A Just Peace; more inclusive and lasting

Owing to the significant role the concept of “peace” plays in the lives of human beings from varying cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, on the occasion of the International Day of Peace publishes an Op-Ed which attempts to provide a critical analysis as to the present status of “peace” in the world and also explains Ayatollah Khamenei’s concept of “A Just Peace.”

By Dr. Abdullah Moradi*


Achieving peace has long been one of the most important concerns for human beings. Considering the fact that peace has been threatened and endangered by war more than any other value, it has always occupied a central place among human obsessions. By the same token, both international relations and international politics, one as an academic field and the other as a decisive practical side, have been constantly facing the puzzle of war and peace. Whether in the era of the nuclear threats by Eastern and Western powers in the bipolar system of the Cold War or now in the age of globalization, peace is still vital to the international community with the proliferation of emerging threats. But the question is: why is reaching peace still difficult despite all the theoretical efforts? And can a new perspective in regard to this pivotal human concept be presented to advance peace?


Negative peace in the history of international relations

From a historical-legal perspective, what has been called peace is the result of agreements reached by the conquering powers after great wars. For this reason, it is said that the starting point of the field of international relations was nothing but insecurity, the experience of war and fear. Just as after Napoleon's defeat in Waterloo, the 1815 Congress of Vienna for the "Concert of Europe" framework, after World War I at the Treaty of Versailles, and after World War II a series of political meetings among the victors to divide the world at the beginning of the Cold War, all created a new order for the world. From this angle, peace has always suffered an unstable state resulting from temporary political agreements which in reality is to be defined as simply "lack of war" and "stability of superpowers". This "negative peace" among powers has never meant peace for nations. For instance, after the Congress of Vienna, for decades, the so-called "1848 Spring of Nations" revolutions were suppressed in European countries. Imperialism also continues to prevent the independence of nations by frequently resorting to military force. Consequently, it is clear that such "negative peace" is only limited to and enjoyed by the superpowers; and not at all describes a humanitarian situation for all. During the Cold War, peace meant lack of war between the two nuclear giants, while “their” conflict spread over the peripheral regions, leading to ferocious wars in the Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, and the violence in West Asia which was sparked by the conflict between the two superpowers.


Realism and Liberalism; The vicious circle of temporary peace and constant violence

In the post-Cold War era, the mainstream of international relations introduces the notion that peace, which means a state of security in normal relations among countries and the absence of war and threats, is more accessible than ever. But the fact is that peace is still a negative definition based on political agreement and is still very fragile. In the context of realist theory, myth-creating to bring up conflict and fear continues to reproduce the creation of a "zero-sum game" in a nation’s cultural attitude. Therefore, this attitude, being based on governments, security and power, cannot provide a lasting concept of peace. Liberalism’s brand of peace, despite offering many guidelines based on democracy, free trade, and cooperation in international organizations to promote cooperation at the international level, has failed to bring peace from the level of big countries to all countries and nations. In the opinions of many critical theorists (such as Emmanuel Wallerstein in World-Systems Theory, Robert Cox in the Critical Theory of Frankfurt School, and many others), these liberal models serve as a means of perpetuating capitalist trends and expanding international class hegemony. Prescribing collective security for international peace has in practice been accompanied by many obstacles and challenges. In particular, the United Nations has not functioned properly due to the influence of the superpowers, the non-democratic nature of the Security Council, and the veto power in the Security Council. The Balkan Crisis in Europe (1991-1999), the widespread crises in Africa (including the wars in Somalia, Libya, etc.), the crisis in Iraq (2003-now), which led to the US invasion without the permission of the Security Council, are all indicators of the inefficiency and impracticality of the international peace and security legal rules. Some of the international interventions happened by the coordination of the Security Council, such as Resolution 660 and the First Gulf War, which left the Iraqi people alone in dealing with a dictator named Saddam Hussein for years, resulting in widespread genocide and the well-known statement that 500,000 Iraqi children were killed under strict international sanctions. The failure of international organizations in preventing the occupations of the Zionist regime, which can be seen in the veto of 43 resolutions of the Security Council or the General Assembly by the United States, and the failure to end the bloody war of the Saudi regime against the Yemeni people, are the latest evidence of the failure of international organizations to bring peace.


The US; War for hegemony

The United States has committed the most violent acts in breaching of the world peace, under the guise of promoting liberal democracy. In the framework of the US aggressive hegemonic attitude, there is a belief that the use of force to promote Western values ​​is legitimate. This is a self-contradiction; Democratization for the realization of international peace, by prescribing wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. So, the United States has become the biggest international threat for decades. According to a 2017 Pew survey, 38 percent of the world's population views the US influence as the biggest threat to their country's security, above the threats of terrorism, climate change, the economy, and so on. Reviewing the situation in the occupied countries of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as countries such as Pakistan, which have faced the US so-called "drone violence", shows that the use of force in none of these countries has led to peace and democracy, but it has resulted in the development of terrorism in the world. The statistics also show that the US unilateral support for the Israeli occupations of the Palestinian territories, evident in the $142 billion US aids, is another indicator that peace is not a concept reached through the political agreement of powers or the use of military force. In particular, with the "Deal of the Century", US seeks to achieve a forced and completely unilateral peace.


From negative peace to positive peace

All the theoretical issues and practical policies of the powers mentioned above show that international peace still remains a hard-to-reach goal. The main reason is that the origins of hostility and conflict are not properly understood. In fact, what endangers peace is not merely a military threat and invasion, but cultural violence and social inequality are the main causes of hostility. This shows that peace, beyond the government-based political agreements, must essentially be based on another basis. In fact, "negative peace" cannot be considered peace at all, but it is rather stability in the relations of the international ruling powers, which even permits military warfare and verbal violence against nations, religions, ethnic groups and all indigenous non-Western narratives around the world. Therefore, now is the time to define "positive peace". Changing the concept of peace makes it clear that peace must come out of the narrow framework of power-based concepts and its goals, mechanisms and foundations should be fundamentally examined. First, international peace and security, in its true sense, cannot necessarily be ensured by maintaining the status quo, since the laws and legal structures of the system governing the international relations may have a suppressive and discriminatory nature. Second, peace and security, which was only used in the fields of military and politics, today have a wider range of political, cultural, economic, technological and etc. meanings.


Peace: A situation against oppression

From what has been said, it can be concluded that peace is a long-term, dynamic, participatory and deeply cultural process that cannot be actualized without the recognition of the nations’ rights in determining their future and true equality. From this perspective, international peace is a situation against oppression. Because no matter how development-oriented, stable and secure the international system is, as long as it is oppressive, international peace is not achieved. For this reason, the Islamic Revolution in Iran, as a critical discourse based on resistance, has criticized the existence of oppression in the international atmosphere as the most important characteristic of the current international system. In this discourse, the distribution of power in the international order in the form of the domination relationships is conceptualized by the Quranic term Istikbar which means "arrogance". This concept indicates that the power-seeking and oppressive attitude have deep cultural roots: "An arrogant attitude describes that power which relies on its political, military, scientific and economic capabilities and is rooted in a discriminatory viewpoint towards humanity, and large human populations; namely, with a bullying and humiliating domination; it oppresses and exploits nations and governments for its own benefit." (Ayatollah Khamenei, speech on December 9, 1990) On the other hand, Ayatollah Khamenei interprets efforts to eliminate oppression and realization of peace as the basis for the mission of divine prophets: "The purpose of the Prophet (pbuh) from the first moment ... was to create a pure and proper environment for human livelihood and life, a world in which there is no oppression... a world in which there is not absolute failure for the weak, there is not the law of war." (Ayatollah Khamenei, speech on December 20, 1995)


Just peace; A progressive and realistic point of view

Considering the definition of peace in contrast to oppression as a theoretical achievement based on the Divine-Quranic teachings, the true peace cannot be anything but just and humane peace. The existence of a humane system in international relations based on common interests and values ​​which respects the human dignity of all, can be considered the real peace. But the first step is rejecting the principle of hegemony and power-centeredness in global relations, because hegemony leads to the creation and establishment of oppression in the international system. In the next step, in order to achieve peace, the desired international system must have the necessary capacity to meet human needs at the level of the global community and should be able to accept religious and racial differences while emphasizing a single human nature and common values ​​such as justice. Especially at the political level, the desired international order only become concretized when power is evenly and justly distributed among nations. Accordingly, in the realization of international peace, Ayatollah Khamenei emphasizes the addition of the attribute of “justice”: "The Islamic Republic raised the slogan of just peace. Well, peace is not an absolute value, it is a relative value; Somewhere peace is good, somewhere else peace is bad. But justice is not like this; Justice is an absolute value." (Ayatollah Khamenei, speech on May 17, 2011) The idea of ​​"just peace" is based on the fact that the continuation and perfection of the truth of human life depends on justice. All human beings, regardless of culture, language or tradition, accept and cherish the value of justice; to bring Quranic support for his stance, he adds, "Who created you and proportioned you, and gave you an upright nature" (Quran, 82:7), "Be fair; that is nearer to God-wariness, and be wary of Allah." (Quran, 5:8).



Achieving peace still remains a difficult task. The main reason is that peace has become a political issue and is regarded as the result of a balance among superpowers. However, this negative notion of peace has led to the failure of international efforts and the continuation of violence and war. On the contrary, the discourse of the Islamic Revolution presents a new discourse of peace with the ideas of Ayatollah Khamenei. In this discourse, peace is defined as a state contrary to oppression and domination. Therefore, what undermines the international peace is the structural oppression that leads to the vicious circle of violence, such as the US military invasion of the Islamic world that led to the emergence of ISIS terrorism. From the perspective of the Islamic Revolution discourse, the ruling liberal order has been formed in such a way that it has led to the domination of Western cultural values and relations with others are not based on equal mutual respect, but based on the imposition of political patterns, cultural homogenization and war-mongering attitudes, and thus makes the prospect of any peace very unlikely. By presenting the concept of "just peace", Ayatollah Khamenei draws the current atmosphere of the international community towards the rejection of oppression and attention to structural cultural violence. This concept, by emphasizing the common fundamental norms and values among human beings such as justice and dignity, tries to transform international relations from anarchy and more direct it to genuine international community.


[i] : Terriff, Terry & Others (2000), Security Studies Today, Cambridge: Polity Press, p 20-30

[ii] : Russett, Bruce and John R. Oneal (2001), Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence and International Organization, New York: W.W.Notron & Company, p 35.

[iii]: MEE (2017), :The 43 times US has used veto power against UN resolutions on Israel", Middle East Eye, 19 December 2017

[iv]: Jervis,  Robert (2003),  "Understanding the Bush doctrine", in  Poltical Secience Quarter, Vol1187., p 187.

[v]: Manevich, Dorothy & Chwe, Hanyu (2017) Globally more people see U.S. power and influence as a major threat", Pew Research Center, AUGUST 1, 2017.

[vi]:  Sharp, Jeremy M. (2019), "US Foreign Aid to Israel", Congressional Research Service, Available at:

*Assistant Professor of International Relations

The views, opinions and positions expressed on Op-Ed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of


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