Ambassador Hossein Mousavian has been a key diplomat for Iran for the past quarter century. He represented the Islamic Republic in Germany from 1990 to 1997, and then took a post as the head of the Iranian National Security Council’s Foreign Relations Committee until 2005, where he served as the country’s chief spokesman during nuclear negotiations with the European Union a decade ago.
Although relations between Iran and the United States have been complex since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Mousavian believes that it wasn’t until 2005 that the relationship between Iran and European countries was affected.
“In 2005 when Ahmadinejad was elected as president of Iran, practically, Europeans joined the U.S. for sanctions and pressures,” Mousavian says. “Europeans they now understand they made a big mistake, because before 2005 they had over 50 percent share of Iranian economy. And just during eight years of sanctions they lost almost all their shares to China.”
China now has a 60 percent share of Iranian trade and economy and Mousavian believes that this trend has been a major impetus for the West’s renewed interest in creating a nuclear deal with Iran that will stick. But European powers have never been the stumbling block on the road to lifting sanctions. In 2005, that block was the United States.
“The three Europeans countries – the UK, Germany, and France – they almost reached to a type of solution, but Europeans could not deliver the deal because the U.S. was opposing any enrichment in Iran,” Mousavian says. “The U.S. position was zero enrichment in Iran. That’s why the efforts by Iran and Europe to find a peaceful solution fail in 2005.”
The diplomats did succeed in temporarily suspending enrichment activities, but when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in August of that year, he restarted the enrichment. That act combined with his intensely anti-Israel rhetoric pushed members of the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1696, joining the United States in imposing sanctions.
Since 2005, changes in leadership have been seen in the West as well as in Iran. The Bush and Blair era has been followed by a wave of politicians attempting to deal with the Middle East in a different way. In the case of Obama, Mousavian is encouraged by the president’s willingness to adjust and improve. He thinks that although Obama’s Iran strategy didn’t succeed in his first term, he brought new people in and made the necessary changes to bring about success.
“In the second term with the combination of Obama, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and then Obama, Kerry, and Monies, I think they have been, relatively successful,” Mousavian says. “I believe this a good, big step, but this is the first step.”
Differences between the Obama and Bush presidencies have affected the dialogue and so has the change in leadership within Iran.
“The situation during Ahmadinejad was killer.” Mousavian says. “But Rouhani is a moderate personality. His policy was clear when he was the top nuclear negotiator. If the U.S. would have accepted basic enrichment in Iran, the deal could be reached during Rouhani’s period leading the nuclear talks in 2005.”
Mousavian sees President Rouhani in a very positive light and believes the leader is doing his very best for his country.