Working against isolating Iran
Il Riformista INTERVIEW WITH Italian Foreign minister MASSIMO D'ALEMA
ITALIAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
March 10, 2008
Even now, at the beginning of the electoral campaign, Massimo D’Alema expresses satisfaction for the results achieved in foreign policy, regrets for what he hasn’t been able to complete and bitterness for a country that is having difficulty handling relations with a wider, international context: “Foreign policy is absent in the electoral campaign”. It is of Iran, after Ahmadinejad’s historic visit to Baghdad and on the eve of Iranian parliamentary elections, that D’Alema willingly accepts to speak with Il Reformista. “The country’s current situation is quite complex. What’s at stake in the elections is not all that clear, thanks also to the system of candidate list controls that has heavily weakened the reformist presence. This said”, he adds, “even in this form of religious authority-controlled democracy, Iran is a country where there is voting and where the elections, not infrequently, can reserve surprises”.
We ask him if, from 14 March onward, the date that Iranians go to the polls, something new is to be expected. “I believe that regardless of the results, which will probably not be capable of changing the political balance, this vote could show us what the mood is in the country, and it is not certain that it will reward the current leadership. There is undoubtedly growing discontent in Iran among the economic and intellectual elite”.
For D’Alema “it is necessary to see to what extend a broader public opinion is formed. After all, this isolation of Iran by the international community is certainly not very conducive to building consensus”. The Iranian government defends itself with the excuse that is that it is all the fault of White House policy.
“This is true…however, the Security Council almost unanimously approved the new resolutions, including the Russians and the Chinese”. On the first visit by an Iranian president to Iraq after 30 years of war, a country whose security has been entrusted to the Americans, D’Alema says, “it is clear that Teheran is trying to avoid isolation by foregrounding, in particular, its indisputably important regional role”. A role that has increased enormously in the first place as a consequence of developments in Iraq. A government with a strong Shia component undoubtedly gains in importance. There is a strange paradox here”, D’Alema muses, “the duel with the Americas grew out of the nuclear issue, and now Iran and the US converge in support of the government of Al Maliki. There is, instead, the much more critical position of many Arab countries that do not have much sympathy for the current Iraqi Shia-led government”. Apropos of nuclear power, former negotiator Larijani has paid many visits to Italy. “Italy is one of those countries that is pressuring Iran to stop enriching uranium, a position shared by the international community. At the same time, however, we have always insisted that this pressure be accompanied by more political receptiveness. Not only because we believe”, D’Alema argues,” that it is necessary to acknowledge that Iran has a right to nuclear power for civilian purposes, obviously within a framework of guaranteed controls capable of ensuring against the risk of nuclear proliferation; but also because we think that it is necessary to recognise Iran’s potential for playing an important role in the region”. But to stimulate this role we must adopt a policy aimed at integrating Iran and not at isolating it, convinced that this is the best strategy also for reaching the Iranian public, the younger generations, who are looking toward Italy with great friendship and affection. “When Khatami was president”, the foreign minister recalls, “Italy was very open to Iran. We were the first Western country to host an Iranian president, I received him myself, I was Prime Minister at the time.
Italy’s initiative was not viewed with hostility by the Americans. I had discussed it first with President Clinton, who had expressed interest in the possibility that we might open up a dialogue with Teheran and encourage the reformist forces. I continue”, D’Alema concludes, “to think that Italy, which is applying all the Security Council resolutions in earnest, and who considers unacceptable the idea of an Iran with nuclear weapons, must nevertheless continue to promote openness and dialogue”.