News ID: 109183
Published: 0553 GMT January 11, 2015

Iran being punished for not possessing nuclear weapons

Iran being punished for not possessing nuclear weapons

Interview with Jan Oberg, Danish academician and peace researcher

By: Kourosh Ziabari


The First International Conference on World Against Violence and Extremism
(WAVE) held in Tehran on December 9-10 last year following the endorsement
of President Hassan Rouhani’s proposal for the establishment of a global
front against terrorism and extremism was a landmark event in the final
days of 2014 in Tehran and brought together hundreds of government
officials, diplomats, peace activists intellectuals, scholars and
academicians from some 40 countries to the Iranian capital.

The big international gathering underlined the leading role Iran has been
playing in confronting terrorism and violence in the Middle East,
especially following the rise of the terrorist group ISIL in Iraq and
Syria and the intensification of its terror campaign against the innocent
people of these two countries.

The majority of the participants lauded the initiative taken by the
Iranian government, and praised its timeliness while war and unrest is
taking in the Middle East, already an unstable and turbulent region.

The renowned Danish academician and peace researcher Jan Oberg was one of
the attendees whom we’ve interviewed on the sidelines of the WAVE confab.

Jan Oberg holds a Ph.D. in sociology. He is a peace and future studies
researcher and a former associate professor (Docent) at the Lund
University, Sweden. He has also been a visiting professor at different
universities across Europe and in Japan. Dr. Oberg is a former director of
the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI) and former
Secretary-General of the Danish Peace Foundation. He has also worked with
the Denmark government as a security and disarmament advisor. In 2006 he
was among 250 individuals worldwide nominated for the World Medal of
Freedom by the American Biographical Institute. In 2005, he became a
member of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence at James
Madison University. In 2013, Jan Oberg, his wife Dr. Chrisstina Spännar
and the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) of
which he is a co-founder were awarded the “People’s Nobel Peace Prize” by
the Peace Movement at Orust, Sweden.

Dr. Oberg told Iran Review that during the conflicts and controversies
which erupt in the global stage, negotiation and dialog are the final
solutions which the involved parties come at, while they actually should
be the first resort.

On the pressures imposed against Iran by the United States and its
European partners in the recent years, Jan Oberg says, “Now the West
should say, Ok, if you do these things, we will give you something
positive that you need!, but then there are these hardliner fools in the
West who come up with saying that, if you don’t do what we say, we will
kill you! I say, show me one psychology textbook anywhere in the world
which says that if I threaten your life, if I kill your children, if I
take the food away from you through sanctions, increase your expenses so
that your life becomes difficult, then you’ll become more cooperative!”

Dr. Oberg believes that Iran is being punished because of the transparency
it has offered in its nuclear activities, while Israel possesses up to 200
nuclear weapons, and is never questioned or held accountable

Iran Review conducted an extensive interview with Dr. Oberg on peace and
conflict resolution, non-violent resistance, the rise of extremism in the
Middle East and Iran’s nuclear program. What follows is the text of the

Q: I wonder if you differentiate between extremism, violence and
terrorism. Is practicing certain political, economic and social policies
in a radical manner a representation of extremism? And can you cite
examples if you agree with the fact that extremism can take different
sorts, different facets or different representations?

A: Yes, extremism is a political concept and not a scientific or academic
concept. To be extreme is something which has some kind of scale; you say
somebody is very far off, let’s say, to the right or far off to the left
or far off to non-violence. To be extreme is along a dimension of some
kind. And I’m not happy with the concept as such because like terrorism,
people don’t define it when they use it; you know, everybody can be a
terrorist nowadays. Nelson Mandela was once considered a terrorist; also
the Albanians in Kosovo were considered as terrorists until they came
under the wings of the U.S. and so you can continue with such examples.
What I think is important to say is to have something that are really
solid or acceptable, common definition of the words we use. And extremism
is not a scientific or academic concept. The WAVE conference is of course
basically a political conference. It’s more a political than an academic
conference. If I think of extremism in terms of violence, the most
extremists are those who plan mass violence and that is nuclear powers. I
mean an extremist attitude is to say that I have a right to kill millions
of people. That’s extremism to me.

But you can say it’s extremism also to just say I have a right to kill one
person, which the Islamic State is doing and which national governments
do. I mean everybody who has an army is an extremist if that army will be
used before civilian and diplomatic means have been used. If you had a
peace army, if you had an army of mediators or reconciliation experts,
that would not be extremism. But the ultimate purpose of any military is
to be able if necessary to kill. I’m not saying they want to kill but it
is to be able to kill. If we consider human life sacred, then it’s an
extremist attitude to say we should be equipped to kill. That’s where
Gandhi comes into the picture, in my view. Gandhi said you’re never
allowed to take life; life is a creation of God and therefore I could make
a politically valued statement that I think anybody who thinks that they
can plan violence, should have tools for policies, strategies for the
killing of even one human being is in a way an extremist. But within that,
you have big extremists and small extremist! Nuclear powers that are
willing to kill millions of people for a political goal are more
extremists than other extremists! [laughing] Let’s formulate it in this way!

Q: Such words as “religious fundamentalism” and “religious extremism”
these days are being employed in order to portray what the ISIS is doing
while the majority of Muslim scholars, both Sunni and Shiite scholars, are
stating and affirming that ISIS is not an Islamic organization. It’s a
terrorist organization doing horrific acts and horrendous acts under the
guise of Islam or under the flag of Islam, while it does not have a purely
genuine Islamic ideology. What do you think about that?

A: Let me tell you very honestly, because I have no authority on what I
speak about if I speak on everything. I’m not an expert on religious
ideology; I’m not an expert on IS; I’m not an expert by any means on Islam
or how to interpret the Holy Quran or something like that. I want to be
clear even right now perhaps. I cannot imagine that an organization that
does what this organization does can find any religion that justifies what
it does. They cannot be believers, let’s say. But you have Christian
extremism and you have Muslim extremism in the sense that concepts of
religion are being misused. Maybe we should say it’s misused Muslim
terrorism and misused Christian terrorism. You have Hindus and Muslims
killing each other in today’s Thailand. In Christianity you can use
the Old Testament and you can use the New Testament; you can have the idea
in the Old Testament of “truth for truth” and “eye for an eye”, that type
of stuff which Gandhi always talked about. And eye for an eye is a
philosophy that makes us all blind which is a very good formulation. And
you have the parts in the New Testament which is “turn the other cheek”:
be kind; love your enemy, that type of stuff.

You know, my hunch would be that there are various interpretations
depending on which parts of a religious doctrine you read; and secondly it
is always possible to misuse something. I mean you take the word “peace”.
Is there any politician, any president in the world who has not said that
his or her country is for peace? Everybody is for peace and everybody has
armies and nuclear weapons and intervenes and kills and represses their
own people in some cases, and whatever they all say: we’re peaceful
country! Does that mean that peace involves, you know, extremism and
violence and repression and intervention and military? No, it doesn’t but
“peace” is a grossly misused word by many.

This article was first published by Iranreview.Org.

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