As the debate over Iran’s nuclear program, the prospects for another round of talks between Tehran and the P5+1, and the possibility of an Israeli military attack rolls on, Hillary made two substantial media appearances earlier this week. Yesterday, she appeared on Al Jazeera’a Inside Story; the other panelists were Geneive Abdo of the Century Foundation and Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, click on the video picture above or here.
Hillary opened with an evaluation of Israeli calculations about a potential strike. She then made the critical point that, even if the Obama Administration does not want an Israeli strike now, the United States (whether under a re-elected President Obama or under a new Republican administration) is on a collision course with the Islamic Republic—because it cannot accept Iran as a truly independent power in the region.
Michael Rubin is part of that minority camp of neoconservatives who do not necessarily favor a military attack against Iran, but are extremely hawkish with regard to regime change. (Michael Ledeen is another example of this.) But, while Rubin may not support military action, he is also extremely skeptical about diplomacy with the Islamic Republic—because, in his view, diplomacy is a product of the Western Enlightenment, and anyone who has not been through and thoroughly internalized the Enlightenment cannot constructively and honestly engage in what Westerners call “diplomacy.”
This is the sort of essentialist statement that, if applied to Jews, would (rightly) be described as anti-Semitic. More sweepingly, it is a view which says that the West cannot engage in meaningful diplomacy with the Muslim world write large. As Hillary points out, this is a “losing proposition” for the United States and its Western partners, especially where nuclear nonproliferation and the “grand bargain” of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are concerned.
Although Geneive Abdo comes across as not favoring another war in the Middle East, she puts forward unsubstantiated assertions that the Islamic Republic has “not been transparent” about its nuclear program, has “changed and shifted its position over the years” and “concealed…for many years” its new enrichment facility at Fordo as justification for Israeli professed concern. In a further twist, she all but blames Iran for a prospective Israeli attack by saying, “Khamenei has always believed either the United States or Israel would attack Iran, so it’s almost become a self-fulfilling prophesy.”
In response, Hillary recounts how, when the Islamic Republic agreed, in early 2003, to open its facilities at Esfahan and Natanz to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, the then-director of Israel’s Mossad and national security adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon flew to Washington to convey Israeli concern that the Iran should not be allowed the opportunity to be given a “good housekeeping seal of approval” by the IAEA. She also points out that, from 2003 to 2005, the Islamic Republic suspended its uranium enrichment activities and voluntarily observed the terms of the Additional Protocol to the NPT, which allows more intrusive inspections by the IAEA; during this period, the IAEA found no evidence that Iran was working on a nuclear weapons program.
Predictably, Western media are now reporting that Tehran has “denied” IAEA access to its conventional military facility—not a nuclear site—at Parchin, evoking Saddam Husayn’s dance with international inspectors in the run up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. But the fact is, without the Additional Protocol to the NPT in force (the Iranian majles has never ratified it, so it is not binding on the Islamic Republic), the IAEA has no right to visit Parchin. Indeed, one could argue that it has no right to make such an inherently prejudicial “request,” which is, of course, inevitably made public and then spun in many quarters as some sort of failure by Iran to live up to its obligations. Tehran believes the IAEA is allowing the confidential information it gleans on Iran (including the names of its scientists, some of whom are then killed) to be passed to the United States and Israel—countries threatening to attack Iran, or in code, “keep all options [except diplomacy] on the table.” Why would Iran want to provide the United States and Israel with real-time, on-the-ground virtual access to a conventional military site?
In the course of the discussion, Hillary suggested to Rubin that his problem is not with safeguarded enrichment in Iran, but with the Islamic Republic—a point to which Rubin readily agreed. In response to Rubin’s charge that Iranians are cut off from the Western world and do not understand American “red lines”, Hillary said that Tehran understands U.S. red lines very well; it just does not agree with them and will not accept being dominated by the West.
Earlier this week, Hillary also did an interview with Scott Horton for Antiwar Radio, listen here. Among other things, Hillary and the interviewer, Scott Horton, discuss Michael Rubin’s “fact free” efforts to delegitimate the 2003 Iranian non-paper that was passed to the George W. Bush Administration through Swiss intermediaries. They also get into Iranian cooperation with the United States against Al-Qa’ida and the Taliban in Afghanistan; how the Islamic Republic is a threat to Israel’s regional hegemony, but not its existence; and why plans to use Syria as a conduit to effect regime change in Iran—an important part of “the current Kool-Aid in Washington”—are hitting the “wall of reality.”
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett