“Building peace architecture in the Middle East”
Speech by Dr. Seyed Hamzeh Safavi, Director, Institute for Islamic World Futures Studies
National Dialogues Conference
5 April 2017
In the name of God
Dear audience and respected researchers
Today, we are in a situation that security or insecurity in one part of the world would affect other parts; for example ISIS, not only has affected Middle East, but also other parts of the world have faced its destructive effects.
I appreciate the efforts done in this scientific conference and I believe that holding a panel like this, is not only in favor of Middle East but also the whole human beings.
Before starting my main speech, I would like to make two points:
First I am not an official representative of Islamic Republic of Iran and just as a scholar and researcher concerned about sustainable peace and development from years before and have worked in this field. So please do not expect me to have any official governmental statement or to support one side.
Second point is that in my opinion, if we are looking for just peace and sustainable security in Middle East, focusing on matters like conflicts among Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on Syria or Yemen would not lead us toward a result. We should identify the roots and seek solutions which can provide a model to help us making fundamental progress in region’s issues. I believe working on examples without analyzing the roots would not bear any fruit.
Now I can start my discussion. I have a model for analyzing phenomena which is extracted from different models of analysis; and I have named it “6-element analysis of effective phenomena” that I believe it can be helpful. I would use this model for my discussion.
1) What is the main concept?
2) In which sphere?
3) When? Occurred or will occur?
4) What is the suitable agent for that? Nation? State? Elites…
5) Which structure should be there for that?
6) By which technologies it should be provided?
1) The Main Concept
Bitterness, casualties and massive sufferings of refugees and immigrants caused by the World War I and II made human being to think about the necessity of creating war-preventive measurements and mechanisms of forming sustainable peace and security; causing them making efforts on issues those consequence was significant reduction of military conflicts in the world, especially in Europe. Unfortunately, whether before or after the world wars, Middle East has always been a center for military and security crises.
Just during 8 years of Saddam Hussein’s invasion to Iran, more than 450,000 people had been killed and 1,500,000 people had been injured in both countries. The total damage caused by this useless war to Iran was more than 10.5 trillion dollars.
I believe that today’s conflicts are just like that. After years of conflict in Syria, nothing has been gained except poverty, misery and tragedy. Syria is not the only center of crisis in the region, but the whole region is bearing crises much larger than Iraq’s invasion to Iran or Syrian Conflict.
Trans- regional versions and models also proved their impracticality in Middle East; and unfortunately what we today witness in Middle East is that it has turned into a center for regional and trans-regional competitions, violence, insecurity, misunderstanding and security problems which once in a while emerge as a conflict or crisis in one part of this region.
But what is war? In my opinion, one of the best definitions for war is “the failure to achieve the interests by legitimate means.”
Creation of mechanisms and structures to gain interests is the forte of Europe; which has not been created in Middle East for some reasons that further will be discussed.
What do we need? What is the main concept by which the problems can be solved?
Regional Awareness is the main concept we need. The idea is that we are all sitting in one boat.
What are the features of such regional awareness? The regional awareness must be based on global considerations, global concerns and global norms. But if it is to make regional awareness, it should be through original regional solutions.
Trans-regional interventions, even with the best of intentions, will have negative consequences in long term. Therefore, the main concept which I have focused on is the regional awareness. Such awareness is much worthier than millions barrels of oil or hundred tons of gold. Wars and insecurities have destroyed many wealthy nations or caused them poverty; and have perished many advanced civilizations worldwide. Continuation of current trends in Middle East would lead to catastrophic results in future. If we believe that we are all sitting in one boat, we would have a different action than present. This awareness is such important to achieve that I am ready to even sacrifice my entire life.
2- In which Sphere:
Area and sphere for this concept is Middle East. But there are two other important areas that their acts are effective on the main region: 1) West; 2) Islamic World in general.
A) In the past: Historical issues should be viewed as cases for learning and finding the roots. Discussions on events which have occurred sometimes in thousands years ago are not only useless, but also can destroy the future.
B) Present and Future: Present time is our most important time of action and our main duty is to design and make preferable future.
Regional awareness needs to create and develop a network of people who have common understanding in a series of general principles. The wider the network and more internal the main concepts, the favorable regional awareness would be better.
To achieve this goal, we suggest a network for communication and dialogue in 3 levels; meaning that we would have 3 main agents: 1) governments; 2) elites; 3) nations.
Besides, as lateral agents, we have international organizations, NGOs and the countries which are concerned about sustainable peace.
“National Dialogue”- the main idea of this conference- is an admirable and desirable idea. To create a suitable structure for peace and integration in the Middle East we need to promote the idea of National Dialogue to the Regional Dialogue in three levels: between Governments, between elites and between nations in order to promote and extend of following four principles among them that leads to regional awareness. These principles are:
First) being result oriented: Most of the decisions and acts in the region are suffered from the lack of being executive and objective result oriented elements. ISIS has created the hell in this world in the region, by promising the heaven in the Hereafter. Costs and benefits of decision and actions should be calculated. The Idea of assessment of the acts and ideas to have objective result is weak in the Middle East that should be promoted.
Second) Tolerance: Tolerance is the enemy of extremism and radical movements. We are happy that today we have the ministry of state for Tolerance in the UAE. Regardless of the efficiency, the very existence of such concerns in the region is good news. But the tolerance has not been institutionalized in the region and should be worked on it. One the most important statements in my life is Voltaire’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
Third) Cosmopolitan identity: To have peace, stability and security in the region, focusing on nationalistic identity of Turkish, Iranian or Arab and also strengthening of identity notions based on religious dichotomy of Shia -Sunni should be placed under the more important notion of cosmopolitan identity. Strengthening nationalism or religious sectarianism leads to a dark future for the region.
Forth) Paying attention to national resources and environment: development and attention to the national resources and environment should be a priority concern for people, elites and governments.
So crisis in the Middle East has roots in this concept that the structures of dialogue and its culture have not been formed in the mentioned four principles. Dialogues are affected by deep mistrust in the governmental and elites levels, so informal Dialogues should be promoted. In order to do this, pacifists countries such as Finland that initiated and helped this conference, can play an effective role to create atmosphere of understanding via informal dialogues among governments.
To promote the culture of dialogue in the nation’s level in the region, boost of tourism can be an effective step. In this regard, last year I wrote a book entitled “Tourism Policy Making in Islamic Countries” and I believe that in addition to economic interests, promoting relations among nations in the region will result in culture of understanding, tolerance and security.
Regional awareness should turn to a brand and extend in the region. In this regard, I suggest putting a name on it, such as union for just peace in the Middle East or anything else.
I suggest assigning a special consultative official in the lateral agents such as United Nations Economic and Social Council or in World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) to extend and support of regional awareness movement or any name agreed on.
A subject called Right to Peace has been on discussion recently in the human rights council that counts the peace as the right of all people and this issue can be raised there.
Regional awareness movement can be one of the suggestions of this conference in the final conclusion.
The potentials of the NGOs, those agree with this idea should be used; and we should promote the abilities of pro-peace NGOs by training them and making networks.
6- By which technologies?
Development of communication networks, virtual communication Apps and internet have provided a great platform to spread thoughts and ideas. In this regard, developing internet networks and supporting free (uncensored) internet can be useful.
The fantastic role and power of news and media corporations should not be neglected and a helping hand should be extended to them to support and extend the integration ideas in order to achieve regional awakening.
But this regional awareness faces some challenges that I refer to them in short.
1) Nation-state building process has not been formed completely in the Middle East and in many cases is artificial.
2) Rentier states based on oil revenues have made two troubles for countries:
First) Separation between states and nations, that states see themselves needless of popular demands.
Second) people don’t see themselves responsible and effective in major and important affairs that makes their destiny such as environment, peace and development. Of course this process is going to be better.
Third) Large oil capital accumulation and also other factors have made the region as a favorable market for large armament companies and their respective governments. Their interest is in creating insecurity or sense of insecurity to securitize the region; and had effective attempts in this regard, whereas the process of civil- social development and just peace would start when priority from security conditions shifts to economic ones.
Forth) Propensity of trans- regional powers to create and sustain a new kind of colonial structure through protecting dependent governments and a borrowed security is caused by energy and mineral resources, effective geopolitical situation and wealth in region. This situation has provoked the political backwardness and insecurity in the region.
To answer the conference’s question about “whether regional organizations like Gulf Cooperation Council or Organization of Islamic Cooperation have been successful or not and why?”, should say that unfortunately they were not that much successful; because their performances were based on on-going demands and political statements and were mostly symbolic, whereas the principles mentioned earlier such as being result-oriented, tolerance, cosmopolitan identity, extending culture of regional dialogue and sustainable development are necessary infrastructures needed for the effectiveness of our regional mechanisms and by progress in these parts, we can make use of the capacity of the regional organizations toward just peace and sustainable security for development of the region.
Efforts toward regional awareness must be discussed in social level, not in political one. It is important to benefit from elites who are close to their governments which are legitimate in their countries and also take advantage of NGOs approved by governments. If governments’ view toward the social movement is negatively formed, it would be treated as a security issue and make the regional states to limit and prevent it. Democracy promotion is like a newborn which must be awaited to born naturally in the region; C-section (making it to be born), would damage the result. Countries of the region are headed toward democracy and their movement should not be accompanied by interventions from outside; because it would cause failure. Regional awareness would succeed by legitimation of states in countries of the region, paying attention to their considerations and asking their hands to help for implementation and extension of this movement.
My suggestion and focus is to value the original regional solutions and to decide willfully for the art of rebalancing.