In this article, which was published in Arabic on Tuesday, Zarif said the new paradigm is based on what he calls “network security”, in which securing the interests of each one of the regional countries would be contingent upon ensuring the interests of all regional countries.
What follows is the full text of his article translated into English:
Moving Towards New Security Paradigm Based on Dialogue, Confidence-Building in Mideast
The heavy defeats suffered by the ISIS terrorist group over the past year sounded the death knell to the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” project, and dealt a heavy blow to the violent extremism which had pushed our region into a period of utter destruction. However, terrorism and extremism are still there and, given their widespread networks in different countries, continue to pose a threat to the region and the whole world. Preventing the spread of extremism is still a priority. We have weathered the territorial challenge posed by the fabricated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but still have a long way to go to ensure the desirable security situation. In this historical period, we and other regional players are facing three major challenges: First, getting a proper understanding of the current realities; second, reaching a common understanding on the desired situation in the region; and third, finding ways of reaching this favourable situation. If the challenges are addressed, it will ensure the ease of mind and security of our children.
The idea of having a powerful region is rooted in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategic look at the region around it. This idea means accepting the principle of establishing collective security, the necessity of respecting that principle, generalisng the win-win principle to the whole region, opposing domination and eliminating other players. Accordingly, securing the interests of each one of the regional countries would be contingent upon ensuring the interests of all regional countries. Another point is that rivalry between countries on the path to economic and social development is not reprehensible. Nevertheless, seeking to gain domination in order to eliminate rivals and turn into the strongest power is not only not attainable, but will trigger tensions and is basically impossible. Such rivalry will only result in a destructive and vicious circle that will beget chronic tension and constant fighting. One should give up moves aimed at causing destruction, and should come to the understanding that we Muslims can and must try to bring tranquility, security, peace and economic development upon our region. At a time when our region is grappling with a whole range of problems such as terrorism, environmental crises, growing immigration and the like, a destructive arms race and tension between neighbours would mean more costs for regional nations. This comes as the average military spending of our neighbouring countries in the Persian Gulf is the highest in the world in proportion to their gross domestic product. Such a move creates tension and mistrust, leads to the region’s vital assets going to waste, and fills the coffers of arms-manufacturing looters, a trend that will only result in more and more catastrophic adventurism. We have no solution ahead of us, but to start a trend that would build confidence.
Given the realities in today’s integrated world and the situation in our region, especially the Persian Gulf, old methods of building an alliance are no longer efficacious. At the same time, some differences in the population, economic power and military might have given rise to security concerns in smaller countries and resulted in dependence on foreign powers, leading to the illusion of buying security or importing it from abroad. The way out of this dangerous and vicious circle is network security which is based on cooperation among all regional countries within the framework of a common mechanism. To that end, countries in the region should commit themselves to common standards such as the principle of equality of countries, not making threats or resorting to force, peaceful settlement of differences, the principle of respecting countries’ territorial integrity, the principle of non-interference in one another’s internal affairs and respect for every country’s right to self-determination. This experience has proven effective in other regions which have seen war and bloodshed for years and have had a lot fewer common economic and political interests, and there is no reason why that experience should not work in our region. Network security is not seeking to eliminate viewpoints or turn a blind eye to historical problems; rather, it is a way to prevent an increase in enmity and inefficient, stopgap alliances. Within this framework, all regional countries base their cooperation on network security in order to attain lasting arrangements to ensure regional security. Based on this viewpoint, the security of a country or group cannot be defined or ensured without others’ security, and old inefficient doctrines should be superseded by a mechanism based on identifying and even producing areas where countries have common interests as well as on partnership and promotion of cooperation in those very areas of common interests not to mention holding talks in the areas where countries have different viewpoints and interests.
In order to reach stability and a desirable security situation, we should move towards dialogue and adopting confidence-building measures at this juncture more than ever. We in West Asia do not have enough dialogue at any level. Our governments need assurance-giving talks more than ever before. These negotiations should be aimed at understanding and getting to know one another and should make it clear that all of us have more or less similar worries, fears, wishes and hopes, and we can use dialogue and positive interaction to serve our people’s interests given our geography as well as historical, cultural and religious commonalities. Such talks can and should replace useless propagandistic rhetoric and statements that we direct at each other via media. Dialogue is one of the most important tools to remove distrust. Still, in some cases, measures need to be adopted in addition to direct talks in order to bring down the level of worries. So, dialogue should be coupled with the necessary prudence to take confidence-building measures. Exchange of information is one of the first measures to be adopted in all areas and is mainly aimed at preventing misunderstandings and tension-provoking actions. Promotion of communications among people such as promotion of tourism and cooperation in different common areas, especially economic and trade domains, can also pave the way for measures which could give assurances. Among the measures which can be put on the agenda are setting up joint working groups in various areas from nuclear safety to environment pollution and natural disasters, joint military meetings, giving one another notice about upcoming military exercises, transparency in the field of weapons, and cutting military costs, all of which can lead to the conclusion of a deal on non-aggression.