Amb. Richard Murphy discusses importance of Rouhani's trips to Italy and France


Originally published in Tehran Times

By Javad Heirannia

Richard W. Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia, is of the opinion that the visits to Italy and France by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are not intended to show “partiality to the West versus the East”. 

“It will be no surprise if his future travels include Russia and China,” Murphy tells the Tehran Times. 

Following is the text of the interview: 

Q: What is the importance of Rouhani’s trips to Italy and France? 

A: I assume that President Rouhani has no desire to provoke his domestic critics through his travels to Italy and France. I believe that these visits are not designed to show partiality to the west versus the east. He has talked during those visits of Iran's wish to attract foreign investment. In confirming Iran's decision to purchase a large number of the AirBus aircraft he has signaled Iranian interest in purchase of a modern top quality fleet. It will be no surprise if his future travels include Russia and China. 

Q: Why do Saudis seek to create tension with Iran? Is this because Riyadh thinks that the balance of power in the region in changing in favor of the Islamic Republic? 

A: Saudi Arabia has been intensely suspicious of Iranian intentions towards the kingdom since the 1979 revolution. The achievement of the Nuclear Agreement has fed their concerns about Iran's new capacity to fund those whom the Saudis consider enemies including the current Syrian regime, the Hizbullah militia in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. 

Q: Is there any connection between a plan by Turkey to establish a base in Qatar and Washington’s pivot to Asia? And does it have anything to do with Iran? 

A: The United States is not abandoning its role in the region. It welcomes the involvement of friendly powers who are ready to assume some of the burden of security in the (Persian) Gulf. I have no knowledge of Turkey's interest in seeking a base in Qatar. Iran is a major power in the region and hopefully will also play a constructive role to enhance regional stability.