Dr. Reza Nazar Ahari, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Japan, delivered a lecture at the United Nations University (UNU) Headquarters in Tokyo on 14 November 2012. His lecture was part of the University’s Ambassador Lecture Series, a forum that provides an opportunity for UNU students, fellows and interns to directly engage with government officials on political, economic, and social issues.
In his lecture, Ambassador Ahari focused on the recent sanctions imposed on Iran, and their effects. He pointed out that this isn’t the first time Iran has faced sanctions. The country’s nationalization of the oil industry in 1953 and the war with Iraq in the 1980s both led to international sanctions on Iran. The current efforts by the international community to place economic pressure on Iran, he explained, are based on the perception that his country is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.
The ambassador stated that oil revenues have decreased and restrictions are in place that prevent foreign institutions and banks from dealing with their Iranian counterparts. However, the overall effects of the current sanctions, he said, are limited and “not working in the way the designers intended”. A necessary condition for sanctions to achieve their intended impact, he argued, is isolation, but China and Turkey as well as neighbouring countries are expanding trade with Iran, thus compensating for some of those governments who have severed ties with the country.
The ambassador acknowledged that Iran currently faces high levels of inflation and unemployment. He attributed this, however, to economic reforms implemented two decades ago by the Iranian government. At the same time, the ambassador identified some of positive effects of the sanctions — particularly Iran’s decreased dependency on imports and oil revenues. He argued that the country is becoming more self-sufficient, especially in the agricultural and petrochemical industries.
The ambassador emphasized that Iran’s nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, and that the country will adhere to international requirements under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He was optimistic that ongoing discussions between the international community and the Iranian government will result in an agreement that would allow the country to continue with a peaceful nuclear programme while lifting economic sanctions.
In a question-and-answer session with the audience, a range of key issues were addressed relating to human rights in Iran, the legitimacy of its nuclear programme, its current leadership, and the country’s relationship with the international community. The ambassador stressed the relevance of cultural and religious customs in guiding legal policies in a country like Iran, and argued for the nation’s right to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme while pointing out inconsistent standards followed by nations imposing economic sanctions on Iran.
Ambassador Ahari closed by urging the audience and the world to cast a critical eye on the media’s portrayal of key issues in international politics, and to consider a visit to Iran to form their own conclusions.