‘Sanctions on Iran are also about Pakistan, Turkey & China’

Updated 20 Jul 2019


IRANIAN scholar Dr Seyed Kazem Sajjadpour speaks at the event.—White Star
IRANIAN scholar Dr Seyed Kazem Sajjadpour speaks at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: Eminent diplomats took part in a seminar titled ‘Changing regional dynamics in the wake of US sanctions on Iran; opportunities of cooperation between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey’ organised by the Centre for Peace, Security and Development Studies (CPSD) at a local hotel on Thursday evening.

Dr Seyed Kazem Sajjadpour, chairman of the Institute of Political and International Studies (IPIS) and former senior Iranian diplomat delivered a thought-provoking speech in the first session of the event. He said the subject required a conceptual framework to be understood, and it was rather simple. He divided the framework into three segments: A (analytical), B (basis) and C (cooperation).

Shedding light on the first, Mr Sajjadpour said from the past to today, the reality of the region [where Turkey, Pakistan and Iran exist] has changed. In the Cold War, we had a vertical regionalism [things were handled from the top, Seato, Cento, etc]. Now, horizontal regionalism has emerged where regions are becoming more open and can look back to perceive their situations. Turkey, Iran and Pakistan are important players, and there’s space for them. The three countries have great potential –– cultural, economic, diplomatic, etc –– and that potential needs to be used. As far as pressures on Iran go, it’s not just Iran, but Pakistan and Turkey too are under pressure. The pressures are there to weaken the three countries.

On the second aspect, basis, Mr Sajjadpour said there was a basis for a trilateral cooperation. There are excellent bilateral relations between Turkey and Iran, between Pakistan and Turkey and between Pakistan and Iran. Our bilateralism should be multidimensional.

Mr Sajjadpour said with regard to the third aspect, cooperation, it could be done in three phases. The first one is the think-tanking phase; second, invite think-tanks plus officials; and the third, foreign ministers and deputy ministers can be involved. Highlighting the challenges, he argued the major challenge was of a psychological nature. The US is trying to terrorise everyone; we shouldn’t be terrorised. Sanctions on Iran are not just about Iran, they’re also about Pakistan, Turkey and China. Another challenge is that of the mentality where we don’t take our region seriously. Also, connectivity should be there –– we don’t get together enough.

‘A new environment is emerging’

Suleyman Sensoy, chairman of the Turkish Asian Centre for Strategic Studies (TASAM) said the issue under discussion was the price that we are paying for what we didn’t do before. Our future will depend on what we do and don’t do [in future]. We have to read our geopolitical situation correctly. There’s a new environment emerging. Economic models have changed. We can solve our problems by coming up with institutional capacity. Pakistan, Turkey and Iran are important countries; together they have a population of 350 million people. We can [help] expand each other economically. We have great potential, and the tapping of that potential will be decided by our institutional framework.

Mr Sensoy said Iran agreed on nuclear development but the US did not honour the agreement. The friends in the Gulf should wake up and see their resources.

Answering a question after the first session about a possible attack on Iran by the US, Mr Sajjadpour said the concept of the attack was a vague one. If it’s done by a single action, Iran will respond immediately. If it’s an invasion, it’s not easy. “It’s a complicated issue. Iran is in a strong position.”

In the second session ambassador Ali Reza Bikdeli, senior representative of IPIS said the cooperation between Iran, Turkey and Pakistan was based on economies spread across an important geographical region. Their partnership has the capacity that can lead the three countries to a much better fate. “Sanctions are imposed for the purpose of limitation. But the experience of the Islamic Republic of Iran proves that the scope of sanctions cannot extend to the capacities of neighbourly relations.” Iran’s neighbours are diverse in terms of area, population, culture, economy etc. Pakistan and Turkey are two countries that can illustrate this diversity.

Ambassador Aydin Nurhan, senior representative of TASAM, said firstly things needed to be looked at through the historical process, such as the age of imperialism and colonialism. He told the audience that he was in Afghanistan for four years (2013-2017) where he saw American fatigue. Afghanistan is the last outpost of the Western imperialist age.

Najmuddin Sheikh, head of the Global and Regional Security Centre, Institute of Business Management, also spoke in the first session; and Ambassador Asif Ali Khan Durrani in the second.

Earlier, Ahsan Mukhtar Zubairi welcomed the guests and apprised them about aims and objectives of the CPSD.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2019