Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a top Iranian politician has, in an interview with the Farsi-language Shargh newspaper, weighed in on regional developments, and the role of Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), in Syria and Iraq.
The following is the highlights of the interview with Amir-Abdollahian, a former Iranian deputy foreign minister who is currently the special aide to Iran’s parliament speaker and the director general for the Parliament’s international affairs:
Entering Foreign Ministry, Getting Familiar with FM Zarif
During the Holy Defence era (the eight-year Iraqi imposed war on Iran in the 1980s) I used to go to the frontline as a volunteer soldier and I was active at Basij (volunteer militia forces). So, when I entered the Foreign Ministry, personally I was interested to work in the field of Iraq affairs. When the war ended and as soon as I entered Iraq, I got to know Mr. Zarif, mostly because of the Iraq case. In those years, Mr. Zarif handled the international affairs of prisoners of war, and I took care of the affairs at the embassy, and later at home.
Impact of Regional Issues on Iran’s National Security
Regional topics are directly related to our national security. No one can say that the US occupied the whole Iraq 14 or 15 years ago, and this has no bearing on our national security. Let me give you an example. When the Americans occupied Iraq, just one of the incidents unfolding in the [ southwestern Iranian] province of Khuzestan and engineered by an American security agency was that a thousand handguns were being imported to create insecurity in the country. While Iraq was under the US occupation, Washington appointed its last consul general in Khorramshahr (before the ouster of the Shah) as the director of Iran-Iraq border affairs. He was privy to all details of the two countries’ border issues. At the same time, the US security apparatus began to plan importing weapons and explosives into Iran.
Could we sit idly by and do nothing? Yes. The Iranian establishment had decided that general Soleimani take over the important Iraq case. First, when I entered the Foreign Ministry, I thought those working at the ministry were the only ones involved in diplomacy work and that all tools were available to the Foreign Ministry only; however, this is not the case.
If the Foreign Ministry doesn’t have a backup, and if little attention is paid to the element of “being influential” in the foreign policy domain and many other factors associated with our national might, then the person who enters into talks will not have all he/she needs to get the job done. It wouldn’t be possible that I, as a diplomat, act against what general Soleimani does in Iraq within the framework of the establishment’s approved strategies to safeguard our national security.
Many of our generals and youth, who are the country’s assets, were martyred in the crisis pertaining to the ISIS terrorist group in Syria and Iraq in order to safeguard national and regional security, so that you and I will be safe. There is no way the discourse that I, as a diplomat, use be opposed to that of general Soleimani and the establishment’s strategies. We are facing a world which overtly says threatening words to ensure its objectives and national interests, and plunders nations’ wealth under the pretext of safeguarding its interests. I have never been an official IRGC member, but like other Iranians take pride in the fact that the IRGC as well as other security and military apparatus in the country safeguards our people’s security.
Consulting with General Soleimani
In sensitive security-political issues, whenever I, at the Foreign Ministry, wanted to take part in bilateral or multilateral talks on Syria, Iraq and key regional issues, I consulted general Soleimani in issues within his expertise after I took part in meetings with the ministry’s managers and experts. He would let me it on the latest developments.
For example, the swap of prisoners of war in Syria is not entirely in the hands of the Foreign Ministry and the embassy. On the ground, other sectors are responsible for the swap. Some issues related to national security are related to the Intelligence Ministry. When you act in coordination with them, consult them, and know that you can put what you say into action, then you will have what it takes to continue negotiations and the other side will realise that you know what’s going on.