Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Iran National Interests Victim of Blind Radicalism


Iran National Interests Victim of Blind Radicalism

Ali Asghar Kazemi

April 21, 2009


Almost two months before the presidential elections in Iran, on April 20, 2009 president Ahmadinejad made another controversial speech at the UN Conference on Racism in Geneva (Durban II), creating further dismay about this country in world public opinion. While many observers were expecting some kind of softening in Iran’s position with respect to world critical issues at this juncture, the speech came as a cold shower to naïve wishful thinkers.

The unfortunate events that overshadowed the substance of the conference at its start, are now well known to all; since the show was covered live on many world TV’s. Besides Mr. Ahmadinejad direct allusion to Zionism and Israel, which prompted the mass walkout of European delegates from the conference room, he took on other critical issues such as racism, segregation and intolerance that nobody can logically deny the fact as indefensible plagues in many countries including Iran and the West. But, hearing such accusations from the mouth of a pompous character, whose intolerance takes regular victims even among his own entourage in the cabinet (let aside the critics and opposition groups) for expressing their views, is indeed very strange.

How much ideological drives are permitted to encroach upon national interests? Are these conflict-ridden statements intended to promote Iran’s national interests or to satisfy personal hatred of an obsessive individual who happens to assume the responsibility of a nation?


Common sense dictates that national interests should be the guiding principles and compass of a state domestic and foreign policies. Ideology and other major elements of national power should be at the service of those interests. However, this is not always the case when “national interests” are not properly defined and “ideology” assumes the lead and trespass the requisites of states’ vital interests.

Man’s view of his universe and the realities of his existence have been shuttered by his acquired ideology, his faith and his environment. This has caused the progress or stagnation of civilizations in their challenge and competition for survival. Tactical use of religion has always been present, either to endorse an ideology which helps to establish or strengthen the legitimate power, or to supplant it by beliefs more attune with the wishes of power-holders.

In that case, ideologies are usually intended to simplify complex phenomena into a series of slogans, myths and dogma which can easily manipulate average people. In politics actors tend to use ideologies in order to disguise the immediate goal of their actions and behavior. The goal of ideology is power exerted over the mind and actions of men and not necessarily vital interests of a nation.

Ideology is thus an instrument for making the world look simpler and more consistent than it is. In the words of Karl Deutsch, “ideology is simplified picture of the world;” it serves as a map by which to create and guide certain behavior. In making distinction between moderate or reasonable ideologies, on the one hand, and radical ideology on the other, Deutsch argues that the difference between the two hinges upon “the capacity to recognize reality and to test the truth of opinions”.

Within the range of these two modes of ideology we can observe the ethics of Aristotle and the amoralism of Machiavelli; the constitutionalism of Cicero and the totalitarianism of Stalin, the natural law of Thomas Aquinas, the economic determinism of Karl Marx, the dictatorship of Nazi Hitler and the fundamentalism of Moslems. All of these fall in the broad spectrum of political ideologies which, once at work may shape human behavior, national character as well as state’s socio-economic and political attitude.

With the above academic clarification, one may question the rationale and necessity of Mr. Ahmadinejad presence in the Durban II Anti-racism conference in Geneva and his controversial speech at this very critical point of time. One gets the impression that neither he nor the speech writer has any idea about justice and fairness in international relations. They naively feel they are the first to discover and expose these anomalies in a world forum. A quick inquiry into the United Nations archives from its inception to this date and the related literature , will reveal the fact that thousands statesmen, diplomats, jurists and academics have written and spoken more eloquently about tantamount problems of the world and exposed much brighter ideas and thoughts for their remedies. Yet we are still where we stand today with not much progress.

Thus, what benefits we may envisage from these conflict-ridden statements for Iran except the widening gap between nations and deepening hatred at the expense of our national interests, prestige and reputation? Those who applauded for the president at the conference are not our friends. They are intentionally or inadvertently pushing our country to further radicalism and isolation. They know well that Iran has already paid very heavy price for sacrificing national interests for the sake of ideology.

Let it be clear to all peace-lovers around the world that there are other voices among academic, intellectual and ordinary people in Iran that are in discord with the prevailing situation and perception. We want to live in peace, harmony and good relations with all nations. We have no mandate to solve perennial issues in the Palestine, Lebanon, Hamas, Hezbollah, Jihad and the likes which do not fall in the realm of our vital national interests by any sane calculation and even not in the periphery of the presumed ideology. We have no business to straighten all the evils of the world and to guide humanity to the path of salvation. All we can do is to rectify our own actions and perceptions and set example for other to follow the suit. We fully realize that guiding principles of today’s statehood are tolerance, interdependence, cooperation towards mutual benefits.

The time has come to stop the unfortunate trend of blind radicalism before our nation falls in the disarray of populism, ideological obsession and delusion which could endanger peace and stability of the region and risk total disintegration of the country. /


Ali Asghar Kazemi is Professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran-Iran.

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