Two kinds of politics

Two kinds of politics

by Karl Müller

Two recent incidents demonstrate that politics are not “without alternative”, but serious and good alternatives are conceivable and possible.
One kind of politics has been demonstrated by the way in which media and politics dealt with the so-called “Panama Papers”. Indeed there are people all over the world looking for twisted ways to deprive their states of taxes, to launder illegal money and to pursue other criminal business. Hence the evaluation of data regarding letterbox companies is important in a state of law.

Promoting a new Cold War…

However, already the very first headlines in the newspaper presenting the material for German readers were stupefying. Pictures and titles on the front page and on two other pages suggested that the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, was at the centre of the criminal schemes. The same was true for the design of the book cover published simultaneously by the journalists. It was the same with the parallel reporting British daily paper.
Some others have also noticed this, including the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has stood out before due to his lateral thinking. In his comment (www.craigmurray.org.uk) we can read: “Unfortunately the leaker has made the dreadful mistake of turning to the western corporate media to publicise the results. In consequence the first ‘major story’, published today by the Guardian associated with the “Panama papers”, is all about Vladimir Putin and a fraudulent cellist on the fiddle.” Craig Murray is asking why the story “is focussed on Russia?” “Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.”
But Craig Murray does not really find this surprising: “The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include Ford Foundation, Carnegie Endowment, Rockefeller Family Fund, W K Kellogg Foundation, Open Society Foundation (Soros) among many others.
Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished. Expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny “balancing” western country like Iceland.”
But surely we can assume that this kind of action will not improve the relations with Russia. So is it really exaggerating to state that these kinds of actions are obviously a part of a new Cold War, which is not about truth and justice but about victory in a power struggle?

…or search for possibilities for cooperation?

People in the Middle East know from experience how cold wars turn into hot wars. So a newspaper article by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, demonstrating that a different kind of politics is possible, is highly valuable. In 1990-1997, Seyed Hossein Mousavian was the Iranian ambassador to Germany; in 2003-2005 he was spokesman of the Iranian delegation at the nuclear negotiations. Since 2009 he has been guest professor at the Princeton University. In a guest editorial for the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” on 4 April 2016 he made proposals for a peace process in the Middle East and a concentration of all forces towards fighting terrorism. The first three sentences of the article are programmatic: “An ideology of terror is spreading in the Middle East. The region is facing a complete collapse. Only cooperation can prevent this.” The former Iranian politician elaborates on one of the fundamental problems of the region, the “conflict between Saudi Arabia, a Sunni leading power and Iran, a Shia leading power, which has interwoven civil war and confessionalism.”
His proposal for a solution is not a fight for victory between the two powers but an urgent call for “establishing a mechanism of regional cooperation which restores the regional safety.” Concretely: “At the Persian Gulf […] a system for regional safety has to be created, following the example of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, (OSCE) and the integration of Europe since the end of World War II.”

Good-neighbourly relations

Until 2005 there had been a safety agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This had to be re-established: “The agreement has demonstrated that good-neighbourly relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are possible.” Seyed Hossein Mousavian himself had been involved in the negotiations regarding a rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh, also in the implementation of the safety agreement. Talking about his experiences he writes: “In mid-1996 the former Iranian President of State, Hashemi Rafsanjani, commissioned me to start talks with the Saudi government. With the Saudi crown prince Abdallah, I was negotiating in Casablanca and in Jeddah. In open and serious talks we were treating all issues between us. Neither one of us was interested in quarrelling, we wanted solutions. We agreed on a comprehensive bilateral package for the collaboration in the areas of politics, safety and economy.”
The result: “King Fahd agreed to the package, in Teheran the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ali Khamenei and President Rafsanjani also agreed. Hassan Rohani who was at the time heading the National Security Council as General Secretary and the Saudi Minister of the Interior, Nayef Bin Abdal-Aziz Al Saud signed the safety agreement. It was implemented immediately and a common security committee was established. As a consequence, between 1996 and 2005, when Mahmud Ahmadinejad was elected president, Saudi Arabia and Iran enjoyed their best relations since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In parts they were even better than during the Shah’s reign.”
Good reason for Seyed Hossein Mousavian to claim: “More than a decade later we should start fostering this collaboration again. In Iran, the conditions for this are good. As in 1996, Khamenei and Rohani (who is now President) are leading Iran. In Saudi Arabia, the attitude is similar as under crown prince Abdallah. He had negotiated in a flexible way; he was oriented towards principles and not towards maximalist positions.”
Seyed Hossein Mousavian closes his editorial by pointing out the benefits of such an agreement for both countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both powers have an essential interest in the stability of the region: “Stability and integrity of Saudi Arabia and other Arabic neighbouring states at the Persian Gulf are an indispensable element of Iran’s safety and stability. Hence Saudi Arabia should be interested in collaborating with Iran. It is about time for Riyadh and Tehran to collaborate towards the creation of a regional security structure at the Persian Gulf. In this, they should concentrate on questions of common interest and prevent the Middle East from a total breakdown. The way forward should be based on cooperation, not on confrontation.”

Europe cannot be interested in a new Cold War

Is the situation in Europe so much different? Who can be interested in a new Cold War on the Eurasian Continent, considering the alternatives: good-neighbourly relations between all European states including Russia, a win-win situation for all involved regarding economic relations, as of now unforeseeable benefits through the realisation of the “New Silk Road” project. And, first of all: no danger of war, the nightmare of millions of people in the West and the East of Europe could be ended.
On 6 April, the Dutch have voted against the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement with a majority of 62%. The reasons for this unambiguous result of the citizens’ will are manifold. One of them is the desire to prevent a further confrontation between West and East. As long as the politics of our countries are following a different path, it is not following the citizens’ will and also not the interests of Europe. The piece from Iran is showing an alternative. This would be in agreement with the people’s will – all over the world. It is really revealing, however, if the Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn states after the Dutch vote that “in a parliamentary democracy, referenda are not an appropriate instrument to answer complex questions”

(“Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung”, 9 April 2016).    •

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