The follwing is the full text of Zarif speech addressed to the conference:
It is a great pleasure to be here again and to share with you some thoughts about the ongoing transition in the postwestern global order and its implications in West Asia.
I believe what is urgently needed today is a cognitive transition, commensurate with the realities of the global transition; realities that have challenged zero-sum approaches; overwhelmed global as well as regional hegemonic aspirations;
and undermined convenient framings and 'alternative facts.'
In other words, we all need to realize that in a globalized world, achieving security at the expense of insecurity of others is an unrealistic – even absurd -- proposition;
That in a world where security actors have multiplied and where non-state actors have gained a significant – albeit mostly negative -- place at the global security arena, no single power – however disproportionately powerful -- or even a concert of major powers can address global or regional challenges by excluding or blaming others;
and that while misperceptions, misrepresentations and erroneous assumptions may temporarily defuse domestic anxieties, they do not help in the actual resolution of
From this perspective, the nightmare of extremist violence and terror in West Asia is neither solely the product of the dynamics in this region, nor can it be contained – as we have all seen—within the region. And there is a plenty of blame to go around.
It is easy for us in West Asia to blame the West as the ultimate culprit in our problems; there is no shortage of history here.
It has been even more convenient for the West to blame us, Muslims, irrespective of our diversity. Finger-pointing has been the easiest diversion for everybody.
In my opinion, the first necessary step in addressing the challenge is to redefine the problem in way that is conducive to a collective solution.
We can all readily agree that lack of hope has been a central component of the crisis. What binds all those engaged in extremist violence is their sense of being marginalized, locally and globally, without any hope for inclusion, participation and -
- most importantly – respect. We can also detect that another rallying ground for extremist recruitment has been the endemic problem of foreign invasion
and occupation; starting with Palestine and compounded by the systematic political and military interventions to preserve, perpetuate, and then reshape the regional architecture and hastily usher in a self-acclaimed “new world order.”
As for the internal component of the complex mosaic before us, it is not difficult to observe the failure of the state system in parts of our region, in responding to the fundamental demand of the populace for dignity. Let me emphasize here that it is
misleading and dangerous for our neighbors in the region to try to defuse this existential internal threat by diverting the anger towards fabricated external enemies.
There is also a pseudo-ideological component.
For nearly four decades, the well-financed global proliferation of 'Takfiri' ideology based on division, hatred, and rejection -- which has nothing to do with Islam -- has been sold as promoting “moderate” Islam to confront an erroneously-framed “radical”
The combination of these factors has produced a literally explosive mix. That is, while the emergence of terror groups such as Daesh and the Al-Nusrah Front, and the cycle of totally unprecedented ruthless and barbaric violence, can be traced
back to the foreign military misadventures of early 2000s, the arming and financing of these groups by some states in the region cannot be ignored. They hoped to kill two birds with one stone:
diverting the existential threat of domestic discontent with dysfunctional state system,
while hoping to restore the perceived regional equilibrium that existed prior to the ouster of Saddam Hussein. That stone has now boomeranged.
I just alluded, ladies and gentlemen, to the regional component of the problem, where I hope a less complicated and more rapid solution might be within reach.
The fall of Saddam Hussein and the emergence of a popularly elected government in Iraq produced anxieties in some regional countries regarding a disequilibrium in West Asia in favor of Iran that they believed had to be reversed at all costs.
Two decades earlier, similar misplaced anxieties following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, led some of our neighbors to arm and finance Saddam Hussein to destroy that manufactured enemy.
We had hoped that our neighbors would have learned from the fact that the monster they had created ended up as their own nightmare. We all need to break this pattern. In fact, during the Iran-Iraq war, the international community recognized the problem and prescribed a regional security arrangement, enshrining it in
paragraph 8 of UN Security Council resolution 598 that brought the war to an end. That provision continues to be relevant and necessary to end this vicious cycle.
Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction of erecting realistic regional arrangements. It can perhaps start with a modest regional dialogue forum, based on
generally recognized principles and shared objectives. The forum can promote understanding on a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence- and security-building measures, and combating terrorism, extremism and sectarianism. It could
also encourage practical cooperation in areas ranging from protection of the environment to joint investment and tourism.
Such a forum could eventually even develop into more formal nonaggression and security cooperation arrangements.
President Rouhani took a major step in this regard last Wednesday in his trip to Oman and Kuwait.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I emphasize that the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain do not have military solutions. Each requires a political solution where no genuine actor is excluded from the process or marginalized in the outcome. Notwithstanding the complexities
of each, there are always possibilities for eventually arriving at outcomes that meet the requirements of all concerned. To begin this unavoidable journey, we must begin defining problems in a non-zero-sum way.
The historic success of diplomacy over coercion in the resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis reflects a simple but important political lesson: all parties concerned defined the problem in a mutually acceptable way that was amenable to a mutually acceptable solution. In other words, they recognized that they had to give up their maximalist expectations in favor of a working compromise.
The challenge, therefore, ladies and gentlemen, is first and foremost cognitive in essence. I hope world leaders are up to it.