Wednesday, Feb 21st

Last updateWed, 21 Feb 2018 12pm

Rouhani: Iran has no need to negotiate over its defense


Al-Monitor - In a speech commemorating the opening of cultural centers honoring the Iran-Iraq War, which Iran refers to as the "Sacred Defense," President Hassan Rouhani rejected calls from the United States and Western European countries to rein in Iran's defensive capabilities.

“National strength is for peace,” Rouhani said. “We seek strength for deterrence. We have to be ready to repel and eliminate threats against the people. Our nation and our officials, for their defensive capabilities, do not need to negotiate with anyone nor reach an agreement with any power.” He continued, “We will talk and discuss. If an official comes and asks a question, we will respond. We will give a decisive and strong response. And our response is very clear.”

In a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa (religious edict) against nuclear weapons, Rouhani said, “But any type of arms we need, it will be within the framework of the regulations, laws and fatwas of our supreme leader. Based on international commitments, and … the fatwas of our supreme leader, our ethics and our religion, we are not seeking weapons of mass destruction.”

Since US President Donald Trump took office in 2017, he has sought methods to scrap the nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany in which Iran reduced its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. Western European countries and the European Union in particular have pushed back against scrapping the nuclear deal but have expressed support for working with the United States in countering Iran’s regional policies and Iran’s missile program. In January, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused Iran of “not respecting” a UN resolution that put limits on Iran’s ballistic missile capacity. Iran’s ballistic missile program is not part of the nuclear deal and Iran has rejected calls to negotiate or limit the missiles program, claiming it is for self-defense.

During his speech, Rouhani also addressed the importance of stressing self-defense so that Iran is not seen as the aggressor. “In any war and defense, before discussing the hardware, we have to think of the software of that war,” Rouhani said, making a distinction between arms and ideas. “The first software for a defense and creating an movement against the aggressors is the legitimacy of that defense. If you cannot make clear that the other side is the aggressor and that we are the defender and that we did not begin it and that we are defending our land, nation, honor and independence, the people will not back you and they will tire of that war.”

Rouhani’s reference was clearly the Iran-Iraq War, in which Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980, and not only brought about a wave of nationalism inside Iran but also helped to solidify the Islamic Republic following the 1979 revolution. Rouhani’s warnings also apply to today: Iran is embroiled in a number of regional conflicts, and with US troops all across the region, Rouhani has long sought to de-escalate tensions with regional countries and the United States. However, if he is unable to avoid conflict, he seems intent on portraying the other side as the aggressor.