Iranian President: Diplomacy With U.S. is an Active ‘Jihad’

Diplomacy just as significant as new weapons, missiles

Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani / AP
March 12, 2015

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described his country’s diplomacy with the United States as an active "jihad" that is just as significant to Tehran’s advancement as the slew of new weapons and missiles showcased by the Islamic Republic’s military.

Rouhani praised the country’s military leaders for standing "against the enemy on the battlefield" and said as president, he would carry out this "jihad" on the diplomatic front.

Rouhani’s comments echo those of foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator Javad Zarif, who said Tuesday that Iran has emerged as "the winner" in talks with Western powers. Like Zarif, Rouhani boasted that Iran’s years-long diplomacy with Western nations over its nuclear program established the Islamic Republic as a global power.

Iran has made headway in convincing the U.S. to allow it to maintain much of its core infrastructure through diplomatic talks that Rouhani said are viewed as a "jihad."

"Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride," Rouhani said earlier this week. "Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy–this, too, is jihad."

"Our power is growing each day, but we don’t intend to be aggressive toward anyone. However, we will certainly defend our country, nation, independence, and honor wholeheartedly."

Iran stands "10 times more powerful" than it was during the time of the Iran-Iraq War, Rouhani said, which "reflects a serious deterrence to the enemies’ threats."

Iranian leaders view the ongoing talks with the United States and other nations as a source of global legitimacy.

Rouhani’s remarks have "significant domestic implications," according to an analysis published by the American Enterprise Institute.

"Iran’s negotiations team to the status of Iran-Iraq War commanders, who are traditionally revered by the regime as upholders of Islamic Revolutionary values, could potentially lead to rhetorical backlash from regime hardliners opposed to the nuclear negotiations," AEI wrote.

Matan Shamir, director of research at United Against Nuclear Iran, said Rouhani's latest comments show he is not a moderate leader.

"While Rouhani talks about a 'win-win' nuclear deal to global audiences, his comments make clear that he continues to view the U.S. an antagonistic global oppressor that must be triumphed over, in this case by a diplomatic 'jihad,'" Shamir said. "This is clearly not the language of a moderate or of a regime with which rapprochement is at all realistic."

Zarif said Tuesday that a final nuclear deal with the United States is meaningless at this point.

"We are the winner whether the [nuclear] negotiations yield results or not," Zarif was quoted as saying by the Tasnim News Agency. "The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken."

As Rouhani and Zarif grandstand on the nuclear front, Iranian military leaders have begun to unveil a host of new missiles and sea-based weapons.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a leader in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Iran’s defensive capabilities "are non-negotiable in the nuclear talks," AEI reported.

The comments came the same day Iran paraded its new cruise missiles.

Hajizadeh also dismissed economic sanctions on Iran, saying that "his is a message which should be understood by the bullying powers which raise excessive demands."

On Wednesday, the State Department said any final deal with Iran was "nonbinding," meaning that neither party would be legally obliged to uphold the agreement.