August 6, 2013

For Iran, a fresh impetus

FOR the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the assumption of office by their newly-elected President, Hassan Rowhani, is a great opportunity to rejoin the mainstream of world politics, economy and society.

The immediate past president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, took his extremist policies often to ridiculous and unnecessary ends, setting the entire Middle East Region astir and on edge with frequent sabre-rattling at the Jewish State of Israel.

Ahmedinejad unrepentantly issued provocative statements, questioning the veracity of the Holocaust (a painful part of the Jewish people’s history), declaring that Israel “did not exist” and vowing to destroy it.

This also incited the Jewish state into making belligerent moves to take out Iran’s military and perceived nuclear facilities in self preservation. It is a major, pleasant surprise that restraint was able to prevent a military strike on Iran by the United States.

A sticking point was the nuclear programme which Iran has been pursuing for decades. Ahmedinejad stopped cooperating with the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), thus fuelling fears that the programme was being turned into a facility to develop nuclear weapons.

The world lived on the brink throughout Ahmedinejad’s tenure of office, as the West vowed never to allow Iran become a nuclear weapon-capable state. Iran under Ahmedinejad also became a great source of threat to the security of Nigeria.

Apart from many terrorist cells and extremist Islamic groups being traced to sponsors within the ruling establishment and private concerns in Iran, a ship containing weapons of war was intercepted in the Lagos ports in 2011 made in Iran.

It caused a huge diplomatic rumpus between Nigeria and Iran, with many Nigerian groups calling for the suspension of diplomatic relations.

The new president, Mr Rowhani, a moderate cleric, has sown the seeds of hope, with his declaration, after winning 50.7 per cent of the votes: “Iranians voted for moderation. Iranians want to live free”. He vowed to work to end the sanctions imposed upon his country by the West and nominated moderate technocrats to serve in his cabinet.

We are hoping that Rowhani will also re-open talks with the IAEA to allow experts to ascertain that the nuclear plant is, as Iran has always insisted, for peaceful ends. We call on Iran to mend fences with its neighbours in the region, particularly Israel, Iraq and others.

It is only in an atmosphere of peace and friendship that the Iranian economy can resume its surge truncated by Ahmedinejad’s belligerency.

As a country burdened with a war on religious extremists, Nigeria will be relieved to see a friendlier, more progressive Iran as a close diplomatic ally and partner on the economic and security fronts.