Iranian-American political strategist Vali Nasr spoke to Mohammad Waqas and Renuka Narayanan on the ‘war on terror’ and other issues. Excerpts:
Who is the real victor in the ‘War on Terror’?
So far it’s been the Al-Qaeda, especially with renewed activity in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) of Pakistan. The glass is half-full for the Al-Qaeda and half-empty for America.
What is likely to happen to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline after the India-US nuclear deal?
Iran has been encouraging this obviously. But given the present economic situation and need for sizeable Direct Foreign Investment, it may take some time.
What is Iran’s own nuclear position?
Enrichment of uranium is not the same as bomb-making. This is a matter of incorrect perception of Iran’s nuclear programme; a lack of trust by the US in Iran for the last 27 years.
Do you think the Obama administration will engage with Iran in its policy on the Middle East?
It will have to. But as with any new administration, it’ll first take some time to evaluate the situation.
Does the US really support democracy in the Middle East?
The Arabs love (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmedinejad because he says all the things about the US they want to but can’t. That’s the Shia worldview: always the loner. There is no Palestinian state? So where’s the question of democracy?
Why is Iran always a political and theological loner?
It’s our history. Unlike the Southeast Asians, South Asians and Africans, we don’t learn Islam from the Arabs of Saudi Arabia. You’ll find this is true with Syria and Turkey, too, the old civilisations of the region. Today’s narrow salafi (puritanical) view of Islam being exported from Saudi Arabia tries to divorce Islam from culture: from the Sufis, from music, from art. The Saudis have even broken up the Prophet’s grave.
How can Muslims learn to live in peace today with other cultures?
The young are always attracted to radical movements. Puritan Islam offers them identity with a global ummah. They need to transcend that.