Iran: High Stakes

Iran: High Stakes

Published here is the speech given by Joschka Fischer, former German foreign minister (Green Party), in Tehran on August 1, 2006, to the Iranian Center for Strategic Research.

Below is the text of a speech given by Joschka Fischer, former German foreign minister (Green Party), in Tehran on August 1, 2006, to the Iranian Center for Strategic Research. It is published here in English for the first time. –EDS.


I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the Center for Strategic Research for inviting me to speak about the state and future of European-Iranian Relations. I address this distinguished group today not in any official capacity but as someone with a great deal of interest in the developments in the region and as one of the former negotiators in the E3-Iranian nuclear dossier who is interested in the improvement of our relations.

My visit takes place during a difficult time—indeed an extremely tense and crisis-ridden time for foreign and security policy. It therefore seems particularly important to me that in the face of these tensions and crises, the parties involved do not cease to try to understand the interests, motives, and intentions of the other side. It is my conviction that, in a situation like this one, there is no greater risk than false political calculations based on misunderstanding and misinterpretation. History has shown that such crises can easily escalate and a random spark can lead to catastrophe. This is why current European-Iranian relations depend not only on mutual respect and understanding, they depend primarily and above all on clarity of positions. As I attempt today to present our position very clearly, please do not interpret this as impoliteness but as an expression of serious concern. And I ask you also not to make the messenger responsible for the message, particularly when I outline the consequences that the respective positions have, because these consequences might be of a negative and very serious nature.

We Germans are known throughout the world as a people with an abiding love of rules. This national trait is the reason why we know only too well that there hardly exists a rule without an exception. In diplomacy, a lack of clarity is one of the main virtues of a diplomat but there is one exception. And that is when it is predictable in advance that lack of clarity can cause the opposing side to make a false calculation, which in turn can lead to negative and irreparable consequences for its own or for the common interest. Allow me to state a rather pessimistic, but in my opinion, merely realistic introductory thesis: European-Iranian relations have already reached the point where a lack of clarity can no longer be tolerated if it is our common interest to develop and deepen our relations.

Anyone familiar with recent Iranian history knows that its politics have been marked by a constant search for independence and for security from aggression and influence from its neighbors or from greater powers. For Iran, the lack of respect for and recognition of its independence, its ancient civilization, its strategic potential, an...