Fathollahi: ‘Iran is more influential than the US in Iraq, Afghanistan’
Iranian Ambassador to Ankara Bahman Hosseinpour held a meeting with the participation of Turkish think tanks in Ankara on the morning of Oct. 7. The meeting was also attended by Islamic Republic of Iran Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Oceania Mohammad Ali Fathollahi, Chairman of the ministry’s Turkey desk Jalaladdin Nemini and Ahmad Nurani, chief of the same desk.
Fathollahi is in Ankara for the first time. In a small and closed setting, he communicated his and Iranian views on the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring, saying: “Our world has been changing rapidly. Some new powers are emerging. Some old powers are changing their positions and we have to be aware of our position. What will the position of Turkey and Iran be in this changing world? Rapprochement between different sects is a serious way for the region to make progress. There is no significant distinction between sects in Islam. However, there are attempts to ignite a sectarian war. Sectarian conflicts are initiated through external provocations. Iran, Iraq and Syria can secure rapprochement despite sectarian differences. We are ready to cooperate on this matter. Israel is the biggest problem in the region. Israel is provoking sectarian clashes. The Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah cooperate only when they fight Israel. Standing against the enemies of Islam unites us. Otherwise, small problems create big differences. Exaggerating the sectarian differences is an American plan. We have survived for three decades without America. It is possible to survive without the American umbrella. The impact of Hamas and Hezbollah resistance against America on the Arab world is huge. The real war is the war of ideas. Destroying the views and ideas of the US is more powerful and influential than missiles. The US fought Saddam in Iraq; it invaded Iraq. But is Iran or the US more influential in Iraq right now? And this is the case despite the fact that the US military is still in that country. Today, Iraqi authorities feel closer to Iran. And Iranian influence and impact is also great in Afghanistan. It is impossible to pursue a policy in Afghanistan without asking Iraq.”
Why are we supporting Syria?
“We do not have a common sect with Syria. We do not perceive the Alawites as Shiites. Alawism has not made up its mind as to whether it is closer to Shiism or Sunnism. The Lebanese Hezbollah, on the other hand, is clearly Shiite. We support the Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah, as well. If a Shiite organization supports the US, we strongly oppose it. If it is against the senior dictators who support the US, we support the Arab Spring. However, if the developments serve the interests of Israel and the US, we remain indifferent. Did the US not support Hosni Mubarak for 30 years? Mubarak was a CIA spy. We do not believe that the US is supporting the democratization of the nations. Its only goal is to protect Israel. We support the change of the Arab Spring because it is against Israel. There are ethnic and historical problems in Syria. However, our Syrian approach underlines that Syria should benefit from the change Israel is undergoing,” Fathollahi continued.
When it comes to Syria, Hosseinpour also made a statement: “There is no sectarian affinity between Iran and Syria. It is preposterous to argue that there is. It is a conspiracy. In terms of Alawism, the Alawite population in Turkey is larger than the Alawite population in Syria. Shiism has a different philosophy. According to Shiism, the state is ruled by walayat-i faqih (the guardianship of the wise and prudent), as in Iran. Is there such a thing in Syria? The Lebanese Hezbollah openly accepts this method of rule. Traditionally, Syria has been in cooperation with the Soviet Union. The Russian Federation supports Syria in the UN Security Council. Up until recently, Turkish-Syrian ties were better than Iranian-Syrian relations. There was strategic cooperation between Turkey and Syria. There has never been such cooperation between Iran and Syria. There were media reports indicating that Turkey would be serving as mediator in Syrian-Israeli talks. We never meddled in this issue. Syria is a big military power in the region and it has close relations with the Russian Federation. It is important for us to maintain dialogue with the Lebanese Hezbollah through Syria. Turkey holds the Syrian markets. Was Turkey supporting Syria because of sectarian affinity? For some reasons, Syria recently moved away from Turkey. However, Iran preserves its former attitude and approach. We have to inform the public properly and accurately. What matters in the world of politics is to exchange views. Recently, we have had many secret and public meetings in Iran and Turkey. We have to be in dialogue with our neighbors if we are friendly and sincere.”
Tehran’s perspective on Arab Spring
Speaking on the Arab Spring, Fathollahi said: “The reason I am in Ankara is to maintain political cooperation between Turkey and Iran. Turkey and Brazil mediated for fuel exchange for Iran. Our foreign ministers and prime ministers met in New York. There are some disagreements between the two countries, but we can deal with that through meetings and dialogue. We want to add an Islamic revolution to the Arab Spring, whereas the US is trying to insert its worldview. We will see within a few years which politics or worldview will influence the Arab Spring. Whoever works harder will be more influential. We want to make sure that the Arab Spring becomes a missile against Israel and the US. The Arab Spring is not something that the US did. It took place because the people wanted it. Now the US is trying to benefit from the Arab Spring. Maybe the Arab Spring will result in the elimination of Israel and maybe it will be concluded in line with the desires of the US. The US is trying to manipulate the popular uprisings and make sure that the Arab Spring does not turn against Israel. However, it will be hard for the US to succeed. The Arab Spring will reveal the power of the Arab people: They will not align with Israel.”