Interview with Bahram Soroush and Fariborz Pooya
Maryam Namazie: As you know, the Islamic Republic of Iran has recently met with Britain, France and Germany to discuss its nuclear aims. Also, the BBC has done a report where it claims that a majority of Iranians are supportive of the Islamic regime’s nuclear aims and the regime’s refusal to back down. Would you agree with that?
Fariborz Pooya: No, I don’t think so. I think the majority of the people in Iran oppose the Islamic regime and its nuclear-isation of Iran. The Islamic government wants to acquire nuclear weapons and is pretending that this is the wish of the people in Iran. However, very clearly a nuclear Islamic regime is dangerous for the region and for the people of Iran. It would actually escalate the nuclear arms race between the West, Europe, Israel and the Islamic Republic in the Middle East. It would create a destructive situation in the Middle East, because it would heighten tensions and push back the progressive movement, which in Iran is aiming to get rid of the Islamic government.
Maryam Namazie: One 22-year-old student called Saideh Hossein quoted in the BBC report had said ‘why should the US, Britain and Israel all have nuclear weapons and not us? Your comments?
Bahram Soroush: None of them should have it. A nuclear weapon in the hands of any state is dangerous. When you oppose the Iranian regime’s attempts to acquire nuclear capability, it doesn’t mean you are condoning it for other states. I am against all nuclear weapons. In my view, there should be a nuclear-free world. Adding another state to the general camp of nuclear states just adds to the dangers. Even the process of the Iranian regime’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons is creating dangers for the Iranian people; the danger of attacks on the nuclear installations by the United States or Israel, for example. It is adding to the confrontation in the Middle East and making the situation much harder for the people in Iran. People of Iran are aiming to get rid of the Islamic regime, but this factor will make it harder.
Maryam Namazie: Bahram Soroush said no government should have nuclear arms. But some do. Some governments do have it. And some would say that it is discriminatory, as someone did say in the BBC report. Of course, he was a Baseeji, i.e. someone who defends the Islamic regime tooth and nail, but it is something that some others may say too. The example he gives is, ‘imagine you are in a classroom and everybody gets a notebook, except for you, and you feel discriminated against’. I have even heard the Islamic Republic’s officials say that this is equivalent to ‘nuclear Apartheid’, which is very interesting!
Fariborz Pooya: This is the topsy-turvy world of the Islamic government, and this is ‘nuclear egalitarianism’! These are the wishes of the Islamic Republic wrapped up as people’s demands. It is the government’s attempts to feign that they have something to do with equality or the reduction of discrimination. It is like the slave-owner who is opposed to the abolition of slavery saying it undermines his position and his trade; that it is ‘unfair’ treatment of the slave-owner! Somebody is going to stand up and say, look, your existence, the Islamic government’s existence, is based on discrimination and violation of people’s rights and you have no right to be in power, let alone be a nuclear power.
If you continue the logic of this argument, then we have to argue for, for example, Hamas in Palestine having nuclear weapons because the Israeli government is armed with nuclear weapons. You can’t continue with that line of argument. These are clearly the wishes of the ruling class in Iran presented as the wishes of the Iranian people. I think the BBC interview is trying to give legitimacy to the politics of the Islamic government as always. I believe that the Islamic regime should not be allowed to get its hands on nuclear weapons. As soon as it does, it will make the Middle East a more dangerous place. The fact that the United States or Israel have nuclear weapons shouldn’t justify the Islamic Republic having them. We should, rather, argue for the removal of all nuclear weapons from the Middle East and the rest of the world. That is our policy. The Political Bureau of the Worker-communist Party of Iran recently passed a resolution, pointing out that as soon as the Islamic Republic regime is removed, the revolutionary government in Iran would in fact abandon all nuclear attempts and fight for a nuclear-free world.
Maryam Namazie: It’s interesting that when it comes, for example, to women’s rights, when we talk about universal women’s rights, the Islamic Republic of Iran and its supporters say, well this is separate, it’s different, it’s a Western value, but when it comes to nuclear arms, suddenly they want equality and no discrimination! Any comments?
Bahram Soroush: Exactly. They want to get hold of weapons and these are the absurd justifications that they are using. The Islamic Republic is dangerous enough without nuclear weapons. So imagine what a threat it would be to humanity if it got hold of nuclear weapons. They are just trying to take advantage of the situation in the Middle East and Iraq. They think if they can buy enough time, they can move towards acquiring nuclear weapons. They know, for example, that the United States’ threats are not based on real strength at the moment. At the moment the US is tied down in Iraq, so it cannot realise all the threats that it is making. If it was before the invasion of Iraq, things might have been different. So the Islamic Republic is trying to move very fast, but the problem they have is not so much the United States or Israel, but the people in Iran, the revolutionary situation in Iran. Anything that brings political instability to Iran might act as a fissure, as an opening to a revolutionary upsurge. The country is simmering and people are waiting in ambush to pull down the government. So the Islamic regime might well be gone before it acquires nuclear weapons.
Maryam Namazie: Briefly what is it about nationalist feelings that make people say things that identify with a government that is actually repressing them? For example, when Saideh says ‘they have nuclear weapons, why not us?’ We live in Britain but we don’t have nuclear weapons in our pockets. There is a distinction between people and states. Often times people are saying when they say ‘why don’t we have repressive things too?’ Just in a sentence or two, what would you say?
Fariborz Pooya: It is a reflection of the hold of the ideas of the ruling class that people do not actually think carefully whether it is in their interests or not when they argue in this way. These are the interests of the ruling class, their politics. When you look at it, you see that clearer versions of arguments such as these are directly coming from the heart of the Islamic government. Khatami, for example, says this is ‘nuclear apartheid’. That would reflect itself in the press in Iran, and then some people in the BBC would pick that up and argue the case. This is just an absurd understanding and interpretation of equality.
Bahram Soroush: The Islamic Republic is not a representative of the Iranian people. We have to make that differentiation. That’s how people in Iran look at it. So if somebody comes up with this argument, it’s just the old way of equating a government with the people. But that’s not the case at all. The Islamic Republic is a religious sect that is in power despite the wishes of millions of people in Iran. Its attempts to acquire nuclear weapons are not in the interests of the Iranian people. Anyway, in a case like this, it’s not like the example you mentioned about textbooks being distributed. This is not a textbook! It’s a dangerous weapon; it’s a weapon of mass destruction. You can’t talk about equality in that sense. The only solution is to get rid of them all. It shouldn’t be in anybody’s hands, least in the hands of the Islamic Republic.
Fariborz Pooya: Just to add, would it advance the interests of the people an inch, the cause of equality, would it improve the living conditions of the working people in Iran if the Islamic regime gets its hands on these weapons? It wouldn’t. Not only that, it would actually strengthen the hands of the Islamic government which on a daily basis is oppressing the people in Iran. No to nuclear weapons, and we are for a nuclear-free Middle East and world.
The above is an International TV ( http://www.anternasional.tv/english) interview dated October 24, 2004.