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Popular Democratic Uprisings Must Be Supported

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TEHRAN, June 1 (ICANA) – What follows is text of an interview with Dr. Javad Etaat, Member of the Board of Shahid Beheshti University appearing on Iran Diplomacy website Wednesday.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011 11:37:40 PM
Popular Democratic Uprisings Must Be Supported

Q: How do you assess the current developments in the Arab world?

A: Alexis de Tocqueville in his 1848 speech at the British Parliament said that the more he studied revolutions and movements, the more he understood that it was the political system that had lost grip of its power and legitimacy to rule the country and drove it closer to its destruction, not the opposition. Mr. Bazargan also used the same interpretation for Iran. He was asked about the leader of Iran’s revolution and he said that he thought the Shah was the leader. In other words he wanted to say that it was the system and the king who ignited the revolution through their unwise conduct, and therefore caused the fall of the monarchy.

The recent developments in Arab countries are no exception. Political and economic failures are the result of dictatorships, which set the pretext for these uprisings. Of course the increasing political awareness and the revolution in communications have also played great roles in these protests. If there’s no efficient awareness among the people and the misconduct of the system is not transferred to them, nothing would happen, no matter how corrupt the leaders may be.

Q: To what extend do you think these uprisings have democratic and Islamic aspirations?

A: Studies show that the people of these countries demand a better life due to the awareness they have gained through the media. Even though these uprisings demand political freedom, respect for human rights, and the rule of the law, they also demand security, peace, prosperity, stability and economic welfare. The recent uprisings are not ideological and idealistic movements. The current generation is totally different from the previous one. These people do not want to sacrifice for ideological aspirations, and with a pragmatic approach they are demanding a better standard of living.

However, with the rule of democracy, Islamic groups can take part in politics through their political parties. It seems that the recent uprisings demand the rule of Islam in the peoples’ personal and social lives, but they prefer a customary system in politics.

Q: Are these developments going to spread to other countries or are they limited to some Arab countries?

A: Political systems are based on four pillars: political legitimacy, effectiveness, propaganda and persuasion, and finally legal compulsion for the sake of maintaining security and order. Authoritarian systems lack political legitimacy. If these systems lose their effectiveness they will consequently lose their ability to persuade their people through propaganda. Usually these systems lean toward compulsion and force. In situations like this, these systems collapse when faced with opposition. To clarify I will explain this in the following example. A political system is just like the human body. When a person does not take care of his health and is diagnosed with a number of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., even though doctors cannot estimate the exact time of his death they can be sure that this person will not live a long life if he does not receive the appropriate treatments. Therefore, we can conclude that the ruling political systems in these countries will not be able to withstand the current crisis and will collapse, sooner or later.

Q: How do you see Iran’s influence in regional developments?

A: James Rosenau, a scholar of international relations, divides the foreign policy of countries into four categories. First, countries whose influence on international developments is greater than what they are influenced by themselves, like powerful countries. Second, weak countries which are more influenced. Third, countries which are neither influential nor are influenced, like Switzerland whose neutrality has been accepted by the international community. The fourth group is countries that are both influential and influenced. Iran could be considered among the fourth group.

The Constitutional Movement, the Nationalization of Oil, and the Islamic Revolution were among developments that affected the region. In other cases like the First and Second World Wars, the change in the international system to a bipolar one, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, affected Iran and changed its position. The recent developments in the Arab countries have certainly been influenced by Iran’s democratic uprisings; these developments will mutually affect Iran as well.

Q: How do you assess Iran’s foreign policy in general?

A: Iran’s foreign policy in the current (Iranian) century has taken the three directions of neutrality, opposition, and passivity. The neutrality approach was taken during the First and the Second World Wars. But since Iran was in the midst of an international junction, it could not continue playing a neutral role.

The opposing approach has caused much damage to Iran’s national interest. A country with the capacities that Iran possesses cannot stand against world powers, not even for the sake of justice. Iran’s opposition to the ruling global system is beyond the abilities and powers of a country like Iran.

Q: What approach should Iran’s foreign policy take?

A: Iran’s foreign policy should be based on its national interests with an interactive approach, while considering its capacities as well. We should not forget that an independent foreign policy does not necessary mean countermanding the international system. Iran should interact with the international system while maintaining and securing its political independence at the same time. We should reduce the tensions and not only end our antagonism toward the international system, but use international potentials and opportunities to develop and advance our country.

Q: Was Iran’s foreign policy in the recent developments planned or was it a mere reaction?

JE; Iran’s foreign policy should be defined according to its national interests. The aims of our foreign policy must be prioritized. The first priority is Iran’s national security and territorial integrity. The second priority should be the economic growth and development of Iran.

After economic growth, idealistic long-term aims can be the priority of a foreign policy. One of Iran’s idealistic aims is respecting human and civil rights, and the right to vote for all people around the world. If these priorities are respected, Iran’s foreign policy will not be a passive one. In such a situation Iran can defend the rights of humankind while securing its vital primary and secondary interests. For example, Iran will be able to defend Palestine after its own economy and national security are guaranteed.

Q: How should Iran react to the current developments in the Arab world?

A: Any country that believes in human and civil rights, the rule of law, and democracy should have a positive look at these developments. The authoritarian and dictator rulers of these countries have denied their people human and civil rights and have sacrificed the interests of other countries and nations in order to maintain their power. The result of these dictatorships is nothing but economic, political, social, and cultural backwardness. Therefore, political bodies should not only respect human values, civil rights, freedom, and democracy, but they should also support democratic movements and distance themselves from authoritarianism. This should be accepted as an inviolable and inalienable principle, whether the movement is in Bahrain or Syria, or any other place in the world.

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