Seyed Hossein Mousavian has some advice to those who are critical of proposed Iran nuclear deal: “Be realistic.”
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the full name of the recent Iran nuclear deal between the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and Iran, calls for a reduction of Iran’s uranium stockpiles in exchange for relief from nuclear-related sanctions. Mousavian, a former diplomat and Iranian nuclear negotiator who was born in Iran and has studied in both the U.S. and Great Britain, said it will stabilize the region and create a pathway for peace between Iran and the West. Western critics, he believes, are often too biased against Iran and the Middle East to fully understand why.
Mousavian will address the JCPA, Iran-U.S. relations and the country’s role in the Middle East at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture today in the Amphitheater. His son, Mohammad, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Emad Kiyaei, the executive director of the American Iranian Council, will join him onstage and ask him questions.
“The JCPA is perhaps the first time the U.S. and Iran have engaged in high-level, direct talks,” Mousavian said. “And it has resulted in a major breakthrough to resolve one of the most important international security issues, the nuclear Iran case, through diplomacy and negotiation.”
Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the U.S. has imposed heavy sanctions against Iran, and in 2006, the U.N. Security Council also imposed sanctions on the country after it refused to end its uranium enrichment program.
These sanctions have negatively impacted Iran’s economy, hurting civilians in addition to the Iranian government. But Mousavian believes the sanctions also led Iran to multiply its uranium enrichment production because the economic harm they caused made the country desperate for domestic energy from nuclear sources.
“The sanctions have been completely unproductive because they pushed Iran to increase its nuclear capacity program,” he said.
Opponents have argued that lifting sanctions could lead Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and subsequently attack Israel. Mousavian, however, thinks this opposition is uncalled for.
“Iran is a member of [the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons], and Israel has never been ready to accept NPT,” he said. “Iran does not have a nuclear bomb, and Israel has 400 nuclear bombs — the only country in the Middle East to have nuclear bombs.”
He said Iran has provided more than 7,000 maps of its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which no other member of NPT has done. Israel, he said, has not allowed for even one inspection of its nuclear facilities.
“For Israel to be the police of non-proliferation in the Middle East is a joke,” he said. “Israel [and its supporters] have to accept this reality. Otherwise they will lose their credibility.”
Mousavian said Iran could build a nuclear weapon if it wanted to based on its ability to master uranium enrichment for energy purposes, but religious conviction prevents it. Iran is the only Muslim country to have issued a fatwa, or a formal ruling based on Islamic law, condemning all weapons of mass destruction.
“All religious leaders from Tehran have confirmed the fatwa to a religious degree,” he said. “During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran, killing an indirect 100,000 Iranians. Unfortunately, the U.S. and the West supported Saddam. However, Iran did not retaliate against chemical weapons with chemical weapons because of this religious belief, because of fatwa.”
Ultimately Mousavian believes understanding the motivations and grievances of all parties is key to resolving tensions and establishing peace in the Middle East.
“When I read literature from the West, they are all one-sided, only talking about the Western point of view,” he said. “We must understand why Iranians cannot trust the West and the U.S. and why the West cannot trust Iran. The mistrust is mutual.”
Furthermore, he said, it is imperative that the U.S. improve its relations with Iran in order to address growing threats in the Middle East, such as the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations that Mousavian believes have gained momentum since the Arab Spring.
“No one can deny the role of the U.S. as a major international power,” he said. “And everyone now accepts the role of Iran in the region as the regional power. Therefore, it would be great if the regional power and the world power could fit together, negotiate and cooperate on resolving the crises in the region.”