Friday, December 12, 2014

Index : English & French

Ali Asghar Kazemi
Professor of International Law

Profile: English - Persian

Most Recent Posts: English & French
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Recent Posts:




Friday, December 31, 2010

Year 2011 Will be Decisive for Iran

Year 2011 Will be Decisive for Iran
Ali Asghar Kazemi
December 31, 2010
I don’t pretend to be a futurist, but, based on realistic assessment of the past events, one can have a good hunch of eventual trends and expectations of the future. The year 2010 crossed in a way the threshold of peaceful diplomatic interaction that the West could afford to deal with the overall issue of Iran. A portion of those efforts is scheduled for the beginning of the New Year 2011 as to indicate perhaps the final call for compromise. Depending on the position of Iranian decision-makers, one of the following scenarios may take place on which basis the West’s eventual plan for action will be formulated:
  1. Given its internal problems, particularly in the field of domestic economy which is seriously affected by UN sanctions and those inflicted by the West and its allies, Iran will take an unprecedented bold step to go along with the UN Security Council demand in agreeing to suspend(at least temporarily) its nuclear enrichment activities for the  sake of confidence-building;
  2. Iran will try to put forward a third solution through initiating an international consortium with the participation of the West and third parties acceptable to it, for handling and supervising the enrichment business as a mean of confidence-building;
  3. Iran will continue its evasive tactics through vague and non-relevant statements without squarely and frankly repudiating negotiations for eventual compromise on the nuclear issue;
  4. Iran will categorically reject all demands and appeals for halting its nuclear activities and warn the West and its allies against intervening in its internal affairs and threaten to use forces directly or by  its proxies in case of  opening hostilities in the region and the Persian Gulf.
Among the above alternatives, we start from the best optimistic to the worst case scenarios. Indeed the first scenario is most ideal for the West and international community as a whole as well as for Iran; which actually needs a favorable domestic and international environment for safe and secure implementation of its newly initiated economic reform plan. This alternative, if accepted, will give Iran a break to handle its domestic affairs which is quite susceptible to threaten the very survival of the Islamic regime. The West can promote this option by offering Iran an acceptable incentive package which would be hard to reject.
Though the first scenario is quite appealing and could eventually benefit all parties involved, alternatives two and three may be considered as suitable complementary  for Iran; in the sense that both fit in the same category of negotiating fashion of Iranian diplomats. However, alternative two has been already tested and has set a bad precedent for Iran’s good intention in the last round of negotiations in Geneva two years ago. It is not sure that the 5+1 powers will be ready to go along with scenario two, given their previous experience with similar scheme which was aborted by Iran.
The most probable alternative would be the third one which by experience seems to satisfy Iran’s vagueness and ambivalent positions so far. In such case, the 5+1 powers will be tempted to go for a fifth draft resolution to be adopted by the Security Council. Such resolution will surely attempt to tighten the rope around Iran’s neck by adopting harsher sanctions to the extent allowed by Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
Iran’s response to this last UN action will determine whether the threshold of tolerance would be crossed paving the path for activating   Article 42 of the UN Charter, which calls for military operations against the defying party to a dispute.
With regards to the fourth alternative, despite hostile rhetoric of Iran’s hard-line conservatives against the West, the worst case scenario appears a far remote option; since the overall nation seems not prepared to engage in another war and active hostilities in the near future.  This means that the West should not really take much serious hostile messages   coming out of Iran; they are in most part for domestic consumptions.
The overall assessment is that the year 2011 will be decisive for Iran and its relations with the West. So far the West has been able to reach a quasi conclusive consensus on Iran’s nuclear activities, separating Russia and China from the Islamic government. This has already put a heavy burden on Iran’s diplomacy, which invested so much to keep these two powers in its side.
The Islamic Republic will have a hard time and a very busy year ahead in struggling concurrently in two fronts (domestic and foreign) to keep the ship of the state afloat. High politics decision-makers should make a realistic assessment of the present situation and formulate the strategy that best insures  Iran’s national interests while assuring the rest of the world of its good intentions with respect to the nuclear activities./

‎ ‎* Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and -International Relations in Tehran-Iran.
- Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts ‎of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and ‎Strategic Discourse. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.‎

Monday, December 27, 2010

‎Dilemma of Iran’s Economic Reform Plan

Dilemmas of Iran’s Economic Reform Plan 
Ali Asghar Kazemi
December 201o
Nobody can logically contest the need for a major overhaul and structural change of the Iranian economy which suffers from a number chronic malaises inherited from wartime situation. The end of eight long years Iran-Iraq war was an opportunity to lead Iran’s economy to a rational and normal path that could promote productivity, efficiency and growth.  But, fear of social unrest and negative political ramifications impeded successive governments to embark on such a risky plan as to cutting subsidies or at least its faire distribution among needy layers of the society. Thus, during the past two decades, people got habituated to consume cheep energy resources in such a way unparallel in the whole world. (Average energy consumption in Iran is 6.5 times that of the world.)
Experts believe that previous pragmatic (Rafsanjani) or reformist (Khatami) governments could initiate such reforms more easily because domestic and international environments were somehow more favorable than today ’s hard-line president Ahmadinejad, who is engulfed with horrendous problems at home and abroad. However, this did not take place merely for the lack of insight and political expediencies. This has caused the nation as a whole tremendous loss because of the unprecedented waste of national resources.
At last, the Islamic government became conscious of the bitter fact that the continuation of this unfortunate trend could endanger the very survival of the regime. Thus, the restructuring of national economy found its way to the agenda of the decision-making apparatus of the system and the parliament voted for an economic reform plan and the executive decided to go for its implementation.
Despite the fact that most people see only one dimension of the scheme for which they feel most affected, i.e. energy, the plan has several aspects each of which is as important as the others. The plan calls for restructuring Iranian economy inter-alia in the following fields:  
  • Subsidy reform plan;
  • Reform in banking system and currency;
  • Reform in insurance  ;
  • Reform in customs control & excise;
  • Reform in taxation and wealth distribution ( V.A.T tax reform);
  • Increasing productivity – ( Internet and e-commerce in Iran);
  • Improving distribution of goods and services and the functioning of state organizations and privatization in Iran.

Without attempting to go into the detail of the above program, which is quite complicated and requires specialized knowledge, the objective here is to contend that the implementation of the economic reform plan needs a number of prerequisites without which chances for its failure are very high. We can summarize those preconditions tentatively as follows:
  1. A favorable domestic environment paving the way for people  bearing eventual economic hardship created due to inflation and price adjustments after the abolition of subsidies on energy and consumers goods;
  2. People confidence on the capacity, honesty and competence of the government.  This factor  has been under serious strains, especially after the alleged fraud and unconvinced presidential elections of 2009;
  3. A favorable international environment which facilitates foreign investments and transfer of technology. This dimension is seriously damaged due to the nuclear crisis  which has deprived Iran from all transactions  with the rest of the world through the adoption of four UN Security Council resolutions devising economic sanctions against Iran;
  4. A realistic understanding of the world’s rules of the game and a rational decision about friends and foes with a view to promote national interests in all circumstances and making Iran less vulnerable to outside threats;
  5. Transparency and truthfulness on all aspects regarding economic reform and sincere cooperation with the parliament with respect to the gradual implementation of the plan.
Political constraints of the economic reforms in Iran encompass social, cultural, psychological and human factors as well.  Handling the above requisites at present Iran seems rather difficult. Since, people have learned by experience during the past years that they should not rely much on  government officials whose  promises,    actions and intentions are not always genuine. This stems from lack of transparency and accountability which in turn gives way to rumors and negative information propagated by opposition groups inside and outside the country. Recurrent revelations about high level civilian and military corruption in various sectors of the society are indeed not helping the accomplishment of an unprecedented national plan for structural changes. Thus, people seem not prepared to sacrifice their short and long-run interests in situations that require devotion, dedication and support for those who have no true sympathy for them and their causes.
In order to gain support for its economic reform, the Islamic government has to convince people of its good intention and its capacity to cope with its adverse impact on people’s daily life. For that purpose it has to set up a parallel plan for confidence-building inside the country and with the rest of the world. Without fulfilling this requisite, the success of this bold and historic national scheme seems difficult to guarantee.
Two weeks after the official start of the initial phase of the economic reform plan, despite the fear of mass protests against ramifications of the scheme, nothing substantial has happened so far. This may mean one of the two things:
 - Either people are satisfied with the cash payment they received for subsidy compensation, which is an overly optimistic assessment, given the overall condition of the society;
-  Or they are waiting to see how the government will cope with price hike and inflation at least in the short-run, as repeatedly promised by the officials.
This latter hypothesis seems more realistic; since people are more or less skeptical of the success of the plan but they don’t want to be blamed for its failure and they are waiting to see its final fate without actively getting involved in its eventual crumple./

 ‎* Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and -International Relations in Tehran-Iran.
- Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts ‎of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and ‎Strategic Discourse. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.‎

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Global Crisis : World Order in Peril


        The Global Crisis : World Order in Peril
         Collected Papers
         Ali Asghar Kazemi

‎* Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts ‎of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and ‎Strategic Discourse. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.‎

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Iran’s Diplomacy: Embarrassment and Unpredictability

Iran’s  Diplomacy: Embarrassment and Unpredictability
Ali Asghar Kazemi
December 14, 2010
If somebody ventures to delve into the decision making process in Iran’s foreign policy, he will probably end up to frustration.   Thus, the rationale behind sudden firing of the incumbent foreign minister, while he was in a diplomatic mission abroad, and the appointment of Iran’s chief Nuclear Agency in his place, shall remain in shadow for some time. The truth of the matter is that the overall decision making process in Iran in domestic and foreign affairs does in no way follow any established rule or pattern. In other words, one might say that it is very personal, rudimentary, and emotional.
One of the major impediments of Iran’s foreign policy, more than three decades after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, seems to be the continuing persistence on its revolutionary nature. In fact, this feature has created a strong barrier before Iran’s national objectives and aspirations in   setting clear criteria for determining friends and foes. This does not suggest however that the same quandary is settled in domestic sphere. Perhaps many unfortunate events and vicissitudes during the lifespan of the Islamic regime so far are geared to this very important dimension of the revolutionary Iran.
Nevertheless, when states choose to engage in interactions with their peers, they must have a lucid definition of their ends and means, a realistic assessment of their partners and above all a faithful commitment to certain primordial standards (rules of the game) in international relations.  Indeed revolutions have their own peculiarities and manners and do not necessarily follow conventional norms and expected behavior. They usually have a tendency to challenge the status quo and even alter those rules. Thus, many states prefer not to be in love with revolutionary regimes which by nature have a propensity to be rejectionist than receptive.
The problem of not being able to distinguish between its ideological concerns and vital national interests has impeded the revolutionary Iran to identify its friends and foes and this has almost paralyzed Iran’s diplomacy during recent nuclear crisis. While international pressure was gradually increasing in order to push it to stop all nuclear activities, Iran was helplessly looking for friends here and there in order to get some support for its intransigent position. To this end, a number of lucrative deals were offered to some potential partners, but, at the critical moment when Iran needed their help, they turned to its opponents. Russia and China are two exemplary cases that prove this argument.
Iranian leaders should not be surprised by this unfortunate experience. Indeed, this is the golden rule of the game in international relations; states only have permanent interests and no permanent friends or foes. Yet, an intelligent and rational foreign policy should put the right emphasis at any particular moment on the means and leverages it has on its potential friends in order to neutralize or bypass the negative impacts of its presumed foes’ actions and decisions. When a state puts all of its eggs in one basket, it may soon end up with unpredictable situations in which it should sacrifice all at once. No diplomacy that would stake everything on mere rhetoric and intimidation or concessions deserves to be called intelligent.
While the conservative government and policy makers in Iran persist on a return to revolutionary slogans of the regime and do everything to show this feature, the international community seems quite alarmed with the development. Thus, most states are reluctant to engage in deep interaction with a nation defying the prevailing norms. This is not to suggest that those norms and rules of the game are necessarily ethical, just or fair.
The mere fact that the newly appointed in charge of  foreign ministry comes from a nuclear background in Iran may suggest that the government is sending a somber signal to the West and the rest of the international community that it has no intention to soften its intransigence on the nuclear issue and that this latter is on the forefront of Iran’s foreign policy. 
But, the truth of the matter is that this reshuffle seems to stem rather from a personal and emotional grudge  of the hard-line president vis-à-vis  the outgoing minister and should not be construed as a fundamental change in the decision making process in foreign policy,. Since, neither the criteria for the nuclear objectives in the overall national interests nor the actual pattern of negotiations are to be expected to follow a professional and rational pattern devised by the foreign ministry.  Thus, those who eventually expect a breakthrough in the future round of 5+1 meeting with Iran next January in Istanbul, Turkey  are giving up to illusion./

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New Trends in Diplomacy

New Trends in Diplomacy
:In the Light of U.S. Diplomatic Leaks

Ali Asghar Kazemi
December, 2010

Generals and diplomats are said to be at the forefront of a state warriors in defense of its national interests. They act concurrently through wise tactics to “conquer” land in war and tactful diplomacy to “convince” minds in peace for the achievement of a “grand strategy” in pursuit of national goals. While the nature and substance of the two groups’ decisions and actions differ, traditionally they both submit to certain rules and discipline without which no task can be performed and no plan can be achieved successfully.
Now imagine what happens if we take away those two important elements from the equation for the sake of openness or moderation? This will indeed lead to chaos and anarchy in the field, hampering the fulfillment of the assigned task. This will damage the whole national strategy and interests. Thus, we cannot strip off the soldiers and diplomats from their distinctive outfits and leave them naked under the astonishing public eyes.

Recent diplomatic leaks of U.S. Embassies’ cables throughout the world are indeed a formidable event in diplomatic history which eventually will usher a new era of international relations and diplomacy.
Diplomacy is the major instrument of foreign policy by which a state can achieve objectives, realize values and defend national interests. Governments have the function to communicate through their diplomatic agents with those whose actions and behavior they wish to influence, deter, alter or reinforce. This process requires a clear definition of a state’s objectives, rationalizations for them, threats, promises, and the setting up plans and strategies to tackle with problems and contentious issues.
Thus, in its widest meaning the task of diplomacy is fourfold: a)It must determine state’s objectives in the light actual and potential power available for the pursuit of these objectives; 2) It must assess the objectives of other nations and the power actually and potentially available to them for the pursuit of their objectives; 3)It must determine to what extent these different objectives are compatible with each other; and finally 4) It must employ the means suited to the pursuit of its objectives.
With the development of mass communications, diplomacy in its classical terms, i.e. “secret diplomacy” has gradually lost its original meaning and has become a bureaucratic technique performed by carrier diplomats. They have no other choice than to rely on pieces of information they gather in their interactions with their counterparts or the public at large in the host states or during diplomatic conferences. Such pieces of information are rather crude and can only be analyzed along many others gradually accumulated by experts in the field.
The first blow to “secret diplomacy” came about after the Russian October Revolution of 1915 which changed the political configuration of the world. In fact, it was the Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky who first blew the horn. While serving as one of the leaders of the Russian October Revolution, as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, he ordered that all secret documents of the Tsarist regime should be made public. Thus, the undisclosed treaties previously signed by the Triple Entente that detailed plans for post-war reallocation of colonies and redrawing state borders were published. Trotsky believed that ‘Abolition of secret diplomacy,’ “is the first essential of an honorable, popular, and really democratic foreign policy.”
Woodrow Wilson expounded somehow similar view in his “Fourteen points” after WWI where he called for “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
Neither the Soviet revolutionary open diplomacy nor the Wilsonian ideal of peace through cooperation and accommodation lasted long enough to produce positive results. Thus, the creation of the League of Nations as a forum of open diplomacy failed to achieve its sublime objectives and World War II occurred with all its atrocities. The conclusion of WWII and the creation of the United Nations were anew the product of a secret diplomacy in Paris and Yalta for the distribution of power and territories among the victors.
Many still believe that secret diplomacy in the past has caused more harm to the world peace and order than any other reason. Opponents of this view claim that it was open diplomacy that in several occasions brought the world to brink of war and disaster. In fact, there are enough arguments for and against the above contention and it is difficult to pass a wise judgment on the matter. The real problem is what degree of secrecy or openness should be tolerated in diplomatic dealings and negotiations.
Proponents of “conspiracy theory” see the hands of U.S. State Department (or at least a fraction of it) behind the leaks and warn against sordid implications of the scheme. To them this whole venture has been initiated behind “the velvet curtain” of “American imperialism” with a view to discredit many world leaders and officials around the globe.
With respect to the actual ramifications of the leaks on Iran’s relations with its neighbors in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East, despite the seriousness of their hostile position on the nuclear issue and their willingness of a U.S. military intervention, the Islamic leaders have shown a low-key approach to the allegations. But, there is no doubt that the matter will remain in the memory of the revolutionary regime and will be added into the records of malevolent states of the region.
With regard to the rest of the world, including the 5+1 states involved in the nuclear negotiations, at first Iranian officials showed interests on the leaks as proof of their accusations against the “Western imperialism.” But, subsequently they condemned the scheme as mere fabrication and worthless documents having no legal value.
Whoever behind the venture and whatever the true aim of recent leaks of U.S. diplomatic correspondence, they seems to cause incontestable damage to states’ mutual confidence in discussing issues and critical matters susceptible to influence their national interests. Those persons responsible for these divulgations have not shown that they are really pursuing a benevolent cause for their deeds. They could eventually be labeled opportunists or anarchists who have no respect for long-established institutions of diplomacy and international affairs. /
Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran. See:
* Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and Strategic Discourse. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.