Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a complex character. He is pro-regime, but currently out of favor for his apparent lack of loyalty to ‘Supreme Leader’ Ali Khamenei. Mousavian has held a plethora of official positions: a former ambassador, Foreign Ministry official, National Security Council member, and close stalwart of former president, Rafsanjani, and in turn Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei (until his death in 1989). Perhaps most importantly, he was also a nuclear negotiator and spokesman for Khatami’s nuclear team. Currently at Princeton, Mousavian has remained an active and vocal supporter of Iran’s nuclear program.
His lengthy critique – penned by the way, together with Kaveh Afrasiabi his crony from the old country discussed in my previous post – of Kenneth Waltz’s ‘realist’ presentation of why Iran should get the bomb is a perfect example of Mousavian’s cunning and sophisticated ways.
“Waltz’s nuclear realpolitik misses the special attributes of Iran’s post-revolutionary political order and lumps Iran with other states in the international system, thus ignoring the distinctions between revolutionary and status-quo powers.”
He notes, exuding the pride he has in the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary exceptionalism:
“Under the moral guidance of the late Imam Khamenei, Iran did not do so [develop or use chemical weapons], despite the heavy toll of some 60,000 casualties of Iraq’s chemical warfare [in the Iran-Iraq war]. Indeed, it is doubtful that Iran’s behavior can be captured by the narrow prism of the realist paradigm, and alternative paradigms must be found to explain this “anomaly.”
He argues that Waltz’s realist analysis of a nuclear-armed Iran is both anachronistic and irrelevant in the contemporary Middle East. On this, I agree with Mousavian (see previous blog: return of the MAD). However there are some fairly critical differences between our stances. Mousavian claims that Iran simply is not pursuing nuclear weapons; I believe they are (and more importantly, the IAEA and every serious expert today increasingly accept this as the lurking reality), and that this will endanger the stability of the entire Middle East. I also use demonstrative evidence to show just how the Iranians are deceiving the world while advancing their worryingly opaque nuclear program.
He notes with ultimate confidence that:
“Iran has placed its entire uranium-enrichment program under the scrutiny of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, which have repeatedly confirmed the absence of military diversion.”
Well, this simply is not true:
Reuel Marc Gerecht summarizes this sophisticated character in his piece in the Weekly Standard (worth a read in its entirety):
“Mousavian’s incongruities—his slipperiness—are a part of Rafsanjani’s and Rowhani’s approach to the nuclear program. In his unguarded moments, Rowhani used to brag that the primary purpose of nuclear diplomacy was to buy time so that the program could move forward. Rafsanjani, who guided the nuclear-weapons effort longer than anyone else, once attacked Ahmadinejad—that is, Khamenei—for his needless, in-your-face approach to the P5+1 talks, since it risked an American preemptive strike. In other words, Rafsanjani had been clever, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad manifestly not.”
He has the same end goal as Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. But his cunning modus operandi and public diplomacy skills are to be admired and respected, just as they are to be treated with the aforementioned skepticism and caution that accompanies every spokesperson of the current Iranian regime.
He even delineates Iran’s explicit nuclear strategy – one which he continues to advocate – in his book ‘The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir (2012) pp 99-99.
“Do away with the threat of BoG reporting Iran’s nuclear case to the Security Council; diminish international community opposition to an Iranian nuclear program in principle; address concerns about the nature of Iran’s nuclear activities; lay the groundwork for the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran; reduce world public opinion hostility to Iran; and pursue a long-term strategy of “turning threats into opportunities.”
And if there was any doubt that the likes of Mousavian and Afrasiabi (as well as Hillary Mann Leverett, mentioned in my previous post) were all singing from the same song sheet. Notice, that the two of them took about three weeks to respond to the Waltz piece – waiting for instructions from capital, perhaps?
As Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York approaches, media beware.