Hamid Bayat, Iranian Ambassador to Denmark: No Military Solution to Syrian Crisis
Sept. 4—H.E. Hamid Bayat, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Denmark, gave the following interview to Tom Gillesberg, chairman of the Schiller Institute in Denmark, on Aug. 30, 2013. Bayat spoke in Farsi and Gillesberg in English, communicating through an interpreter. This is a transcript of the English questions and the answers as they were translated at the time. Gillesberg gave the ambassador a briefing on the work of the LaRouche movement on the war issue and economic policy, which aspects of his questions have been shortened for publication here. The video and audio files are available at the Schiller Institute website.
Gillesberg: We have seen a massive media campaign over the last couple of weeks, designed to say, "Right now we now have a totally changed situation in Syria. We have chemical warfare being introduced, by the regime; therefore, we have to have military action now."
What is your evaluation of the situation as it stands right now? What would be the consequence of a military attack from the U.S. side, with, or without, other allies taking part?
Ambassador Bayat: First of all, I would like to thank the Schiller Institute for the opportunity for this interview. I would also like to state the position of my country on the matter, and then, give an analysis of the latest situation, particularly in regards to Syria.
Right from the start of the events in Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran has insisted on a political solution to the crisis in Syria, and we have taken all steps, all efforts towards fulfilling this end, and we have supported any action within the framework of a political solution, including the missions of UN representatives Kofi Annan and then Lakhdar Brahimi. We supported both of these missions. We have also supported any international gatherings on the issue, to find a solution, and we have announced that we would be ready to participate.
Within this framework, we announced our support for the outcome of the Geneva I conference, and we announced that we would be ready to take part in Geneva II. But some countries, of course, tried to prevent Iran from taking part. They, of course, had prevented Iran from taking part in Geneva I, and they have tried to beat the same drum for Geneva II as well. We have emphasized all along, that the Syrian crisis has no military solution.
The Issue of Chemical Weapons
Regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran utterly condemns any use of chemical weapons, whoever the perpetrator; we condemn it, whoever that might be. This is because we speak from experience. Iran has been a victim of chemical bombs, and we have had more experience than the rest of the world about the sufferings that this can inflict on ordinary people.
Regarding the media propaganda that started a week ago, to actually lay the foundation for an attack on Syria, I would like to state as follows: The UN inspectors were on the ground in Syria, and there was talk of a military attack, even before they had concluded their work in there. This is questionable to us.
The next question that the international community needs to have an answer for, is that while there are international frameworks for dealing with problems like this, the UN, and so on, there are countries that want to rely on their military power, to do whatever they want to do, based on their own policies. They want to say that, just because we have the military power, we are the judge, we decide what military action is to be taken, and we have the power to take that action.
There are two issues here. It is now about 60 years after the formation of the UN and the Security Council. The world community will not allow the legitimacy of the UN to be undermined by unilateral actions, by whomever.
Just last week, American's own intelligence revealed that America had given support to Saddam Hussein for his chemical attacks against Iran. Now, how can the U.S. be an honest broker in this, and how can the U.S., which itself has supported the use of chemical weapons in the past, be the judge now to decide, and act unilaterally, and to be the world police in this, regarding issues of chemical attacks? In the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein attacked mainly Sardasht in Iran, and Halabja, on the border with Iraq, where was America then? Where was the American role then in defending victims of chemical attacks? It was quite clear at that time, that Saddam Hussein had been resorting to the use of chemical weapons all along.
Right now, there are ambiguities about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Every side is making its own claims. But the important point is this: Any action that has the consent of the international community must be supported, and has to have legal permission from the world community. Particularly in the last two decades, countries have taken action in the name of support for the people, whereas the actual intention behind those actions has not been as stated.
What we have been hearing about in the last few days, from the American quarter, and from the British side, about the events in Syria, preparing the public for action, is reminiscent of exactly what went on before the invasion of Iraq. Before they invaded Iraq, they were adamant that they had absolutely no doubt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. After so many years, the truth came out, and then they had to apologize; and of course, they came under heavy criticism, even from their own allies.
This experience has brought about the situation where a part of the world community is not supportive of the war drumbeat that is currently going on. Many European countries have opposed any unilateral actions, outside the UN umbrella; and, as you mentioned, just last night, the British Parliament, taking lessons from Iraq, voted down the request from the British government to take unilateral action in Syria.
Gillesberg: Which hadn't happened for, I think, many, many decades, that a British Parliament has gone against such a government policy.
Ambassador Bayat: Exactly. So any unilateral action, just based on the fact that one is powerful and determined to do it, is not acceptable to the world community. As I said, the world community does not accept that countries like America take unilateral actions just because they have the military might.
Let's now look into another aspect of the issue. What would be the goal of any military action, and what would be the repercussions, what would be the consequences?
What has happened in Syria? Following events in the countries of the Middle East, where people were demanding reforms, a part of the Syrian community was also demanding changes in their country. The perception came into being, that the same solution can be applied to different countries, disregarding the fact that every single one of them has its own characteristics, and they all require different solutions. We can never say that the situation in Tunisia is the same as in Libya, or the situation in Libya is the same as in Egypt, or Egypt is the same as Syria. You can't do that. And the developments that have taken place actually prove this point. It would be like saying that with one prescription, a doctor could cure all different kinds of patients. It's impossible.
In the case of Syria, without allowing for any possibility for change to be implemented, immediately the field went toward a military confrontation. Unfortunately, some countries in the region, and some countries outside the region, interfered by sending money, by sending weapons, and in recent months, by allowing their nationals to travel to the region, to join groups in their fighting, and this has brought about the current situation.
Gillesberg: You are, of course, referring to the fact that, as everybody knows, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been spending huge amounts of money in supporting the opposition, and sending weapons.
Ambassador Bayat: I don't want to name them, but unfortunately, it is the case that many countries have interfered, and what happened in Syria was that the situation turned into a destructive civil war. After the uprising, they immediately came up with this notion that within months or so, the Bashir al-Assad government would collapse. But the Army, and the majority of the Syrian people, remained steadfastly behind Bashar al-Assad. And on the other side, different groups, including al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, entered Syria, and the presence of these people has made the crisis in Syria very, very, complicated.
The most logical thing would be a political solution, where all different groups, all different parties, can attend, and hammer out a solution to end this very, very, destructive civil war. We have had discussions with a lot of countries on this, and even with some of the opposition. Some opposition groups accept that they have to negotiate with the Syrian government. But, unfortunately, pressure is brought to bear even on those groups to opt out of that, and to prefer the military solution. It has been proven that the continuation of the current status cannot lead to any solution.
And then the question arises: Will foreign military intervention, can military intervention from abroad, lead to an end to the situation?
To answer this we need to point out two factors: One is past experience. And the second is clear knowledge about the situation in Syria and the region. Regarding previous experience—the latest is Libya. Has Libya gone towards stability? We have to ask the Libyan people. The situation in the Middle East region, particularly in Syria, is very complex and very dangerous. Unfortunately, history shows that for many, many, years, this region has been very unstable.
One of the main concerns that we, and those who are interested in the stability in the region, have, is the growth of terrorist groups in the region.
And then, the second worrying thing is the foundation laid for clashes between ethnic and religious groups—the conflict between the Shi'as and the Sunnis, between the Christians and the Muslims, and all that, and this is a very, very, dangerous thing. It will definitely not be limited to the borders of Syria. Because of the interconnections between the region as a whole, from one country to the next, be it on the basis of religion, or ethnicity, this could immediately spread the violence to other countries.
Gillesberg: But it already has—in Lebanon, in Jordan, Turkey, even Turkey.
Ambassador Bayat: Exactly, Lebanon, the south of Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan.
So, if there is any kind of foreign military intervention, it cannot guarantee any stability in the region—on the contrary, it would only contribute to more instability, insecurity, and also clashes among various factions there.
Countries that have the interest of security and stability of the region and the world in mind, will definitely not support any military action in Syria. Only the extremists, only the warmongers, who actually see their own existence in instability, only those people will support such action.
We therefore believe that the U.S., and the President of the U.S., are now falling into a trap, and this trap has been laid by the extremists, by the warmongers, and so on.
Gillesberg: Tony Blair. We see the same grouping that was behind the first Iraq War . Many people say, "But that was the U.S. war." But it was actually Britain which paved the way, which rolled out the—
Ambassador Bayat: Red carpet.
Gillesberg: Yes, the red carpet, and said, "Please come, please come." We saw how there was this game of saying to Iraq, "Why don't you go in and settle your differences with Kuwait? We won't do anything. We'll be passive." And then people get lured into a war which they cannot really win.
And, for the U.S., and the situation in Iraq later, of course, is that there was the famous dossier that suddenly popped up, that Tony Blair presented, saying, "If we do not act now, then Iraq will have weapons of mass destruction," which, of course, was a blatant lie. And, of course, we're seeing the same game again. We know from our work in the U.S., that one of the reasons why what is being attempted now, had not worked earlier, is that the U.S. military has been very staunchly against military action. They have pointed to the fact that they had a disastrous war in Iraq, a disastrous war in Afghanistan, with nothing achieved. Everybody knows what a disaster Libya is. And, therefore, to go into another war, when you do not have an idea of what the outcome should be, you don't have an idea of what the solutions should be, would be utter madness.
But, again, the trap has been set, as you said, to get the U.S. to do that once again.
Ambassador Bayat: It's precisely for this reason, that officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran have warned against any military intervention there, and we have been adamant, that if anybody has the interest of the Syrian people at heart, if anybody wants to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, then they have to do their utmost to contribute to a political solution to the crisis.
To find a political solution for the Syrian crisis is not a difficult matter. Instead of encouraging the extremists, the terrorist groups, the various factions in Syria, and supplying them with things to go on fighting, instead, all efforts should be made to persuade them to come to the negotiating table. Based on that, we presented a plan, a very democratic plan, to put an end to the misery that the Syrian people are going through.
I think we have to allow the Syrian people to decide their own future, and others should not be allowed to decide for the people of Syria. Not the neighboring countries, not the people outside the region.
Unfortunately, we see that even when the talk of a political solution comes up, then the different countries are all jockeying for position, to have their own version of the story.
As I said, we are seriously requesting an end to the crisis in Syria, and the return of stability and peace to the region. We have done all we could, and we will continue to do what we can to this end. And we believe that this violence that is going on cannot bring about stability and peace for anybody. The only way to bring about peace and stability and security, is cooperation among nations of the international community. Iran, as the most stable country in the region, has announced all along, that we would help, we would do all we can to help bring about peace and stability to the region.
Gillesberg: In Denmark, the leading parties are saying: We cannot say no to the idea of not acting outside of the UN with military action, if there is no satisfactory proposal from the UN. Now, I think that a lot of the people are doing this from a standpoint of simply not understanding the fire they're playing with.
Do you have any idea, also from your knowledge of the whole region, of telling these people why this is such a terrible idea, not just in general terms, but also what could come out of it?
Ambassador Bayat: I would like to first point out, that fortunately, the people who are actually on a war footing are in the minority.
It is good to hear that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs here, and the Foreign Policy Committee, have said that we have to wait and see the outcome of the UN inspectors team.
As you said, the U.S., with a couple of others, might decide when to start a war, but they cannot decide when that war will end. As I said, any conflict, any military confrontation in that region, will not be limited to Syria alone. It can lead to further growth in extremism, further growth in terrorism. It can lead to more ethnic confrontation, and it can lead to more destruction of the infrastructure of Syria. As I've said, the experience from Iraq and Afghanistan shows us that this outcome is likely.
But the question now is, having gone through that experience, why is America bringing itself back to that same starting point again?
Gillesberg: There is a big fight in the U.S. on this. There is the faction that is allied with the Empire faction, with Tony Blair, with the Queen, for all that we know—as you say, with this faction on a war footing.
Mr. LaRouche's analysis is that this also has to be seen together with the fact that the trans-Atlantic financial system is in a huge crisis right now. He says there should be no military action; that instead of letting the financial crisis be used as an excuse for war, let it be the starting point for collaboration and economic development
Ambassador Bayat: One thing has to be borne in mind, is that when countries like U.S., and some of its allies, talk about the reasons behind the actions that they take, the reasons are not always what they state them to be. There are always hidden agendas. For example, one is, "supporting democracy." You know, America is continually talking about democracy for the people of Tunisia, or Egypt, but for 30-odd years, the dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak were ruling those countries, and they were American allies, and there was no talk of democracy, or the rights of the people under those regimes. This is a fact. And the developments in Egypt—I don't want to enter into that. That is a totally different chapter. The Americans tried very hard to prevent power going to the Islamists.
Gillesberg: Except for now, when the U.S. has been supporting the introduction of an Islamic government in Egypt, which has now been rejected by the population, very largely; or in Libya, where the U.S. supported the introduction of these fundamentalists. So you can say, what we have been seeing as a policy from the U.S., and some would say an insane, anti-American policy, is the U.S. putting exactly these people into power, who are totally opposed to the principles the U.S., itself was founded on, including those so-called rebels in Syria right now—al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, all of these groups that are totally opposed to the idea of democracy, to the idea of equality.
Ambassador Bayat: From an American perspective, some days you have good terrorists, and some days you have bad terrorists. If they are fighting alongside us and our allies, and in our interests, then they are good, but if they are fighting in places where people stand for their rights, then they are bad, and they are terrorists.
Gillesberg: And then there is the story that we have been documenting over the years, that all of these terrorists, like the mujahideen in Afghanistan, when they stop being used in Afghanistan, a lot of them went to London, where they were safe-housed, where they continued to act, and then they turned up in many other countries as terrorists, now trying to overthrow governments. And, to the present day, it's the same British-controlled networks—but you can also say that they are funded by Saudi Arabia. This whole network was there all the time, controlled by the gamemasters in the British Empire, playing one against the other—divide and conquer, these old imperial policies that were present in former empires, and then came to the British Empire, and are still being applied.
Ambassador Bayat: Just to confirm your point, the so-called MKO [The People's Mujahideen of Iran, or the Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organization], the Iranian terrorist group that sided with Saddam Hussein, has committed atrocities against the Iranian nation, and they have even killed Americans. At one point, they were on the American terrorist list. Then they went abroad. And because they now want to get back at Iran, and they want to use them against us, they were taken off the terrorist list, and now they are good guys.
A Prelude to Attack on Iran?
Gillesberg: Many say that the target is not really Syria, that it has nothing to do with Syria, but is preparation for a military attack on Iran. Many people in Britain, in the U.S., and Israel, say that this has to happen because Iran is potentially too strong.
What would you propose—also in terms of all the hype about possible Iranian nuclear weapons being used against Israel—what would you see as being a good way to de-escalate this whole thing, and reestablish the principle of collaboration among all of the different nations?
Ambassador Bayat: I don't want to judge the purpose of all this, but what I can say about the Iranian nuclear issue, is that the pressures that are on Iran, the sanctions, and all that, are really based on things that are nonexistent. Unfortunately, there are extremist groups, the warmongers, and particularly the Israeli regime, that are in there fighting and trying to bring pressure on various power centers to impose these sanctions, and to put pressure against Iran.
The Iranian nuclear issue has two sides to it. One is the political aspect, and the other is the technical aspect. On the technical side, there have been hours and hours of inspections from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]; there have been numerous reports from the Director General of the IAEA. In all of this, there has not been one iota of evidence of any deviation of the Iranian nuclear program for military purposes. All the accusations are based on probabilities, maybe's, might be's, and, unfortunately, creating concerns for the world community as well.
Both the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, and the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, have said that the new government's policy will be to emphasize a policy of moderation, trying to de-escalate tension, and to bring down the tempers. We want to have friendly and comprehensive relations with the world community. It's more than two and a half centuries now, that Iran has not attacked any of its neighbors. We have been a defender of peace and security in the region. We have been a leading advocate of a Middle East free of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.
Regarding the nuclear issue, we want to solve this at the first opportunity, as soon as possible. The solution, from our point of view, is very simple. If Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes is recognized, we are prepared to do anything to allay any international or legitimate concern about the program. If our interlocutors come into negotiations with good will, reaching a solution and an agreement is very, very, simple. We hope that this new drive from the new government will be met with good will from the other side. I can tell you this: If there is good will from the other side, a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem is very, very, easy and straightforward.
Gillesberg: Mr. Ambassador, is there anything else you would like to say to our viewers?
Ambassador Bayat: [in English] I would like to thank you very much, you and your colleagues in the Schiller Institute, and I hope that the cooperation between the embassy and your institute will continue. I think that one of the most [important] responsibilities for the research institute, The Schiller Institute, and others, is to explain the real situation to the people, because, unfortunately, we are living in an atmosphere where some mass media are trying to say something that is not true. And maybe sometimes the people, and the governments, make decisions based on the wrong information.
Thank you very much.