Spanish-Iranian Seminar: Iran in the XXI Century. Energy and Security

Madrid, 3 October 2005

A one-day seminar held on October 3rd, 2005 and jointly organized with The Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) in Teheran. The Seminar took place in the INCIPE Assembly Hall in Madrid. The following institutions collaborated in the organization of the Seminar: the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies (IEEE) from the Defence Ministry, the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Madrid and Técnicas Reunidas.

Apart form the Seminar official programme, a restricted working-lunch took place (50 persons) with the Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Research, Ali Reza Moaiyeri, who addressed the question: “Clarifications of Iranian Nuclear Policy”.

The seminar opened with remarks from José Lladó, Ambassador of Spain, as well as President of INCIPE and Técnicas Reunidas; he was immediately followed by Morteza Alviri, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Spain, and Mostafa Zahrani, the Director General of IPIS, and finally by Leopoldo Stampa, the Director General of Defense Institutional Relations, Spanish Ministry of Defense, as well as a former Spanish Ambassador to Iran, who closed the inauguration.

After each delegate expressed their gratitude and hope for this seminar, the issues at hand were immediately addressed. Security includes not only weapons and military aspects, but the prosperity of a nation. Energy access is an integral part of this prosperity, but its sources can lead to further dilemmas. While fossil fuels cannot last forever, renewable nuclear energy leads to the fear of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons; weapons which may persuade as well as detour, weapons with both political and military aspects.

Panel I: “Iranian role in the Middle East: Challenges for Peace and Security in the Region”

This panel was comprised of Chairman Leopoldo Stampa, the Director General of Institutional Defense Relations, Spanish Ministry of Defense, and the Former Spanish Ambassador to Iran; Bagher Asadi, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I.R. Iran. and the Former Amabassador of Iran to the United Nations; Gema Martín, Professor of Sociology of the Arab and Islamic World, Autonomous University, Madrid; Mostafa Zahrani, the Director General of IPIS; and Álvaro Iranzo, the Director General of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

After an introduction by Chairman Stampa, Ambassador Asadi expressed his hope for a freethinking exchange of views and then proceeded with an overall look at the current international environment. He noted the power asymmetry in which one dominant power deemed itself to be unrivaled and now continuously places its own interests ahead of the international agenda. Asadi expressed his disappointment in the realm of UN reform, where the United States of America again only permitted its discussion of security, terrorism and human rights, while other areas including development were neglected. This power asymmetry has further marginalized the already marginal areas of the world; however, Asadi reassured that the status quo would eventually give way to a different situation. The future depends on a shared understanding of security, development, dialogue, and governance. Security can be achieved through sustained progress and development. He further expressed his desire for international collaboration for collective solutions for collective profit. He concluded by encouraging cooperation and a focus on long-term solutions.

Gema Martín Muñoz opened with an acknowledgement of the world’s superficial picture of Iran as well as its negative image of Shi´it Islam. She encouraged the international community to recognize the enormous significance Iran has in stabilizing the Middle East, and to approach the problem in a global manner by taking into account the greater powers. Professor Martín Muñoz then turned to the issue of Shi´it Islam, she feared by making a place for themselves in the world they also gave into isolationist tendencies, which may lead to thoughts of self-defense. While discussing weapons, the arming process, and Uranium enrichment, Gema Martín noted that while the United Nations resolved to disarm the Middle East, little has been accomplished, in fact countries in the area are becoming more militarized, spending more on military than on social issues. Martín then addressed Israel, a country possibly with nuclear weapons, yet not party to the Non Proliferation Treaty, which has thrown off the equilibrium of the Middle East. She pointed out that Iran has not committed a crime and should the U.N. try and impose sanctions, the result would be a greater loss of credibility in the area. Martín Muñoz concluded by stating that the Middle East must establish a regional system and become integrated to encourage stability, this obviously requires Iran. The issues at hand necessitate normalized relations with Iran and an end to the politics of harassment.

Mostafa Zahrani began by addressing the definition of the Middle East; is Persia included? Does the Middle East signify oil? A shared history? Religion? Although there exists much confusion, he noted the confusion but encouraged discussion of the Middle East through several different frameworks. A main manner in addressing the Middle East has been through the medium of four “p´s”: population, poverty, pollution, and proliferation. Another system includes the idea of a Regional Framework wherein the region contains a common culture, history, religion, and identity. However when discussing identity, the Middle East chronically suffers an identity crisis. Zahrani emphasized a relationship between the international system and the region; if a crisis occurs among the big players of the world, the Middle East reflects this uncertainty. He continued to discuss the problem of identity though the example of Iranian foreign policy. Iran was an ally of the West, however after the Revolution; it had a problem in defining its national interest. Meanwhile the United States needed justification for its military spending after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The USA has a fundamental interest in working with Iran; Zahrani emphasized that Iran helped in the Iraq and anti-terror war. The identity of Iran comes into question when addressing it’s ideology, the USA, according to Zahrani claims that Iran’s foreign policy driven by ideology, which was true after the Revolution. Yet by the end of the Cold War, the foreign policy of Iran lost much of this ideology while the USA did the opposite. Zahrani concluded with a differentiation of Islam and Shi´it Islam from Al´Qaeda and all other terrorist groups that mandate killing Shi´its, which will send the killer to paradise. Iran´s place has become much more complex along with its foreign policy and identity by being surrounded by theses groups.

Álvaro Iranzo addressed the friendship between Spain and Iran; two countries without secret agendas towards the other. Iranzo pointed out that Iran sits in a crossroad of culture, geography and conflict, and therefore a fundamental player in bringing about peace in the Middle East. Iranzo recognized that Iran is already playing a stabilizing role along the Afghani border. Moving to the issue of Iraq and a new government, Iranzo emphasized the mosaic of cultures and ideals already present in that area; and while it is essential that all interests contribute to a new framework, the Iraqi people need to be allowed to choose. Iranzo then turned to proliferation, stating that Spain accepts the Iranian right to have nuclear technology as stated by international treaties. Yet Spain is still concerned about nuclear proliferation, which may lead to perceived threats and further proliferation, thus a nuclearized area of the Middle East. Iranzo noted that while Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons, the international community believes its true, yet if an Israeli-Arab peace were reached, Isreal would no longer have an excuse for these weapons. Iranzo repeated Spain´s confidence in France, the United Kingdom, and Germany in their efforts to contribute to peace talks. Further concerns for Spain regarding Iran included the international community’s desire for guarantees to ensure that Iran is not developing a nuclear program, while another issue was the development of vectors (rocket programs) for launching nuclear warheads. Iranzo stressed the European Union’s lack of a hidden agenda toward Iran and that a solution will come from cooperation and dialogue. Iranzo further indicated that Spain wishes to start from a basis that Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology; “We can’t use a double standard [but] no country should try and dodge these international systems of security.”

Panel II: “The Importance of Energy for the Creation of Regional Stability”

This panel consisted of the Chairman, Manuel Valencia, the President of the Spain-Iran Joint Business Committee (High Council of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Shipping) as well as a member of INCIPE´s board of trustees; Hadi Hosseinian, the Iranian Deputy Oil Minister, and the Former Ambassador of Iran to the United Nations; Javier de Quinto, the director General of Red Eléctrica de España, and Professor-Head of Economy at Saint Paul University- CEU, Madrid; and Jorge Segrelles, the Managing Director of REPSOL YPF Foundation.

Javier de Quinto gave a power point presentation summarizing Iran’s position regarding energy and energy resources. He noted the concentration of petroleum reserves in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia having the most, while Iran comes in second with a total of 11% of the world’s oil reserves. Moving onto Natural Gas, de Quinto pointed out that Iran is only second to Russia with 15.3% of the world’s reserves. De Quinto then enumerated the many benefits of natural gas: it is cleaner, more plentiful, and after the Kyoto Protocol, cheaper as well, also prices do not need to be linked to oil and countries can pay in euros. He noted that Iran could feasibly develop its natural gas with European oil companies. De Quinto then turned to the nuclear option he stated that electricity diversification is a good idea and that nuclear energy is not competitive like oil or gas. He concluded by advising the question, what is the most economic solution?

Ambassador Hadi Hosseinian immediately pointed out that the prosperity of nations depends on their energy supply. The world’s oil reserves are projected to last about forty years while natural gas for only sixty-seven years. These figures clearly indicated the need for renewable energy sources. Even the USA recognizes this necessity by putting the security of energy supply in the highest importance of USA policy; in order to secure their continuous energy supply they went to Iraq, according to Hosseinian. He further noted that the USA still occupies Iraq along with three other countries strongly under its influence. Iran is the only country free of heavy USA influence. Hosseinian continued that the proper way of stabilizing future energy is through multilateral collaboration. While Iran is in favor of multilateralism, the difficulties in political parties have led Iran to turn to Asia for trading partners. However Iran will invest in gas fields and by 2010 will be able to export gas to Spain. Hosseinian concluded by stating that only regional convergence will lead to economic prosperity.

Jorge Segrellas began with a familiar but still shocking statistic, “in the last 150 years we have consumed 1 trillion barrels of oil, in the next 20 years we will do the same.” When discussing energy he noted that China and India are very important, containing the highest populations, the USA is also worthy of mention as the largest consumer. Russia is trying to get back control of Gas and Oil resources after Yeltsin´s massive privatization, and will be competing with Iran over who will be a supplier of China and India. Venezuela has started developing gas reserves and Qatar has put into place an ambitious program for gas exports. Segrelles commented that there needed to be an improved relationship between countries with resources and countries with the capital to develop the resources. He concluded by noting that the current high process, by the law of supply and demand, send a positive message for development and that the Shi´it world could become very powerful by controlling oil and gas.

Panel III: “Spanish-Iranian Bilateral Relations and the Role of the EU”

This panel was comprised of Chairman Darío Valcárcel, the Director of the Journal Política Exterior, and the Secretary General of INCIPE; Morteza Alviri, the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Spain; Alberto Moreno, the Deputy Director General for the Near East, Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Manochehr Horadi, the Senior Researcher, Center of European and American Studies, IPIS; and a last minute substitution of Enrique Viguera by Luis Tejada, also from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

Alberto Moreno opened by describing three periods in Spanish foreign policy: first, a focus on Europe; second, a focus on logic and; third, a focus on the world of Arabic and Islam. Now the foreign policy of Spain has aligned with that of the EU in all areas except in Spain’s special relationship with the Middle East. According to Moreno, the theme of security is intrinsic to the question of nuclear technology. However Iran needs to develop its economy in light of the population explosion which will send many young people into the work force without many jobs available. This problem can be addressed, continued Moreno, by Iran modernizing its economy with the help of the EU. Although the Spanish-Iranian bilateral relations are without any problems, questions of how to address nuclear technology leads to further questions of ideology and foreign policy. The regional situation is difficult concluded Moreno succinctly.

Manochehr Moradi chose to address the enlargement of the European Union toward the Middle East and the political, economic and security impact of this expansion. He asked whether the EU enlargement while building a cohesive foreign policy would strain Iranian relations. Moradi answered with a discussion of the EU. The European Union currently has twenty-five members, with other countries in the process of accession. This enlargement draws the EU toward the Middle East and other troubled areas; however the EU wishes to develop a friendly and prosperous neighborhood of the countries surrounding it. But how does Iran feel about this European Union expansion? Asks Moradi. There are both opportunities and threats for Iran; both will have to face the threats of an unstable Caucus Region, also the EU may counter balance the influence of the USA in the area. The downside may be that the EU will become more isolationist and focus more inward, or it may extend the zone of common western values into the region. No matter what occurs, Moradi notes that cooperation between the two regions are necessary; Multilateral Systems are necessary and strengthening these systems is a common objective. The influence of Iran in the area cannot be ignored. Iran must be placed in the neighborhood policy. Moradi closed by stating that enlargements should mean deepening the relations between the EU and Iran.

Luis Tejada opened by discussing the economy of Iran. While he noted the need of Iran to modernize, he also indicated a method by importing intermediate goods and increasing foreign investment. Tejada suggested the EU as a trading partner though he admitted Iran could turn to either the USA or Asia; he put forward Europe because of its geographic proximity. A free trade Euro-Mediterranean area is already being discussed in the European Union, and this would provide a much-needed anchor in trade, human, and political relations for Iran with the EU. This Free Trade Area would be more than just an exchange because it would have standards and would allow Iran to be attached in a privileged way to the EU, continued Tejada. Right now many countries have trade agreements and processes with the EU and Tejada encouraged Iran to finish its agreement as well. He further pointed out that any country that is not included in a Mediterranean-EU free trade area would be left behind and he concluded by expressing his desire that all countries start thinking about these things now.

Ambassador Morteza Alviri began by stating his hope for peace in the Middle East; any strategy affords Iran an opportunity for leadership and influence in the area. While he noted the growth in the Iranian economy over the past few years, he pointed out that Iran maintains membership in the Group of 77, the developing countries. Alviri continued by discussing the Iranian active international outlook and its growing participation in the United Nations. He assured that Iran would continue to play an active role in various fields. Alviri followed this by noting with appreciation the entirety of the European Union as an important power in the world political economy. He also observed that Iran would continue its close and expanding relations. When addressing the Spain-Iranian bilateral relations he was pleased to acknowledge the recent year of deepening of said relations and believed that the two countries were moving in the right direction, yet he still encouraged greater attention and effort on both sides. He wished for a greater understanding from each country for the others´ restraints and a need for a long-term strategic vision to override the short-term ups and downs. He concluded by encouraging the necessary political will in both countries and with the statement, “Where there is a will, there is a way and the way is forward.”

Closing Session: “Spain, Iran and the Near East: prospects and Opportunities”

The seminar closed with remarks from Professor Vicente Garrido Rebolledo, the Director of INCIPE; Mostafa Zahrani, the Director General of IPIS; Bernardino León, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Iberoamerica –Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; and Ali Reza Moaiyeri, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Research, Islamic Republic of Iran.

All stressed the need for international cooperation. Zahrani requested more justice in international politics, while León remarking on the need for discussion not just on nuclear issues. He concluded that there is a wide scope for both countries to cooperate “[We have] more common ground than not.” Moaiyeri expressed his hope for further multilateralism, “the point of inflection for bilateralism”.

Anne Nielsen
INCIPE Research-Fellow

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