Iran Should Set Up Group of Experts to Defend It Internationally, MP Says

Elias Hazrati, a member of the Hope Faction of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament), has urged Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Supreme National Security Council to create a lobby of at least 100 people whose mission would be to explain the Islamic Republic’s stance on various issues to the U.S. and EU member states.

Mr. Hazrati, who is also a member of the reformist National Trust Party and the managing editor of the Etemad-e Meli newspaper, proposed the idea during an interview with the Majlis’s own news agency (ICANA) on May 20.

“Mr. Zarif is the sole voice of the Islamic Republic in the international arena. We must change this one-voice strategy,” Hazrati said. “The Foreign Minister should work with the Supreme National Security Council to establish a group of 100 people who would fend off any global anti-Iran lobby. The group could also prevent war.”

Hazrati explained: “The group must include prominent figures and individuals with extensive experience in international relations. They could be people loyal to the system, as well as those who are critical of the Islamic Republic, or even those who oppose the Islamic Republic. However, they must all love Iran.”

Hazrati added: “At least a group of 100 individuals, who could lobby on behalf of Iran, should engage in talks with members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, the chairpersons of congressional committees, the chairpersons of political parties, captains of industry, journalists and intellectuals. We must take similar initiatives in Europe.”

Hazrati pointed out that during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), Tehran dispatched parliamentary, diplomatic, and religious delegations around the world to explain its just cause and reasons for continuing the “Sacred Defense.” He said that Iran should practice the same foreign policy in the current political climate.

Hazrati is not the first or only political figure who has proposed a way out of the current political crisis.

On May 17, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy of the Majlis tweeted: “Most senior officials in Iran and the U.S. do not want to start a war. However, there are some players on the sidelines in a big hurry to destroy a large part of the world. The officials in both countries should set up a ‘red [round] table’ in Iraq or Qatar, the primary purpose of which should be to manage tensions.”

According to Azad News online, Mr. Falahatpisheh’s “Red Table” proposal has received mixed public reactions, prompting him to explain his comments as “being his personal viewpoint” and adding that “most people know the difference between managing tensions and holding talks.”

There are still others who advocate parliamentary diplomacy as a way of de-escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington. Prospects of talks between Iranian and American governments are, however, rather remote in the current atmosphere.

In what appeared to be an effort to start a dialogue with Washington, Foreign Minister Zarif offered to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the U.S.

During a speech at the Asia Society in New York in late April, Zarif said: “I put this offer on the table publicly now: exchange them.”

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has been hoping that severe economic sanctions will force Tehran to renegotiate the nuclear deal. However, the Islamic Republic cannot comply with the preconditions set by the U.S. for a new round of talks. That is why those who advocate opening a channel of communication with the U.S. are also against Trump.

During a news conference on May 6, Mr. Trump said: “What they [Iranian officials] should do is call me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, a fair deal, we just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons – not too much to ask. And we would help put them back to great shape. They should call. We’re open to talking to them.”

However, he adopted a much harsher tone against Iran a few weeks later. Before leaving for Pennsylvania on May 20, he told reporters: “I think Iran would be making a big mistake if they did anything. If they do something, it will be met with great force, but we have no indication they will.”

In a tweet on May 19, Trump said: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

Mostafa Tajzadeh, a member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, tweeted: “The tweet by Mr. Trump exposed the inherent racism in the White House. His primary target is neither the clergy nor the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] nor the [Islamic Republic] system. He wants to end Iran. Can’t those people in the opposition, who have pinned their hopes on Trump, separate Iran from the Islamic Republic?”

Meanwhile, some news outlets have reported that Oman, Iraq, and Japan have said they would mediate between Washington and Tehran.

“We intend to contribute to regional peace and stability, using our traditional friendly relations with Iran,” the English-language Japan Times news site reported, citing Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura.

“Iraq is only carrying messages [between the U.S. and Iran]. Mediation is a big word. What we are doing is trying to defuse the crisis,” UK-based English-language The Arab Weekly reported on May 21, citing Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. “We are transferring messages from one side to the other. Iraq has no choice in a crisis. We don’t stand by one side against the other.”

Oman Foreign Ministry posted a tweet on May 24, quoting Foreign Minister Yusuf ben Abdallah, as saying in an interview with an Arabic publication: “There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the entire world. Both parties, the American and the Iranian, know of the danger.”

However, President Hassan Rouhani’s Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi said on May 22 that a recent visit by Mr. Ben Abdallah to Tehran was utterly unrelated to current tensions between the U.S. and Iran and that “there has been no talk of mediation.”

Mr. Rouhani has also rejected direct talks with the U.S. At a meeting with a group of senior clerics on May 21, Rouhani said: “There is no difference between the state officials and the people. They will withstand the U.S. and its sanctions together. Although I favor diplomacy, the situation is not suitable for talks today. Resistance is our only option.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]