Potential presidential candidate and mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf sat down with Tasnim News Agency to present his positions on foreign policy and economics. Ghalibaf, who is part of the 2+1 Coalition along with foreign-policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati and Gholam Ali Hadded Adel, shared his ideas on the Western sanctions against Iran, the nuclear program and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial remarks on the Holocaust.
Ghalibaf said the “nuclear issue is our most important foreign-policy topic.” He added that “the nuclear case is a national and macro case that all the administrations will pursue within the framework of the system.” The decisions on the nuclear program are made through Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office. Ghalibaf, however, added that “one must discern between strategy and tactics on the nuclear issue.” While the “strategy for the system is clear,” he differentiated his positions on the issue of “tactics.”
The mayor of Tehran believes that tactics can take the form of diplomacy, which he believes he would perform better than Ahmadinejad. He said “steps were taken and words were said that not only did not help us push our programs forward, but it also gave our opponents the opportunity to gather others against us. Controversial but useless remarks and slogans and presentations struck a blow against us and weakened our rightful position.” As president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made controversial comments about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, homosexuals in Iran and the Holocaust, among other topics which received international attention and condemnation.
“Our legal position can only be realized through an intelligent and rational diplomacy,” Ghalibaf said. “There was a time when they used to say the sanctions are torn pieces of paper. Now they are saying that they are crippling, and they are the cause of all the problems. … A rational view says that the sanctions are neither torn pieces of paper, nor will removing them fix all of the problems.” Ahmadinejad had made defiant statements against the sanctions, and had even dared the West to pass more at one point. However, domestically, the issue of how much sanctions have affected the economy is a source of contention. Often, statements regarding to what extent sanctions have affected the economy are made with political rather than economic intentions and insights.
On Ahmadinejad’s statements regarding the Holocaust, Ghalibaf asked, “for instance, where did the case of the Holocaust take us?” He continued, “We were never against Judaism; it’s a religion. What we opposed was Zionism. We’ve been the major supporters of Palestine for 30 years, but with the intelligence of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, no one could accuse us of being anti-Semitic. But suddenly without consideration for the results and implications, the issue of the Holocaust was raised. How did his benefit the revolution or the Palestinians?”
Ghalibaf added that it became an “excuse for our biggest enemies, which are the Zionists, and affected the goals of the Palestinians. Defending the goals of the Palestinians is part of the principles of our foreign policy. Denying the Holocaust is not part of our foreign policy.” He added that “we have seen a lot of damages in the area of foreign policy” due to this type of politics.
On the potential of Iran-US negotiations, Ghalibaf said that “negotiations are neither taboo, nor will they solve all of the problems. Negotiations are a tool. When it’s necessary at points, we will certainly negotiate with America. Negotiating with America has never been a red line for us.” Iran’s foreign policy is ultimately decided by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and if there are to ever be direct negotiations between the two countries, they would be need to be approved by him first.