Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Thomas Erdbrink published an interview with President Ahmadinejad’s senior adviser, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi. The interview is wide-ranging and well worth reading in its entirety, one can link to it here. However, we want to highlight the portion dealing with the nuclear issue and upcoming nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic and the P-5+1.
Q: How do you see the upcoming talks on Dec. 5 between Iran and the P5+1 [United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany]? Do you feel they can have any results?
A: In the name of God. There is a mutual point, and that is the readiness on both sides for negotiations. Of course, the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been ready for negotiations.
But the delay in the negotiations has been a good opportunity for the other side to realize the effects of its political decisions [made] through the Security Council and even the actions taken beyond the Security Council.
Q: Which decisions are you referring to exactly?
A: I mean the sanctions. Even if these negotiations had been delayed even longer, the results of their actions would only have become clearer for them. This does not mean that we prefer delay. However, the delay has been good for them.
Q: So you mean the sanctions have failed, and now the other parties are ready to talk?
A: I think I have answered your questions. I just hope that our counterparts in the negotiations, the Westerners, do not fool themselves.
Q: What are they fooling themselves with?
A: It is not a human value to continue to stress their mistakes. It is fitting that when one makes mistakes, one bravely admits those mistakes. Not paying attention to the rights of nations, to the rights of the Iranian nation, is a real mistake.
Q: Recently you mentioned a set of conditions for talks set by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Please remind us of those—and in what manner does Iran expect Western nations to respond to those conditions?
A: Three conditions were set by us. These conditions will not prevent negotiations. These conditions are really the answer to three questions.
The first is that they must state whether the negotiations are based on friendship or of enmity.
Second, what is their view on the atomic weapons of the Zionist regime?
Third, what is their position on the latest ratifications of the Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT]?
Naturally, if they decide to negotiate based on friendship, Iran will react in one way. If they negotiate on the basis of enmity, we will react in another way. If they are committed to the changes made in the NPT, Iran will negotiate in one way; if not, we will respond in another way. The same goes for their stance on the Zionist regime atomic weapons.
And if they do not state any response on these questions, it means they have not chosen the path of friendship. Not answering these questions means they have decided not to commit to nuclear disarmament and support the Zionist regime being armed with nuclear weapons.
Q: But Iran will still talk with these countries in this case?
Q: When you say Iran will not be speaking as a friend, what does that mean?
A: Whether they want to negotiate within the structure aimed at safeguarding the rights of the Iranian nation, mutual respect and justice.
Q: So what moves will Iran make if Western nations do not respond in such a manner?
A: I can’t foresee for now. We must see how negotiations will proceed. We hope they will make the best use of this opportunity.
Q: Is the nuclear swap as proposed a year ago in October still on the table for Iran?
A: The Tehran declaration is still valid. It defines the line of negotiations with the [International Atomic Energy] Agency. The essential principles mentioned in the declaration will always remain valid.
Q: What if the U.S. changes the conditions of the swap, for instance the amount of low-enriched fuel Iran needs to send out? Or what if they want to add the new 20 percent uranium stockpile into the deal?
A: If they have new ideas and proposals, Iran will also state its views.
Q: You mean in response to such proposals?
A: That depends on their ideas.
Q: So you are willing to hear their new proposal?
A: It is not like we don’t listen to new proposals. We listen, and might agree or not, but first we must hear such proposals.
Q: If they want Iran to send more uranium out, would you even listen to such a proposal?
A: Since we have not officially been informed of such a proposal, there is no need for an official answer at this point.
Q: Why is Iran still enriching uranium up to 19.75 percent? Aren’t Russia and Turkey giving you the medical isotopes you need [for the Tehran research reactor]?
A: Just because you can purchase something from abroad does not mean you should not produce it yourself?
It is a shame that the Obama Administration cannot or will not answer Iran’s questions about the upcoming talks. Contrast Obama’s approach with the description of President Nixon’s approach to China, as recounted by Henry Kissinger in his 1994 book, Diplomacy (pp. 722-723):
“[Strategic] considerations led Nixon to make two extraordinary decisions in the summer of 1969. The first was to put aside all the issues which constituted the existing Sino-American dialogue. The Warsaw talks had established an agenda that was as complex as it was time-consuming. Each side stressed its grievances. China’s had to do with the future of Taiwan and Chinese assets sequestered in the United States; the United States sought the renunciation of force over Taiwan, China’s participation in arms-control negotiations, and the settlement of American economic claims against China.
Instead, Nixon decided to concentrate on the broader issue of China’s attitude toward a dialogue with the United States. Priority was given to determining the scope of the looming Sino-Soviet-American triangle. If we could determine what we suspected—that the Soviet Union and China were more afraid of each other than they were of the United States—an unprecedented opportunity for American diplomacy would come into being. If relations improved on that basis, the traditional agenda would take care of itself. If relations did not improve, the traditional agenda would remain insoluble. In other words, the practical issues would be resolved as a consequence of Sino-American rapprochement, not chart the path toward it.
In implementing the strategy of transforming the two-power world into a strategic triangle, the United States announced in July 1969 a series of unilateral initiatives to indicate the change in attitude. The prohibition against Americans’ traveling to the People’s Republic of China was eliminated; Americans were allowed to bring $100 of Chinese-made goods into the United States; and limited American grain shipments were permitted to China. These measures, though insignificant in themselves, were designed to convey America’s new approach…
But if there was a real danger of a Soviet attack on China in the summer of 1969, there would not be enough time for these complex maneuvers to unfold gradually. Therefore, Nixon took perhaps the most daring step of his presidency by warning the Soviet Union that the United States would not remain indifferent if it were to attack China. Regardless of China’s immediate attitude toward the United States, Nixon and his advisers considered China’s independence indispensable to the global equilibrium, and deemed diplomatic contact with China essential to the flexibility of American diplomacy. Nixon’s warning to the Soviets was also a tangible expression of his Administration’s new emphasis on basing American policy on the careful analysis of the national interest.”
But, instead of such strategically-grounded diplomacy, the Obama Administration has, in effect, adopted the current policy recommendation of Barbara Slavin, Karim Sadjadpour, and some others, for “strategic patience” toward the Islamic Republic. While that sounds benign, it is a really a thinly veiled policy of regime change—just one that, its advocates say, is pursued more intelligently than the course pursued by the George W. Bush Administration.
Under the rubric of “strategic patience”, the United States would wait for a more amenable political leadership to emerge in Tehran as a negotiating partner, all the while gently and subtly nurturing secular, pro-American elites inside the Islamic Republic as the prospective base of such leadership. But, while its advocates present this as a non-coercive strategy, “strategic patience”, at its core, rejects dealing genuinely and reconciling with the political order of the Islamic Republic—as that political order actually exists, and not as the advocates of “strategic patience” and others wish it to be. And that, by any name, is a strategy of regime change.
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett