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Interview on Iran-US relations

By Behdad Bordbar


I have a rare chance to interview with professor .Dr. Trita Parsi is the author of Treacherous Alliance - The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States, He is professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins.


In 2002, Parsi founded the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) "to enablea Iranian Americans to condemn the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and that he has since run it as a grass-roots group aimed at strengthening their voice." Through the organization, he supports engagement between the US and Iran in belief that it "would enhance our [US] national security by helping to stabilize the Middle East and bolster the moderates in Iran.


Q: It seems that the situation in Iran has reached the point of no return. The demonstrators in the streets have calling for weeks for the downfall of the Islamic Republic, hence the removal of supreme leader from power. But opposition leaders, so far, remained uncertain, while the debate over the future of democratic movement is going on. What is your opinion about future of Green movement?


A: I believe that the Iranian people's aspiration for democracy, human rights and proper representation is unbeatable. The struggle for democracy in Iran is more than a century old. It has faced many obstacles; its progress has not always been unidirectional. But the forces for authoritarianism and repression don't have time on their side. Whether the movement will be victorious in the short run, or in the medium term, is difficult to predict. But I think it is undeniable that the aspirations are not going away, and hence, whether it is manifested through the Green movement or through some other form, the demands for democracy will remain till they are met.


Q: The Iranian leadership's handling of the dispute over the tenth presidential election, which resulted in violent crackdown of protests, had a significant effect on future of Islamic regime. You have broad connections with intellectuals, politicians and journalists. How do you sum up political analyses or Iran's current situation in Washington?


A: The policy in Washington is entering a new phase, the pressure track. Though the President Obama says that the door for diplomacy is still open, not many resources are put into it. And frankly, it is not clear whether diplomacy under these circumstances - where Iran seems incapable of making big decisions - is valuable. At the same time though, the pressure track is unlikely to produce any results. And the fear is that just as sanctions are seen as a political necessity today due to the perception of diplomacy failing, there is a risk that military action will be seen as a necessity in 12 or so months from today, when the sanctions path has been deemed a failure.


Q: As we know president Obama came to office with hope of 'a new beginning' of engagement with political leaders in Tehran. He said his administration was committed "to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This offer was rejected by Tehran. Supreme leader of Iran warned negotiating with the United States would be "naive and perverted" and that Iranian politicians should not be "deceived" into starting such talks. Last week Iran arrested leader of Jundullah, Militant Islamist organisation and blamed United States for support of terrorism, while there are strong rumours that his arrest only became possible through the help of Americans.  Do you think the strategy of negotiations with current administration has come to its dead end? 


A: The picture is quite a bit more complicated than your question reveals. From the US perspective, hope for this round of diplomacy has been depleted. Yet, there isn't any real confidence that pressure will lead to a solution. But starting a new round of diplomacy while the Iranian regime seems incapable of making decisions, and while nuclear-first negotiations risk hurting the movement fro democracy, may be unwise.


Either way, any new potential diplomacy, the mistakes of the past must be corrected. Diplomacy must give equal weight to the human rights situation in Iran and should not be cantered or exclusively about the nuclear issue.


Q: The new head of IAEA informed the international community that Iran is not co-operating with the UN nuclear watchdog's investigation into the country's nuclear programme .United States and its allies are going to impose new sanctions on Iran. Is the international community in your view taking the right approaches?


A: There is little confidence that sanctions will work, even among its proponents. The question has to a large extent become about imposing either broad based, indiscriminate sanctions, or targeted sanctions. Indiscriminate sanctions have in the past only hurt the Iranian economy and at times even strengthened the regime and the IRGC. Targeted sanctions that hit the people in the regime responsible for the human rights abuses and the nuclear program seems wiser, though there are question marks about their efficiency as well. At the end of the day, no one singly measure can be successful. It's about crafting a policy that combines various measures and utilizes all their strengths.


Q: Mr. Ahmadinejad is well known for his rhetoric's against Israel; Iranians have consensus that Iran is not a security threat against Jewish state. Israeli lobby is strongly trying to convince public opinions that Iran is working to develop a nuclear-armed bomb/missile. In the other hand Israeli leadership repeatedly said they put all the options on the table .How serious are threat of direct conflagration between Iran and Israel?


A: The risk of a war initiated by an Israeli attack on Iran is increasing. In the past, Israeli rhetoric about bombing Iran was mostly aimed at putting pressure on the US and the EU to be tough with Iran. At this point though, particularly with the deterioration of US-Israeli relations, we are entering an era of greater uncertainty.


We also have to keep in mind, as several Israeli officials have told me, that Israel is very concerned about a Green victory in Iran. The Israelis fear that if the Greens win, Iran will become a country that continues to develop nuclear energy, but with a nicer face and with much international sympathy for its emerging democracy. As a result, for the Israelis - who focus on Iran's capabilities more than on its regime - they will face greater difficulty isolating Iran, pushing to sanction it or to build a consensus around bombing it. Add that to the fact that any attack on Iran likely would enable the regime to go after the Green movement with even greater brutality, and you have a very explosive mix.

... Payvand News - 04/05/10 ... --

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