Studio guest Vladimir Sotnikov, Director of the East-West Strategic Studies Center, Moscow independent think-tank (studio guest), Vyacheslav Trubnikov, the former Director of the Russia's intelligence service, Melor Sturua, Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, shared their opinions with Radio Sputnik.
Iran is a country which used to be isolated on the international arena. But what is the reality for Iran now? Where is it now in the global politics?
Vladimir Sotnikov: I must say that the Iranians are actually very much willing to have this nuclear deal concluded, because, first of all, we have a dire economic and financial situation inside the country. This is one thing. Another thing is that the Iranians would actually like to use this threat of a nuclear weapon production just to enhance their own regional status, because the Iranians themselves are saying that Iran is a major regional power, competing with Saudi Arabia – another regional power. And the third one is that the Iranians would like to repair their long-troubled relationship with the West, in particular with the US.
And Russia in this equation is an ally, of course, but this is probably a temporary alliance, I think. The Iranians have their own national interests and if they would feel that there will be more profit in terms of the commercial relationship with the Western countries, they will turn to the West. And that is a very important thing for us, for Russia, because we shouldn’t lose Iran, just like we shouldn’t lose Syria.
Iran is saying that it is not developing a nuclear weapon. But I hope you will agree that for them this nuclear program is more than just an access to the newest technologies. This is the question of national pride and political leverage.
Vladimir Sotnikov: Of course, they are not saying that they are producing the nuclear weapons. In fact, Ayatollah Khamenei said that the nuclear weapons are prohibited.
And I hope you will agree that this IS threat really came as a game changer in the whole Iranian story.
Vladimir Sotnikov: Yes, that’s right.
With the IS emerging on the global stage, do you think there’s been a change of priorities, change in the security challenges?
Vyacheslav Trubnikov: I think that, first of all, the West as such was not united in their blaming of Iran for the desire to produce a nuclear weapon and support the international terrorism. I feel that the major role was played by the US in this campaign. And when the US changed its position towards Iran, I think that they tried to find a new goal to combine the Western countries to fight against. And this is the Islamic State.
But I feel that there is no radical change in the existing challenges of the 21st century. But I consider that the major threat that we are facing is the desire of one superpower to rule the unipolar world and to base its international policy on this foundation. I mean the US. They think about their exceptionality. But they are not exceptional, because every nation has its own national interests. And from the point of view of their national interests they assess the existing challenges and threats, first of all, to their sovereignty, to their independence, to their territorial unity. This is something which I stick to and I will be sticking to.
This year there was a lot of talk about the notorious IS threat. To what extent do you think Russia and the West can put the differences aside and revitalize the now defunct antiterrorist cooperation?
Vyacheslav Trubnikov: This is not a new phenomenon when the West and Russia are combining the efforts to fight such threats, like terrorism. But now we live in a very complicated situation which was caused not by Russia, but by the other side. And it depends on their desire to join the efforts with Russia. I'm not inclined to overestimate the threat of the radical Islam to Russia. We faced it in Afghanistan. And in my understanding this is something which was the product of the nearside policy of the West and, first of all, of the US.
Al-Qaeda was the product of the US efforts to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. And now al-Qaeda became the enemy of the US. The US was supporting the efforts of the so-called opposition or rebels in Syria fighting against the legal government. And you know that now, again, the West is going to face the product of their wrong policy. So, if they change their attitude towards the cooperation with Russia, I don’t think that Russia will not be inclined to join the efforts. We are prepared for this. So, it is not our turn, the ball is on their side.
If there is a desire to step back from the policy of sanctions against Russia, stop, as I see it, the economic war against our country, then, yes, I don’t see any reason why we are not able to join the efforts. Because I do remember the time in the beginning of the 21st century when there was a two-sided, Russian and American working group existing which was fighting against the terrorism. And we did a lot of efforts. I was the co-chair from the Russian side and Armitage from the US. And you know that we cooperated very effectively and many decisions by the UN were taken because of our joint initiatives. So, we have such examples in the past. Why not in the future?
How the threat of IS is seen in the States?
Melor Sturua: Mr. Barack Obama often speaks about the three-headed Hydra which is the most dangerous enemy of the US. The first head of this Hydra is Russia which interferences into the internal affairs of Ukraine and supports the separatist movement in the eastern part of the country. The second head of Hydra is the Ebola epidemic that has almost reached the shores of America. And the last head of Hydra is IS – the militants of the Islamic State. According to the gospel of Mr. Obama these three heads of the Hydra are the most dangerous among the other dangers in the contemporary world. But among these three heads the most dangerous is the third one.
But do you agree with it?
Melor Sturua: I'm talking about Mr. Obama, not about my own personal opinion. The point is that he always speaks about the three dangers. And we can say that it is entirely unacceptable to make comparisons between the situation in Ukraine and the terrorist movement in Syria and Iraq.
How do you see the future of Iran, especially with the talks that are set to resume in the summer next year?
Vladimir Sotnikov: Ultimately, the Iranians would like to have this nuclear option stored somewhere deep inside the fabrics of their politics. And I predict that finally, with the extension of the nuclear talks to the 1st of July, I think this nuclear deal will be concluded. And that will give Iran the possible leverage in dealing with the whole world from their own national interests, including with the US and countries in their region. So, the Iranians would really become a major regional power.