Today, wherever we see that a sanctions is imposed on Iran, it was due to “one of our internal weak point”. Wherever we were strong and as the Americans say, we have been so much wise and vigilant that we strengthened our capabilities in that sector, their hands have remained empty and they couldn’t impose any sanctions against us. From this point of view, maybe the sanctions have yielded some benefits for us.
According to a report by the public relations and information center of the scientific and technological department of presidential office, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei believes that relying on the country’s internal capacities is the key to the problems in different fields. He also has supported movement and innovation in action in the field of diplomacy but also considers the diplomacy power as reliant on the internal might and power.
This issue was displayed in another form in one of his meetings with the foreign ministry officials while he didn’t prohibit “negotiations with the US” on certain cases, but assumed such talks useless for the removal of sanctions. Now what should we do with the sanctions and how can we gain victory over their bad effects on our country’s economy? What is the role of the scientific elites and the science and technology system in this regard? These questions are the pivot of an interview held by the office of maintenance and publication of Ayatollah Khameniei’s works (khamenei.ir) with Dr. Seyed Mohammad Sahebkar Khorassani, the caretaker of the scientific and technological department of presidential office for knowledge-based companies and institutions affairs. The following is the full text of the interview.
Q: A part of the western sanctions against Iran are related to the scientific and technological field. Given your responsibilities, you are possibly familiar with these sanctions. What is the mechanism for implementation and effects of these sanctions?
A: The US statesmen have raised many expertise discussions and meetings against Iran in the treasury department and other parts in which the Zionist lobby is active. They allocated a large budget to their think tanks and research centers to identify the vulnerable points of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Actually, they have worked well in this regard and could understand our vulnerable points well. Meaning that today wherever we see that a sanctions is imposed on Iran, it was due to “one of our internal weak point”. Wherever, we were strong and as the Americans say, we have been so much wise and vigilant that we strengthened our capabilities in that sector, their hands have remained empty and they couldn’t impose any sanctions against us. From this point of view, maybe the sanctions have yielded some benefits for us. I remember that the Supreme Leader said somewhere the sanctions showed us our weaknesses, deficits and deficiencies.
One of the areas that they sanctioned us was the scientific field. The scientific sanctions are among the rather comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iran and can be identified in different fields and groups. The first group of sanctions of this field is focused on “attaining knowledge”; meaning that in certain scientific fields they don’t even allow us to enter, including the limitations that they have implemented for the Iranian students for studying in certain fields and is actually a type of scientific apartheid against Iran; or limitations in attaining certain international certifications or our lack of access to certain scientific resources of the today world, etc.
Another group of sanctions is related to “preventing the training-technical assistance to the Iranian universities and people”; meaning that certain universities like Sharif University of Technology, Shahid Beheshti University, Malek Ashtar University and Imam Hossein (AS) university have been sanctioned with this pretext that they make activities in the nuclear and aerospace fields. Another group of the sanctions in the field of science and technology is that they don’t “permit the imports of technology to our country in certain fields”; like certain electronic and telecommunication equipment, oil and gas equipment, airplane industry equipment, ship-building industry equipment and also preventing the purchase of some chemical materials, etc.
Q: Taking aside the issue of removal of sanctions, what options exist before us for confronting these sanctions?
A: There are generally two approaches to fight the sanctions: One is that we “bypass the sanctions” by adopting certain measures and plans. This approach is not economical since it increases the financial and economic costs for the country.
Another approach is that we empower ourselves in the field of that certain sanctions field and rely on ourselves and design and produce ourselves. I think that the main solution is this fundamental and lifetime solution and it is economical. Experience has shown that in certain cases the technology produced within the country is cheaper than its foreign counterpart and this is the move towards knowledge-based economy. The knowledge-based companies are mainly responsible for designing and production of such products.
On the other side we should involve all people in this issue. One of our mistakes was that we didn’t speak about sanctions with people on the exact dimensions of the sanctions. Of course the reason was that the officials didn’t want create concern among people and perish their tranquility. But experience has shown that the Iranian people can enter the scene in these cases and manage the issue. For instance, look at the sacred defense period (the Iraqi-imposed war on Iran (1980-1988)) and the high volume of its problems which cannot be compared with the current conditions but the people managed to control both the military fronts and the country.
Devotion and sacrifice are among the characteristics of the Iranian people and they emerge in such cases very well. I think that if we told people that we had been involved in a full-fledged economic war and what they should do and not to do, we could use the current situations better and easier for moving on the path of the country’s progress and construction.
Q: What is your proposed and practical solution for such measures?
A: As I said before, when the sanctions were imposed against us we had internal weaknesses and they sanctioned us exactly in those weaknesses. Therefore, it is necessary that we grow strong in those fields and can present indigenized solutions for them. This is exactly the responsibility of the science and technology system or the country’s “scientific elites”. The scientific elites should first identify these weak points correctly and then present some answers for them. For instance when the Americans limited our financial interactions with dollar, the elite researchers of economy and management colleges should have foudn a solution for coming out of this situation.
That the Supreme Leader says the sanctions are annulled by the scientific progress, it means that the scientific elites should adjust their researches with these needs and based on the real existing problems in the country. Since we depended on the West in the aforementioned industries and couldn’t become self-sufficient in those fields, we sustained damages of them but if our scientific elites were powerful in the related fields and we gained self-sufficiency in their designing and productions, certainly the sanctions wouldn’t have had much effects on us.
Q: But certain experts believe that the structure of the international system imposes its conditions to the members and doesn’t allow them to act in an environment outside this structure.
A: This is correct to some extent. Imagine that you are living in a stage of life that you are obliged to have relations and interactions with other neighbors. But the issue is that unfortunately, some of these neighbors are bullying and don’t suffice to their share and want to trample others’ rights. Ok now the neighbors which are closer to each other should gather and establish new relations. This is the same rule that the international system follows; meaning that we can create some economic-political systems in the existing structure.
For instance, the BRICS (1) countries have managed to reach economic and business mechanisms among them and made themselves so powerful that the experts believe that they will be the world’s future powers. We can also do the same job. For instance, one of the important issues was that we can ink bilateral financial deals with the countries which enjoy a high volume of exchanges with us. India is an instance and we can plan for mechanisms so that they use their currency for business and not dollar.
Or, for instance, our neighbors are considered as our several-hundred-million-dollar markets. Countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, the Central Asian and Caucasus countries and the Persian Gulf littoral states are the countries with which we can easily have financial interactions with them and save many costs like the transportation costs. Unfortunately, we haven’t acted in this regard so much successfully.
A part of this failure is related to our scientific system and the elites that haven’t taken so many steps in this regard while we could plan for these mechanisms and decrease the effects of the sanctions with planning and exact scientific studies. Such prescriptions come out of that part of the scientific-research system that thinks dynamically. We call this output as the science and technology system’s output, meaning that the PhD students should think about this issue that how we can plan for new mechanisms while having financial interactions with the world and bypass the sanctions.
Therefore, the science and technology system should make more efforts for the settlement of the sanctions issue specially in conditions that the analyses show us that the sanctions against Iran won’t be annulled at least by the next 15 next years; meaning that despite all negotiations and agreements, the US sanctions will remain against Iran for the next 15 years. Of course, it is possible that certain UN Security Council and the European sanctions will become lighter but there is a weak possibility for their cancellation in the near future. Therefore, we should seek solutions in the same arena that I mentioned.
Q: On what basis do you say that even the agreements in the nuclear field cannot remove the US sanctions for the next 15 years?
A: The experience of the US measures in other countries shows this. For instance, we can refer to the experience in Iraq. The US occupied Iraq in 2003 and the US military presence continued for several years but the sanctions against the country continued and were persistent.
Another point is that I mentioned at the beginning of the interview that the nuclear issue is merely one of the US pretexts for anti-Iran sanctions, meaning that even if we reach an agreement in the nuclear issue, there are still three other pretexts of human rights, missile weapons and supporting terrorism. Since as you know, the sanctions against Iran had four pivots or pretexts: human rights, nuclear activities, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and supporting terrorism. By human rights they mean that Iran shouldn’t practice certain religious rules and laws since they are contradictory to their legal norms! Also, in the nuclear case they raised allegations that Iran is after building nuclear bomb. By WMDs they mean Iran’s heightening of missile power to become ready for the possible attack against the aggressor countries! Meaning that against the national and international norms, they tell Iran that you shouldn’t increase your military power! On supporting terrorism, they also said that Iran shouldn’t support the countries and resistance pivots, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine! Therefore, the sanctions against Iran will not be removed unless a new development and event will happen in the next 10 to 15 years; for instance what happened for the Soviet Union and the structure of the international system changed. Therefore, we should find a way to settle our internal problems, specially in the current conditions that were are sanctioned.
Of course, I should point to this fact that the sanctions have also had positive results and they made us cut our hopes from the foreign states in many nuclear, aerospace, medicine and medical, military and defensive equipment and certain technological production fields and rely on our forces. We understood that our forces and resources enjoy a high potential and this hope was not unrealistic. The positive result of the sanctions was that we have created stronger bounds with the regional states and this has helped us to increase our regional clout.
(1) The name of a group with the leadership of the emerging economic powers that was named using the first letters of the countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. First the group was named BRIC but after South Africa joined it, the name was changed to BRICS. The members of the BRICS are known for their rapid and pervasive growth and their effective infiltration in the regional and international issues. BRICS is the representative of a half of the world’s populations and controls 28% of the world’s economic power.