Iran Daily | Ali Shamkhani: On March 9, 2011, I met and held talks with Catherine Ashton, the former EU foreign policy chief and a senior nuclear negotiator, who had travelled to [the Iranian capital of] Tehran.
The meeting was held at a time when the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 were subject to many ups and downs and surrounded by considerable internal and external controversies. Iran and the six world powers had not yet reached the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Concurrent with the continuation of the talks, Iran’s frozen assets [in foreign banks] were being released in $400-billion installments based on the initial agreements between the two sides.
All of these took place at a time when the incumbent Iranian government had begun to implement its first food security plan by doling out goods basket to the needy. Due to a lack of order and harmony in carrying out the plan, people had lined up in long queues at the entrance of stores in Iranian cities which had given rise to bitter controversies at the time.
In that period of time, Wendy Sherman, a senior American negotiator who led an important part of the the US team’s psychological media operations in nuclear talks, said in an interview that upon receiving the first $400 million, the Iranian government distributed food baskets among the army of its famine-stricken people. Her remarks, made on the pretext of the payment of the first installment of the frozen assets to Iran, came as Tehran had not yet received any money.
The unfolding of these events constituted a major part of my comprehensive talks with Ashton, the contents of which was my main motive for writing this piece of opinion.
At the beginning of the meeting, I asked Ashton whether during her stay in Iran and in her limited visits to the Iranian streets she had found any trace of the hungry people army, at a time when the Nowruz celebration, marking the beginning of the Iranian year (this year started March 21, 2017), was approaching and people had enthusiastically and dynamically flocked to stores to do their shopping for the New Year.
I asked her whether what she had seen in Iranian streets and cities was anything similar to the scenes broadcast by Western media of the living conditions of the North Korean people.
At seeing her inevitably wearing a [mirthless] smile, I brought up the fake remarks made by Sherman aimed at showing that Iran, due to its unfavorable internal condition, had been forced to enter into negotiations with the West. I informed Ashton of the main reason for Iran consenting to holding talks with the P5+1.
The truth was that the West had to acquiesce to holding negotiations with Iran over the powerful country’s [peaceful] nuclear program because of the following reasons:
1 – The tough sanctions imposed by the West against Iran had failed to produce the desired results and taking military actions against the Middle Eastern state was almost impossible.
2 – After more than three years since Sherman’s remarks, a week prior to my meeting with Ashton, she had admitted that the nuclear knowledge could not be eliminated through bombing. Moreover, she had added, although taking military actions [against the country] could lead to the destruction of its nuclear facilities, Iranians could reconstruct them and resume their nuclear program secretly and under the ground within two years.
She had said even the imposition of sanctions fails to prevent the country from developing its nuclear program, adding, “Before we entered into negotiations with Iran, Europeans had been in talks with the country. At that time, Iran had only a couple of hundred centrifuges. This was while, when we were negotiating with them, the number of their centrifuges increased to 19,000.”
3 – It is an unavoidable strategy to rely on indigenous and national capacities to empower the country, force the enemy to retreat and prevent it from exploiting the country’s national interests.
The national capability is the combination of soft and hard powers which should be smartly used to serve the national security and interests.
Despite external pressures and threats as well as the imposition of the sanctions, Iran made a wise decision to continue with its peaceful nuclear program. The entire case turned into one of the most unprecedented arenas of confrontation between Iran and the [West’s] imperialism. The enemy was forced to acquiesce to entering into negotiations with Iran and accept Iran’s main preconditions (the continuation of the country’s uranium enrichment and recognizing its right to conduct the activity, the resumption of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program and removal of the sanctions) as its sole alternative, as the country adopted the strategy to rely on its indigenous capabilities and empower itself using its domestic capacities (people’s maximum turnout in elections, helping the Establishment win legitimacy and popularity and improving the internal consistency) as well as foreign policy (adopting wise and prudent regional policies, creating real coalitions to ensure the security of the region while maintaining the national independence and playing an active role in international and diplomatic arenas). This was because other alternatives such as imposing sanctions and carrying out a military attack against Iran had pragmatically proved futile as the enemy was aware of Iran’s power (soft and hard) and capabilities.
4 – This bumpy path which was full of ups and downs forced the enemy to go through an experience in which the language of threat and sanctions had failed to derail Iran from its path to championing its lawful rights. The lessons Iran can learn from this trend can turn into a criterion based on which the country can make its future decisions and make a distinction between the correct and incorrect paths. In the absence of determination and efforts to empower Iran and increase domestic capabilities, the protection of the country’s lawful rights and safeguarding national interests would be nothing but a mirage. Iran can establish its absolute authority and take long strides in the path to sustainable development only by strengthening its internal solidarity, fostering national unity and making optimum use of the indigenous capacities to expand national capabilities in political, social, economic, defense and security arenas.
5 – The new businesslike US administration, through a speculative approach, tries to once again test its previous failed policy by imposing sanctions. Although some argue that the new approach is mainly a propaganda ploy to extort the wealth of the regional countries or intimidate the European politicians, given the psychological and practical impacts of such measures on full implementation of commitments by Iran as stipulated during the nuclear negotiations, the implementation of the guidelines of the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in his recent meetings titled “JCPOA sensitivities” is quite inevitable and helpful. His suggestion of confronting any excessive demand by the United States, including those mentioned in the new sanctions by the US Senate – which are under discussion – has no alternative and must be implemented through great domestic capacities, activation of Resistance Economy and immediate solution of the problems of production and employment. Without any doubt, putting this stage behind successfully will consolidate the infrastructure of national power and the inner construct of the political system as the only option in effective confrontation with the enemy.
6 – Undoubtedly, any remark, action, idea or move by the individuals, incumbents of official positions and platforms against the realization of the abovementioned indices is tantamount to giving wrong address to the enemy and will serve as deterrents against the national will to surmount the difficulties and achieve the summits of progress, honor and dignity, which are the demands of the Leader of Islamic Revolution.
Admiral Ali Shamkhani is the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and Leader’s Representative