RT: Now that US President Barack Obama is staying for a second term in office, do you expect Iran to attract as much attention or will Mr Obama focus on more pressing issues, like dealing with the US economy?
Hossein Mousavian: Iran has been a top foreign policy issue for all the US administrations since 1979. If not topic number one, definitely Iran has been always in the top three foreign policy issues for the US. That is why I believe that even in the second term of President Obama, Iran would be if not the first, then among the three top issues.
RT: Definitely, President Obama is now less constrained than before the elections. Do you think that could mean that he is more likely to get involved in something like a war with Iran?
HM: I believe Obama came to office with an engagement policy and he himself was sincere and he had good intentions. He failed to deliver an engagement with Iran due to pressures from the Congress, AIPAC, Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] and the very tough policies of the Europeans. Because during President Bush, Europeans had the engagement policy, but unfortunately during the engagement policy of President Obama, Europeans – they had hawkish policies.
I agree with you, President Obama should feel less constraint in the second term and therefore we can be a little bit more optimistic, [though] we should not be too much optimistic, because the pressures would remain, domestically and from Israel. But he (Obama) would have a little bit free of hand to go forward with Iran. Hopefully, he will be successful.
RT: It’s good you’ve mentioned Israel because Israeli PM [Benjamin Netanyahu] has been saying that the US will assist Israel if it strikes Iran. What does this mean now after the election?
HM: I believe Americans do not want to be engaged into a third war in the Middle East. Americans have had good lessons from invading Iraq and Afghanistan. They have lost trillions of dollars, thousands of lives and they are leaving Iraq and Afghanistan in a mess. They have no achievement. Stability in Afghanistan and Iraq has much worsened in Afghanistan and Iraq after the American invasion. They understand the consequences of attacking Iran would be tenfold compared to Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran is completely different. That’s why I believe there is a consensus.
Both the Republicans and Democrats should not drag the US to a third war.
RT: Benjamin Netanyahu’s own political future is very uncertain since his party is preparing to participate in the upcoming elections in Israel. How do you tell what is the pre-election rhetoric and what are real intentions [of Tel-Aviv]?
HM: I believe [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu has been bluffing from the very beginning. He first put pressure on the American president to make a credible threat against Iran. What did he mean by a credible threat? He wanted the American president to put a red line not on a nuclear bomb, but on [uranium] enrichment, which is a legitimate right of every [UN] member.
When they could not push Obama to this point – he [Netanyahu] decided to make a credible threat himself in order to push the US and the EU in a position to choose between crippling sanctions or war.
He [Netanyahu] was confident: Europe and the US will be supporting sanctions. The main target of Netanyahu from the beginning was crippling sanctions, not war. He dismissed the US and Europe – and he was successful.
RT: Is Israel’s plausible nuclear stockpile a threat to Iran?
HM: I really do believe that neither Israel is an existential threat to Iran nor Iran is an existential threat to Israel. We’ve just had the Global Zero Summit [nuclear non-proliferation] conference. I told the conference that even today Israelis are always using the Iran issue to justify their nuclear bomb, saying that Iran is an existential threat for Israel. But in fact it is Israel that produced a nuclear bomb before the Islamic revolution [in Iran] when the Shah of Iran was the ally of Israel.
An Israeli nuclear bomb has nothing to do with Iran, because it was mastered and produced before the [Islamic] revolution [in Iran]. Now they are using the Islamic Revolution to justify [their nuclear bomb], but I would not buy this argument.
RT: Iran has been really stigmatized in the public domain in the past few years. What can Tehran do to persuade the west that it is not building a nuclear bomb?
HM: I believe Iran was ready for cooperation with the IAEA to remove the ambiguities. From 2003 to 2005 we implemented an additional protocol, the subsidiary code 3.1, we even suspended [uranium] enrichment, we gave the IAEA access beyond the additional protocol. We opened military sites to the IAEA. But the EU was not able to recognize the legitimate rights of Iran because the EU’s position was zero enrichment. That’s why negotiations during all time failed despite the fact we were ready for full transparency we had proved practically.
…Russia proposed in 2011 a step by step plan. The Russian step by step plan consisted of all major requirements of the IAEA, the UN atomic energy agency, and the UN Security Council’s resolution – and even beyond that.
Iranian officials welcomed the Russian initiative as a base for negotiations. It was the US and Europe which declined the Russian proposal.
Therefore I believe even today the Russian proposal can be a good basis for the negotiations.
RT: You personally worked with the IAEA monitor in Iran for several years. The international observers are known to have accused Iran of not letting them see everything they want. Tehran has been saying it cannot satisfy all of their demands. Who is right?
HM: It depends. They were asking Iran to implement an additional protocol. Implementation of an additional protocol is not mandatory for nations. Today 70 nations do not implement an additional protocol. Therefore this would be a gesture of good will from Iran to implement that protocol. But the IAEA was even requesting Iran to give access beyond the additional protocol. No nation in this world has given the IAEA access beyond the additional protocol.
I believe Iran is ready. If they (the west) recognize two issues: Iran’s right for the [uranium] enrichment and if they’re prepared to gradually leave the sanctions, to leave all sanctions at the later stage, I believe Iran will show good will to accept the additional protocol, to cooperate with the IAEA on possible military dimension issues, which would give the IAEA the [desired] access beyond the additional protocol.
RT: The EU has not been buying the Iranian oil for months now. Has Iran been able to find new markets?
HM: I believe Iranian oil’s export decreased 50-60 per cent. But believe me, even if Iranians cannot export even one drop of oil – they would not give up their rights. It really does not matter how much oil it can export or not.
During the war, the 1980 to 1988 invasion of Iraq, we had a much worse situation.
RT: Let’s move on to Syria. How do you think the conflict in Syria may affect the situation in Iran?
HM: It would affect more the region and the US allies. If they continue like this, Syria would go to sectarian civil war, spreading to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and even Turkey. Iran would be the last to be affected by this spread of war.
Of course Iran may lose one friend, a partner like [Syrian President] Bashar Assad. But it does not mean the radical Muslims that would come to power, that they will be friends of Israel or America.
The Muslim Brotherhood – if they are in power – they would be much more [ideological]. And their base would be Muslim ideology, [while President Bashar] Assad is secular. That’s the difference.
RT: What is the biggest threat to the US in the region?
HM: The biggest threat for the US is coming out of the Arab Spring with Salafis, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and extreme Sunni radicals capturing Muslim countries…This is the real threat to the US.
RT: How do you see the situation developing with the Arab Spring spreading to other countries?
HM: Nobody knows. But as far as I can see, Islamists are coming to power through the whole Middle East. And this would affect the remaining US allies in the region.