AMBASSADOR ALI REZA SHEIKH ATTAR:
The Global Consequences of
Instability in the Middle East
Ali Reza Sheikh Attar is the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Germany. He addressed the Schiller Institute conference on Nov. 24. The video of his presentation is at the Schiller Institute website.
In the name of God.
Ladies and Gentlemen: First of all, I should like to express my gratitude to the Schiller Institute for organizing this meeting, particularly to Mrs. LaRouche and her colleagues. Secondly, I should appreciate and admire the informative speech of Mrs. LaRouche, which exempted me from part of what I wanted to say, and I don't want to repeat all those things.
The topic of my speech is "The Global Consequences of Instability in the Middle East," which is in continuation of what Mrs. LaRouche mentioned.
Before going to the content of what I want to say, first of all, we should understand, what is the Middle East? According to the classical texts, the Middle East, briefly, is the Arab world plus Iran, and according to some categories, Turkey also is included in the Middle East. But nowadays, regarding what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the consequences of those groups who have been active and trained in that area, in the whole Middle East, I think we cannot exclude Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Middle East's importance is in a couple of areas. One is its geographical importance: The Middle East is a bridge connecting three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. And very important transit channels exist in the Middle East—maybe the most important in the world, like the Suez Canal, Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf, even Jebel al-Tariq [the Strait of Gibraltar], and Bab el-Mandab [the Mandab Strait]—these are very crucial for the world economy.
Another importance of the Middle East is its economic importance. Almost two-thirds of the energy which is exported to the civilized world is produced in, or passes through, the Middle East.
The cultural importance of the Middle East cannot be ignored: The Middle East is the cradle of civilization; the most important civilizations of human beings since thousands of years back, have been born in the Middle East, in Mesopotamia, in Iran, in various countries of the Middle East.
And last but not least, its political importance, because since the 20th Century, the most crucial crises, political crises all over the world, stemmed from the Middle East.
Causes of Instability
Now, after this brief introduction, I want to point out the root causes of instability in the Middle East; the global and regional consequences of the instabilities; double-standard behavior; and three important issues that in the Middle East are the concern of global intellectuals today: the Syrian crisis, the Gaza conflict, and the Iranian nuclear issue.
The Middle East is the origin of many religions and civilizations. All the Abrahamic religions are based on peace, and for centuries, followers of different religions have been living peacefully with each other in the Middle East. It is interesting for all of you to know that, during the Crusades, all Christians, Jews, and Muslims were together for defending Jerusalem, and from the invaders of those days from Europe. So, actually, the Crusades was not a religious war, because in the Middle East, all religions were defending their identity, their civilization, and their land.
Imperial Policy: Divide and Rule
I remember once I was in a meeting, and Samuel Huntington, who established this strange theory of the "Clash of Civilizations," was talking about clashes between Christianity and Judaism, according to him, the same category with Islam and Buddhism, etc. I raised my hand, and I told him, "Professor Huntington, why don't you mention that during the Crusades, Middle Eastern Jews and Christians were defending their land shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslims?" He responded to me very strangely. He said, "When we talk about Christianity, we mean Christians in the West." In other words, the Christians in the other parts of the world, maybe, are second-class Christians, or are not Christians! This is what he said—I'm quoting him.
Therefore, the original historical and cultural atmosphere of the Middle East is not competition with clashes and crisis, but competition with peace. But why did that not [continue]? The root causes of the current instabilities in the Middle East go back to the "divide and rule" policy followed by global powers in the region, particularly by the British, since the early 20th Century.
After World War I, one of the main goals of the Allied forces, particularly the British and the French, was the disintegration and vanishing of the Ottoman Empire. They had had their historical problems with them since the 16th Century, and after the Ottoman Empire became the "sick man of Europe," they availed themselves of the opportunity, and they believed that now is the time for taking revenge for all those inconveniences that they have had with the Ottoman Empire.
Therefore, just after World War I, they tried to plan new borders and artificial divisions in the Middle East. Of course, the memory of the Crusades, also, was very much effective in this decision. Sykes, the British expert, as well as Picot, the French one, in the early 1920s, drew up the new borders in the Middle East, which were completely artificial, and not according to historical realities. They created artificial countries! Iraq is one of them. As Mrs. LaRouche mentioned, Baghdad, a thousand years ago, was a glorious capital of culture all over the world, and particularly in the Muslim world; but Iraq, in the shape that we have it today, does not have that historical authenticity and originality. Turkey, as well; the Turkey that nowadays exists, when you go through the history, it was not like this. Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, even Saudi Arabia—all these borders were drawn artificially, with the aim of "divide and rule."
And this was the reason that various ethnicities, various minorities, were planted in all countries. So, the inter-ethnic problems were created in that part of the world. Kurd-Arab, Shi'a-Sunni, Druze-Sunni, Wahhabis and other Sunnis. And it seems that both of those men who drew these borders studied at the same school. Stalin, when he drew the borders of the republics of the ex-Soviet Union, did the same: He disintegrated Tajikistan and separated part of that, and gave it to Uzbekistan, and even today, there is conflict between these countries, or between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The Water Problem
And of course, these artificial borders, apart from ethnic problems, created another very important problem, whose importance, with the passage of time, is even more visible, which is the water problem. The rivers, which for hundreds of thousands of years were irrigating the lands in the Middle East without any problem, were divided among various countries. And now you see, what is the root problem between Syria and Turkey, Iraq and Turkey? It is the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Creation of Israel
Another root of instability in the Middle East, is the creation of Israel, and providing unconditional support for that. Well, they tried to make an ideological reason for the creation of Israel. This is not an appropriate time and place for having this historical argument, and I think it has been discussed enough, even among the Jews themselves, that Israel was not the land of the Jews which had been promised by the Prophet Moses.
The creation of Israel was by Balfour's Declaration—he was then, in 1917, the British Foreign Minister. And they encouraged the Jews of Eastern Europe—interestingly, not Western Europe, because the Jews in Western Europe had a good economic condition, whereas the Jews in Eastern Europe could cause problems for them, and for all of Western Europe, particularly after the creation of Communism. They encouraged the Jews of Eastern Europe to go to the Middle East, and their immigration was not in a natural way. In the first days, it was only by purchasing the lands, but after creating a community, then the clashes between that community and the original inhabitants of that area started. And, from that time, which was the mid-1920s up to now, about 90 years, these clashes have intensified day by day.
Another root is the support for corrupt and inefficient dictatorships in the Middle East. The Middle East and Iran is one of the oldest birthplaces of democracy. In 1905, there was a constitutional revolution in Iran, and Iran's monarchy changed to a constitutional monarchy. But it was not repeated in other places; even in Turkey, it was something different.
In the Middle East, almost all countries were under dictatorship, and although in the West they claim that opposing dictatorship is their basic principle, this principle was not valid in the Middle East, and the best allies of the West, in the Middle East, were the most dictatorial. Now that is completely clear for everybody. And the Western powers, for a while British, and then Americans, and of course, the French, did their best to oppose the voices of democracy and independence, in the whole Middle East. If you go through contemporary history, you can find a lot of instances of that.
Even the Soviet Union, which wanted to have a rivalry with the West, and wanted also to have a presence in the Middle East, supported dictators, and did not support any democracy. Interestingly, they supported those regimes who had massacred Communist Party members in their countries, like Iraq and Syria. They supported the Ba'ath Party. The Ba'ath Party is a party with a specific ideology, but, supported by Westerners, the architect of Ba'ath was Michel Aflaq, a Christian Syrian who studied in France, and the Ba'ath Party always was supported by both the Soviet Union and Westerners. It's a real irony.
Control of Natural Resources
Another root is intervention and occupation to control natural resources, because, as I said, the majority of oil production in the world is in the Middle East. The Middle East is like the heart of the body, pumping blood, and the Middle East is pumping fuel to the economy. And for the Western countries, having control over natural resources and energy resources in the Middle East was very crucial.
The first movement against this control was in Iran. In 1951, Dr. Mossadegh's government, a completely democratically elected government, came to power, and nationalized the Iranian oil industry. And after two years, with the help of the British and Americans, in a military coup—not in an election—he was toppled and he was jailed. And many of his followers were jailed and killed. Of course, Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State of the United States a few years back, said in one of her speeches, "Yes, we are very sorry about that."
And there were many other instances. One was supporting the Iraqi war against Iran. Saddam Hussein was provoked by the Americans, and now it is revealed that President Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East, Donald Rumsfeld, who became Secretary of Defense during the junior Bush Administration, went to Iraq, he met Saddam Hussein, and now, all the documents have been revealed, even in a film. And unfortunately, even in a country like Germany, this country, companies were supporting Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons technology. And it was Saddam Hussein who used chemical weapons against Iran, for the first time since World War I, which caused 100,000 casualties, and now the majority of them are having different types of cancers, and they are dying day by day, after 20 years.
The second recent instance was the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, in the 21st Century. Mme. LaRouche mentioned some reasons for that; I don't need to repeat it. But now, it is quite obvious to everybody that it was by fraudulent documentation, to start a fight against them, either because of Sept. 11, or because of alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And this tragedy happened, which caused about 1 million casualties of indigenous and local people. Mme. LaRouche mentioned the casualties among Americans; I don't want to repeat it. But 1 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan were killed, directly or indirectly, because of sanctions, because of weapons, because of radioactive weapons, weak radioactive weapons which the United States used against them, and because of many reasons.
Support for Separatists
The other root cause is supporting of sectarian and separatist groups. I mentioned the artificial borders: Ethnic groups were parceled together, and these ethnic problems were provoked, and were fueled. Supporting extremist groups: As an example, the British were very helpful and supporters of the creation of Wahhabism or Salafism, in the 19th Century. Many documents have been published, including the book by Mr. Humphrey, a British diplomat, on how he encouraged Abdul Wahhab, and how he helped him to create a new faction in Islam, an extremist faction; and even now, after more than a century and a half, we are having problems with Salafism and al-Qaeda, due to this origin.
Supporting separatist groups in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, etc., like the Kurds, Arabs, Balochs. Again, it is not a hidden issue, that, for instance, the leaders of separatist Kurdish groups, in Turkey or Iran, like the PKK, are living peacefully here in Germany. And whenever there is any terrorist operation in Iran or in Turkey, those leaders who are living here in Germany say, "Yes, this happened." And no one asks them why this happened, who are you, what are the links between them? I hope for once that the Verfassungsschutz will focus their efforts on these types of conspiracies.
Recently there was the creation of the concept of a "Shi'a crescent," a new manifestation of divide and rule, to abuse religious differences. You recall a few years back, King Abdullah of Jordan said, "Look this is a big danger, that Shi'a who are living from Lebanon to Syria, Iraq, part of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Bahrain, Pakistan, Afghanistan—this is like a crescent, and this crescent is the real cause of instability and war in the region"! This was the first time that he mentioned this. Ironically, King Abdullah's ancestors were Shi'a.
This view was supported by Saudi Arabia. Although Saudi Arabia apparently had warm diplomatic relations with Iran, the largest Shi'a country; but in cases in which we could have agreed very easily, like the Lebanon civil war, or the Iraq civil war, they, due to this phobia—I call it a phobia, a phobia of the "Shi'a crescent"—they refrained from any kind of reconciliation. And you see what is now the situation in the region.
A Double Standard
One of the most important reasons for the instability of the Middle East is the double standard of the West. Well, the values are the same! When you believe that democracy or human rights is a value, this is not confined to certain countries. Human rights, in every country, should be a value, should be respected, and violation against that should be protested. Beheading of those who have been accused of criminal activities, or cutting off their hands, according to Western norms, definitely is against human rights, is against this value. But the best ally of the West in our region is beheading people, of course—I don't recommend you look at this Twitter episode. This was a film about an [Indonesian] woman, who was a maid in Saudi Arabia, working for a Saudi family. It was alleged that she had killed her master; she was beheaded in one of the city squares, and a helicopter took her head, flew around the city to show it to the people to teach a lesson. It was on Twitter! And no one in any Western country said a single word!
This is a double standard.
But when someone in a country which is not in agreement with the West is taken to jail, all the human rights centers allege many things, right or wrong.
Democracy is a universal value. Everybody likes democracy. Even Islam is completely in accordance with democracy. But, ironically, we see that the money of countries who have not even tasted democracy, and never let democracy rise in their country, are paying money for the opposition in Syria, for "protection of democracy," and this money is paid on the instruction of Western countries, who allege and claim that they want democracy to prevail in Syria. It is really a joke.
Once, in one of the conferences like this, I mentioned that in the 21st Century, we are witnessing two very, very funny jokes: One is that Israel, with 300 nuclear warheads, is concerned about the nuclear activity of Iran, which doesn't even have one small weapon, and no one has claimed that it does! And secondly, that countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are paying a lot of money and supporting the opposition in a country like Syria, for establishing democracy! These are real funny jokes.
These are instances and examples of a double standard. In Bahrain, when the majority rises up and protests against dictatorship and discrimination by their government, and then the Saudis come, with their troops and armored brigades, and settle down in that tiny country, no one protests! No one protests. Rather, they are supported. Even though the Bahraini opposition doesn't have permission for demonstrations, for conferences.
In Gaza, you recall what happened in recent weeks: The Israelis were suspicious that there are some—as they call them—terrorist groups, or resistance groups, in Gaza. They bombarded some houses, some children were killed. Gaza and Hamas responded by firing some rockets. Then [the Israelis] bombarded more and more—who were the casualties of the bombardments? The militants? No. Children, women, old men, non-militants! They even bombarded a tall building which could not be miscalculated, which was the mass media building, and the journalists were there. And no one accused them! Rather, here in the West, they said that this is the "right of the Israelis to defend their security." But, is this right exclusively for Israel? The Palestinians do not have any right for maintaining their security?
What is happening in Syria, now, is an example of the double standard. Supporting and arming of extremist groups, of which most of them are foreigners. You know, right now, according to authentic documents, more than 5,000 mercenaries, foreign mercenaries, are fighting inside Syria, under the brand of al-Qaeda or jihadists, because jihadists are to some extent different from al-Qaeda. And they are armed and supported financially by those countries which I mentioned, and by Westerners. In that case, jihadism or al-Qaedaism is not bad—[they think] it should be admired! But, in the United States, or in Europe, anyone who has a long beard should be arrested, because he's suspected of being al-Qaeda.
Of course, I don't want to defend long beards; my beard is not long! And I don't even want to defend those who have been arrested; I don't want to have any intervention in this regard. But I'm talking about double standards.
These are the root causes of the problems in the Middle East.
Now, what are the consequences of the "divide and rule" strategy? An accumulation of regional conflicts, most of past conflicts created by colonial powers since World War II, have not been yet resolved, and new ones have been created, like the Palestinian conflict, Lebanese conflict, Kurdish crisis, Afghanistan civil war, and now the Syrian civil war, Pakistani instability, the Yemeni situation. This is the accumulation of crises.
Secondly, long-term rule of corrupt dictatorships. Global powers support dictatorships to keep their interests, and this is a real shame. Everybody remembers that Hosni Mubarak, up to the last days that there were even small hopes for his maintaining power, was supported by the United States administration, and even by Europeans.
Another consequence is an accumulation of social, political, and economic problems. Mrs. LaRouche mentioned some figures, but there are more, about the poverty, illiteracy, and social backwardness in the Middle East. One can compare Afghanistan. Even in Saudi Arabia, which is a very rich country, there are the differences between classes. In Yemen, which is a very poor country; in Egypt.
The loss of life of millions of people, in internal and regional conflicts: As I told you, in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1 million people approximately, have lost their lives. Apart from them, are the injuries, disabilities, etc.
Billions of dollars spent by the region and the West.
And why this deep frustration? This frustration is a really dangerous phenomenon; according to the sociological and psychological experts' views, the major reason for extremism and the joining of the young generation to extremist groups, is frustration, is being hopeless, losing hope for the future. And this is a reality which is happening there. Why, in Libya, which was ruled by a very strong dictator like Qaddafi, do you now see that al-Qaeda and extremism are getting power? What happened to the American ambassador? Or what happened to the Iranian doctors? Seven Iranian medical doctors, who were there to help poor people in Libya after those internal conflicts, were taken hostage by pro-al-Qaeda groups. Well, of course, due to the empire of the mass media, the taking hostage of Iranian doctors was not reported by the mass media. It was censored!
Why is it happening in Libya? Who could imagine that in Libya, which is not a poor country, extremism is created and is growing? This is because of the frustration of the young generation. They were frustrated during the Qaddafi regime; they were more frustrated after his collapse, and after the invasion of the Westerners there.
Another consequence of this, is that in recent years, the unipolar system, which was invented by Blair and Bush after the collapse of the Soviet Union—this theory has been defeated. It's not acceptable any more, and emerging powers are coming to the scene. One of them is Russia itself; the other one is China; of course, there are others, like India. These emerging powers are not only economic powers. Rather, they want their share in the political arena, in the political scene. You see what has happened in the United Nations regarding Syria. I'm sure neither the Russians nor the Chinese are lovers of Syrians, nor are they lovers of Bashar Assad. But they have defined new interests for themselves, and this is another consequence: that emerging powers, by definition of new interests for themselves, may intensify the conflicts.
Coming to the Syrian conflict: The Syrian conflict is supported by two groups. Old colonial powers, namely the U.K. and France, and United States. And the original sectarian and ambitious allies: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, who are sectarians, and Turkey, which is an ambitious emerging power. The sectarian countries have that phobia of the "Shi'a crescent," that the whole Syrian government, the Syrian regime is Alawite, it is a friend of Iran, and should be toppled. Their concern is not democracy, because there was much more democracy in Syria than in Egypt or Yemen.
Turkey is an emerging power which has many ambitions; and they have in their mind an Ottoman Empire. They want to resume their regional influences.
The Syrian conflict destabilized the whole region: Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. And don't forget that, by destabilizing these countries, the first region which will be affected is Europe. You can imagine what may happen in Turkey, after the destabilization of Syria. Turkish-Kurdish conflicts, which go back decades, and even now, the Turkish Army is involved in that. Can you imagine what, God forbid, if a civil war happens inside Turkey, will be its effects in Europe?
The extremism conflicts, in Egypt, in Libya, in North Africa, will be intensified, after they get victory in Syria. Can you imagine what will happen if the Afghanistan scenario is repeated? You see the Afghanistan and Pakistan situation nowadays. Pakistan, a supporter of Taliban extremist groups, is now a victim of Taliban! You see what is the situation in Pakistan.
Jordan, which, as most analysts say, might be the first victim of this instability, because the system in Jordan is not a democratic system; people are frustrated, and meanwhile, the extremist groups have their roots there; Palestinians are there. You can imagine what will happen in Jordan.
Saudi Arabia: the discrimination and conflicts between Shi'a and Sunnis in Saudi Arabia, and opposing the Shi'a movements in the oil-rich, eastern part of Saudi Arabia.
Terrorist groups that are trained in Syria then will expand to the whole world, especially to Europe.
Iran's Nuclear Power
Another issue, as an example of a regional crisis, is the Iranian nuclear issue. I don't want to go into details, I don't have enough time, I will only point out some of the issues: The root cause of the nuclear problem between Iran and the West goes back to the double standard. Before the creation of the Islamic Republic in Iran, it was the United States who advised and recommended to Iran to have nuclear power plants—not 1, but 20! This plan was composed under Gerald Ford's Presidency. And according to the advisors of the Americans, German companies started the first project in Bushehr; and the second was started by French companies in Khuzestan, near the border with Iraq. Immediately after the Islamic Republic was formed, and the Shah's dictatorial regime toppled by the people's uprising, all these projects were stopped.
Now, if you go to the files, even from those days, enrichment was a part of that project. I think even a small child can ask this question: Why is atomic energy, nuclear activity, legal, logical, and a part of development for a dictatorial regime, but it is illegal, dangerous, causes security problems for a democratically elected government? The Bushehr project was almost 85% completed by German companies, and they relinquished it.
Iran's nuclear policy is based on our belief system, which is Islam. And, these bases are, first, justice. We want to benefit from our rights, according to the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]; we are among the first signatories to the NPT in 1968.
Second, is resistance against discrimination: We are defending our rights and resisting pressures.
Thirdly, equality. Peaceful nuclear technology for all, and nuclear weapons for no one, without discrimination.
These are our beliefs and the ideological aspects which form the nuclear policy of Iran, and several times we have mentioned that we are ready for any type of legal control, but not discriminatory. Enrichment is a part of the NPT! We cannot understand why Brazil can have enrichment and Iran cannot.
Conclusion: A New Paradigm
Due to the topic of this conference, which is about a "new paradigm," along with what Mme. LaRouche said, I want to use different wording for the same concept, "new paradigm."
This new paradigm can be established by, first, justice. Justice is one of the five principles of our belief system: Believing in God and His unity; believing in prophecy, and the Prophet Mohammed. Believing in the afterlife; believing in leadership of Imam; and justice. Justice is like God's uniqueness.
Secondly, belief in peace and justice for all political, religious, and ethnic groups in the region. If the new paradigm is based on this, it can be successful. There should not be any discrimination regarding justice, human rights, democracy, development, among religious, ethnic groups, and different countries.
The values are human values; they are not "Western" values; they are not ethnic values; they are not national values: These are human values, and there should not be any discrimination on that.
In Iran, we have had had a good example of peaceful living of different ethnic, religious, and political groups, for centuries. We have never had religious fights in Iran, like what was here in Europe, in the Thirty Years War, etc. Even nowadays, although we have very tiny religious minorities—we have about 300,000 Christians, about 25,000 Jews, and about 20,000 Zoroastrians. The Christians have three members of Parliament. I should tell you that in Egypt, although there are many more Christians than in Iran, they do not have even one member of Parliament. Why? Because they do not have a quota. The religious minorities in Egypt are a minority everywhere, so when they go to the ballot boxes, definitely non-religious candidates get their vote.
In Iran, these religious minorities have a quota, much more than Muslims. Because, according to our law, every 300,000 Iranians have one member of Parliament, as a representative; but the Christians, with about 300,000, have three; Jews, with 25,000, have one; Zoroastrians, with 20,000, have one.
A good example of the peaceful living of Jews and Muslims in Iran is a charity hospital which belongs to Jews in Tehran. It totally belongs to Jews, but usually Jews are rich people, so they don't need to go to the charity hospitals, and this hospital is in a poor area in the south of Tehran. One hundred percent of the patients who go to this charity hospital are Muslims, and almost all of the doctors are Jews. And the chairperson of that charity is the Jewish member of Parliament, who was in Germany a few months back; he asked for an appointment with the Jewish Council, Mr. Graumann, but they refused to give him this appointment.
So this is life in Iran. All tourists who go to Iran can see the situation of the churches. We have never had any religious conflicts in Iran!
Bombardment of peace, and imposing peace by drones, cannot last, will not last. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, it has been proven that it is not successful. Syrian destiny should be decided by the Syrian people, in a democratic way. The system of government cannot be imposed. When we say "people," we don't say that government or regime, we say people, and there are various mechanisms, and even the possibility of international observation of that. Foreign interventions have never led to peace and democracy, and are contrary to that end.
Islamic awakening is a reality. The West suffers in legitimacy and credibility because of past and current policies—it cannot be denied. Look at the results of the votes in those countries that have had this so-called Arab Spring, which was actually an Islamic awakening. All the people in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also should benefit from equal rights and dignity. Look at the rights of Shi'as and how they are forbidden from holding posts there.
The EU is the main loser from instabilities in its neighborhood—I mean, the Middle East. Instabilities will spill over to the EU, through immigration and terrorism.
We live in a multipolar global system, and continuation of regional instabilities benefits emerging powers.
Before wrapping up my speech, once again, I want to point to couple of points that Mrs. LaRouche mentioned, regarding these water projects. I should clarify that there is a huge project in Iran, and a task force now is working on that, and even the feasibility study has been done for connecting the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.
You know, Iran, unlike the Arab countries, is not a desert country. Only one-third, almost 35%, of Iran's area is desert. These deserts are in the center and southeast part of Iran, which, if a canal can be built from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, the flowing of the water, the humidity, and all those consequences will cause a green area there. And this project is confirmed by Iran, and now they are doing its engineering details.
Another project is transferring of Tajikistan's water—because we know that Tajikistan, in Central Asia, has a huge source of water—transferring water via Afghanistan to the northeast of Iran, which is a very huge agricultural and tourist area. In the northeast of Iran, we have a very important city, Mashhad. Mashhad is a pilgrimage area: Every year, 20 million pilgrims go to Mashhad; and definitely, they need water, they need fruits, they need food. And this is a tripartite project among Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.
The connection of a railway in Iran is a priority. Now Iran is completely connecting the Persian Gulf to Central Asia by two railroads, not one; Pakistan is connected to our network, and our network was connected to Turkey's network, and to Europe, already. The Iraq connection project is almost complete, and Iran, due to its geographical, geopolitical situation, benefits from this transit situation.
You mentioned the development of areas which are in crisis: I can give you a good example, Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, we have spent a lot for development of the border area of Afghanistan with Iran, which is called Herat. Now, everybody who has gone to Afghanistan says that it seems that Herat is a different area, or a different country from Afghanistan, because in Herat, they have asphalt roads, highways; they have enough electricity; they have small-scale industry, all of which has been established with the help of Iran.
Thank you very much.
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