Maryam Namazie:George Bush has pledged that if re-elected he will bring regime change in Iran. He has labelled Iran as one of three in an axis of evil. I want to ask the question that is on everyone's mind – Is Iran Next? Noam Chomsky has pointed out Iraq is merely a footnote in the USA's colonial adventure, while Iran is the “grand prize”. What's your analysis?
Hamid Taghvaee: I don't think this is the case, not because the USA's foreign policy is different towards Iran versus Iraq but because the political situation in Iran is completely different from its neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan or Iraq. I don't think that they can do in Iran what they have done in Iraq, mainly because in Iran people are on the streets.
There is a mass movement against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is leftist, radical and against what the USA plans to maintain in the region. All their talk is just part of the game of diplomacy and a piece in the USA's foreign policy in the Middle East; it has nothing to do with toppling the Islamic regime of Iran.
Namazie:So when we hear the 9/11 Commission has reported links between Iran and Al Qaeda for example, are these part of this game like the issue of WMD in Iraq?
Taghvaee: The diplomatic tango between the USA and the Islamic regime in Iran has been going on for years. The USA's main problems in the region are Iraq first and then Palestine; Iran is somehow involved in both of them. Therefore, they are aiming to tame the Islamic regime by giving it a place in their foreign policy. This is the reason behind the pressure they are exerting on Iran; it is not an effort to change the whole political situation in Iran.
I don't think that the USA can afford another country like Afghanistan and Iraq in the region especially in a country like Iran. They want to keep the 'peace' there while simultaneously ensuring that the Islamic regime stays in line with their foreign policy. When they raise issues like human rights, nuclear weapons, WMD, or relations with Al Qaeda, these are merely pieces in the puzzle of their foreign policy towards Iran with the goal of taming the regime not changing it.
Namazie: You have said that they can't do in Iran what they have done in Iraq. But we see Republican Senator Sam Brownback plans to introduce an Iran liberation act in the northern autumn, modelled on the Iraq Liberation Act that mandated regime change in Baghdad. Why can't they do the same? You said the difference is that people are in the streets. Can you explain that?
Taghvaee: To do the same in Iran would begin a chain of events in Iran that will be out of the USA's control. In that chain of events, the people will play a very important role. This has not been the case in Iraq before the start of the war. In Iran, they know it's the opposite. A few days after their attack on Iraq, they mentioned regime change in Iran but had to stop saying so soon after because of the strong opposition in Iran against that regime.
The USA administration understood that they couldn't follow this line in Iran. As I said, they know there is a radical Left movement in Iran against religion, against the Islamic regime, for democratic rights, and for demands that the USA cannot afford in the region. If such a movement comes forth and gains momentum, then the USA wouldn't be able to control Iraq, Afghanistan or any country for that matter. Effectively, they don't want this to happen in Iran. Any such talk is therefore in my opinion a game of diplomacy.
Namazie: A USA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said that their intervention will be different that that in Iraq. It won't be a military action, but rather that the US would work to stir revolts in the country and hope to topple it. You're saying there is a movement on the streets to overthrow the regime so how would this be explained then?
Taghvaee: They are not referring to the movement I am. I am referring to a people's movement and intervention from below whilst there are speaking of intervention from above such as a military coup or some form of toppling of the regime that will bring the right wing opposition to power. But they are not even serious about this. If they organise a coup, they will still not be able to control the chain of events that follow, including a mass movement against the resulting government.
Namazie: If it's a question of control, they have no control in Afghanistan or Iraq but they go ahead and intervene anyway. Isn't that so?
Taghvaee: They might make mistakes but we are talking about the logic of their policy as far as the interests of the USA government are concerned, i.e. what is strategic to their interests. It doesn't mean they will always follow logic. If they are realistic, if they analyse Iran as it is, they will then understand that it is different from Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a section in the USA government that refers to this. The main difference in the situation in Iran is the role of the people in any future intervention.
Namazie: We're seeing two perspectives in the USA administration – one calling for regime change and another for relations with Iran e.g. the Council of Foreign Relations task force, led by Zbigniew Brzezinski, and saying that there is no chance for the regime to be toppled. What's your analysis on this? What side will or should win, if any?
Taghvaee: It proves my point; that this is all part of their foreign policy and a game of diplomacy. It's all about the balance of power between the USA and the Islamic regime of Iran. They have been playing this game for a long time. There are many other views on Iran and depending on the situation, they will adopt one of them. Which of these positions are better for the Iranian people? Clearly, none. None of them have anything to do with what people want and what they are fighting for and have been fighting for years now. The Islamic regime should not be recognised by other states, especially Western ones. It should be condemned as a criminal regime.
Namazie: Where should progressive forces stand?
Taghvaee: People should be on our side, the side of the Worker-communist Party of Iran. We represent the Left in that country, which is very powerful. Leftist ideas and goals are popular and the movement to overthrow the regime has been leaning towards the Left. Today, we have a mass movement fighting for a modern and civilised life, women's liberation, against religion. Those goals and ideas are very different than we see is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan. This must be supported.
About Maryam Namazie is the host of TV International English, Executive Director of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees and Director of the International Relations Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran.