in them and how much can we be involved in these changes in the future?”

“It is not as if the Islamic world says “Islamic Republic, tell us what to do until we are like you”. Just as there is competition in economics, the Islamic world also looks at which country offers better cultural and political merchandise. One can’t offer shoddy and expensive goods, and then say “come and buy from us”. A model must be offered which is cheaper, superior and [of better] quality. Today we have many competitors in the region. Turkey is one of them and we were witness in the changes in the region that [Turkey] explicitly introduced itself as the model for the region and some individuals in the countries in which the changes took place, also clearly regarded Turkey as their model; because for being inspirational we must offer the best goods with the best packaging. Unfortunately sometimes we have good produce, but our packaging is rotten. Manner and tone, one’s way of speaking, approach and our type of engagement must pursue a cooperative model. To be enamoured with ourselves and say we are the first country of the region and the only road to salvation is the Islamic Republic is insufficient. [Even if] we are the best nation and government we have to present ourselves in some way that they wish to buy [into] us. One cannot forcefully grab people by the collar and say “follow us”. In the event that we can introduce ourselves well and competently to the world, there is no need for all this insistence and sloganeering.”

“It is not clear whether the actions that have been undertaken in these last couple of years were engagement or confrontation. If we want to have a role in global decision making, we must in reality choose engagement…Let’s define “offensive”; “offensive” means an action we undertake which doesn’t allow the enemy to implement his plan against us or a conspiracy he wants to commit against us, and we move one step”.

“That the enemy aggresses and we chant slogans against him is not foreign policy…This is the most passive foreign policy to which we are witness. Offensive foreign policy, means if the enemy has made plans against us to issue a [UNSC] resolution, we must prevent him with a plan, diplomacy and appropriate actions, and not allow it to succeed and in the next step repulse those previous resolutions. Crass talk is not foreign policy”.

Image of Hassan Rowhani vis Mashreq News