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2009-06-15

Iran in Turmoil After Disputed Presidential Election; Anti-Ahmadinejad Street Protests Continue

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Guests

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and the author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States.

David Makovsky, co-author of a new book on US policy in the Middle East, along with Dennis Ross, who is the Obama administration’s special adviser on Iran. The book is called Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.

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Iran remains in a state of turmoil after Friday’s much-anticipated elections ended in a result strongly disputed by opposition candidates and many thousands of their supporters. Today, Iranian officials refused to allow the leading opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters to hold a major rally protesting the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. Demonstrators began calling for the election to be canceled after the Interior Ministry announced that President Ahmadinejad had won over 62 percent of the vote. The official results gave Mousavi less than 34 percent of the vote. Heavily armed riot police have been cracking down on street protests that continued through the weekend. Early Monday morning, security forces raided a dormitory at Tehran University, injuring fifteen. Opposition websites report that over a hundred prominent opposition members were detained and then released over the weekend. We speak to Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council and David Makovsky, co-author with Dennis Ross of a new book called Myths, Illusions, and Peace. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Iran remains in a state of turmoil after Friday’s much-anticipated elections ended in a result strongly disputed by opposition candidates and many thousands of their supporters. Today, Iranian officials refused to allow the leading opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters to hold a major rally protesting the re-election of President Ahmadinejad.

Heavily armed riot police have been cracking down on street protests that continued through the weekend. Early Monday morning, security forces raided a dormitory at Tehran University, injuring fifteen. Opposition websites report over 100 prominent opposition members were detained and then released over the weekend.

Demonstrators began calling for the election to be canceled after the Interior Ministry announced that President Ahmadinejad had won over 62 percent of the vote. The official results gave Mousavi less than 34 percent of the vote. The massive turnout his campaign generated was expected to give him a larger share of the vote. Some 40 million people voted in Friday’s election, an estimated turnout of nearly 85 percent.

Conservative candidate Mohsen Rezaie, the former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, came a distant third, and the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi came in fourth.

The opposition candidates and their supporters are alleging fraud. Both Mousavi and Rezaie have registered formal complaints about the election with the Guardian Council, and the council will reportedly rule on the elections within ten days. A group of moderate clerics have also said the elections were rigged, and some reports indicate the president of the Committee of Election Monitoring also requested the Guardian Council to annul the election. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, however, quickly endorsed the results.

President Ahmadinejad defended his re-election to a crowd of tens of thousands of his cheering supporters Sunday and said the elections were, quote, “clean and healthy.” In a press conference earlier in the day, Ahmadinejad responded to a question about the safety of opposition candidates from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour by comparing the police crackdown on protesters to dealing with excited fans coming out of a football game.

    PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] The situation in the country is in a very good condition. Iran is the most stable country in the world. And there’s rule of law in this country. All of the people are equal before the law. And the elections have witnessed — the presidential election has witnessed people’s massive turnout. As I said, even in a soccer match, that the people may become excited, and that may lead to a confrontation between them and the police force. This is something natural. A person coming out of a stadium and may violate the traffic regulations, he will be fined by the police, no matter who he is, an ordinary person or even a minister. So these are not problems.

AMY GOODMAN: US Vice President Joe Biden cast some doubt on the elections in Iran, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. But he also noted he would withhold comment until he had a full picture of what happened.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There’s an awful lot of question about how this election was run. And we’ll see. I mean, we’re just waiting to see. We don’t have enough facts to know — to make a firm judgment.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for the latest news, we are turning to two people here in our firehouse studio. We’re joined by Trita Parsi. He is author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US. He’s also president and founder of the National Iranian American Council. And we’re joined by David Makovsky, author of Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East. He co-wrote the book with Dennis Ross, who is the US envoy to Iran.

We’ll begin with Trita Parsi. What are you hearing on the streets of Iran right now?

TRITA PARSI: I spoke to a couple people just about an hour ago, before coming to the studio, and it seems like the psychological shift right now in favor of those who are protesting, because of a couple of developments. First of all, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fear left. Even in the demonstrations, although I think most of them would be against violence, nevertheless you see that they’re fighting back quite extensively.

You’ve also seen that the supporters of Ahmadinejad in the Interior Ministry and as well as in the state-run media have apparently committed some mistakes. They have, for instance, announced that Mohsen Rezaie, the conservative opponent to Ahmadinejad, had come out and endorsed the elections and essentially wanted to move on. That was then later disputed by Rezaie himself, who said that he wanted to see the votes and he wanted to see the serial numbers of the ballots.

And the signal that that sent is essentially that the Interior Ministry is trying to create a fait accompli, essentially giving people the impression that this is a done deal and that there’s absolutely no value in protesting. But the reversal, or actually Rezaie coming out and countering what they reported that he has said, was a clear indication that that doesn’t seem to work very well, and that has further emboldened the supporters of Mousavi, who are calling for a recount or actual, perhaps, account of the votes.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decision to order an investigation into the election, when at first he certified the elections?

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think there are some question marks about that, as well. I looked briefly at the language, and it didn’t seem to be as categorical as it’s been reported. But nevertheless, there seems to be some backpedaling by Khamenei here, and it’s partly because of the pressure that is now coming on him, not only from several of the other ayatollahs in Qom that have been apparently rallied over the weekend by Rafsanjani and others, but also by the fact that it seems like they were bluffing, and the opposition is calling the bluff. They’re not backing down. They’re going for the protests. They are not accepting that this vote count is final.

AMY GOODMAN: And the communication in the streets, getting information? Also, reports that some people have been killed? Is this true?

TRITA PARSI: I’ve been trying to verify that. It’s been extremely difficult. A lot of people are hearing that. A lot of people have said that they’ve heard rounds of bullets, etc., but it may also have been teargas canisters, so it’s not really clear. I’ve not been able to speak to anyone who actually can say that they saw this happen, but everyone seems to have heard the rumor. And if anything, right now a lot of rumors are being spread. And a lot of rumors are being spread by various side in a part of a psychological warfare that is taking place right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of communication, of things like Facebook, cell phones, overall, being shut down?

TRITA PARSI: It’s been very sporadic. I’ve been able to Facebook with people in Iran for the last twelve hours, whereas most of yesterday was very difficult. Most of the people that seem to be able to go on Facebook right now have some sort of a filter blockers. But I’ve also been able to call people’s cell phones, which I could not do yesterday. So it seems to be something that is going up and down.

AMY GOODMAN: You talked about psychological warfare. What do you mean, Trita Parsi?

TRITA PARSI: Well, there’s a lot of rumors spreading. For instance, they’re spreading a rumor that this or that person is in house arrest, and it’s usually meant to be a warning to that person, that that can actually be the case if he or she continues to protest. So — and there is a sense right now that they’re spreading rumors, for instance, that there’s not going to be a rally at 4:00 today, in order to get people to think, “Well, it’s not going to be, so I’m not going to show up.” So, there are rumors spreading, and the psychological warfare is the primary arena in which this is taking place in right now, the struggle between those who support the election results and those who question it.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break. Then, when we come back, a debate between Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US, and David Makovsky, co-author of the new book Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: As we turn now to a debate on the disputed elections in Iran and what they mean for the Obama administration’s approach to Iran, Trita Parsi is still with us.

We’re also joined by another guest, David Makovsky, the co-author of a new book on US policy in the Middle East, along with Dennis Ross, who is the Obama administration’s special adviser on Iran. According to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, Ross will shortly be reassigned to a new position. Their book is called Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East. The authors call for, quote, “engagement without illusion” and raise the possibility of military action against Iran.

Well, according to two new Israeli polls published on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address on Sunday, more than half the Israeli Jews surveyed said they supported preemptive military strikes on Iran, should diplomacy fail to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

On Saturday, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said the election results, quote, “prove once again the extremism and the danger coming out of the regime in Tehran” and called on the international community to stop Iran from achieving nuclear capability.

    DANNY AYALON: Unfortunately, Iran has not changed. It is not going to change. And Ahmadinejad is only the manifestation of a very, very large and deep culture in this Ayatollah’s regime of hatred and of trying to reach regional hegemony.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, in their book, Dennis Ross and David Makovsky write, quote, “Tougher policies — either militarily or meaningful containment — will be easier to sell internationally and domestically if we have diplomatically tried to resolve our differences with Iran in a serious and credible fashion.”

David Makovsky, joining us now from Washington, DC, is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, considered a pro-Israeli think tank, and was formerly executive editor of the Jerusalem Post.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! David Makovsky, your reaction to the announced Iranian results of the elections?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Well, here, I think Trita Parsi and I have — we see it very similarly, actually, which is that developments on the street could outpace all other plans at this point. We just have to take a wait-and-see approach, see what emerges in Iran. It’s too hard to know for sure. You know, we all would like to see free and fair elections there. And we’ll have to see what that outcome is. It’s just — it’s too fuzzy right now. It’s hard to know with any precision how this is going to turn out.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your reaction to a piece in Time magazine. But first, I wanted to ask — I was sorry Dennis Ross couldn’t also join us. But is he forbidden by the Obama administration to go on the book tour with you?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Yes. He’s not even allowed to have any public book parties or anything. He’s — I jokingly call him Casper the Ghost. I mean, he can hover, but he’s invisible.

AMY GOODMAN: But you share, obviously, the same views, as you write this book together, Myths, Illusions, and Peace?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: We wrote a book together, and, you know, I certainly don’t speak for the Obama administration, so I don’t — you know, I want to be very clear about that. But, you know, we wrote this book together for over a year and a half and delighted that it’s just come out.

AMY GOODMAN: And is it true what’s being reported, is that Dennis Ross will be moved to a new position? There are reports of conflicts between his approach and President Obama’s approach to Iran.

DAVID MAKOVSKY: I don’t buy the story that there’s differences between them. But, you know, we’ll see in the coming days if — you know, what is said, what is announced. But I think it’s misleading to say that there are differences between them.

AMY GOODMAN: And in what way do you feel that they actually agree?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Well, look, I mean, Dennis Ross is not a freelance contractor here. He works for an administration. They have daily meetings, I’m sure, you know, on the hour sometimes. And, you know, it’s one administration. So I think that they seem to me, from what I can observe on the outside, very much in sync. And I have no reason to think otherwise.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance, if in the end it’s certified that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to be the next president, as he has been the past one, what do you think of the significance of this, David Makovsky?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Well, I think, you know, given what Trita said before, I think, look, it would be a sad commentary on Iran that —- I mean, it seems very odd to me, and I don’t claim Trita’s expertise on this issue, but it seems to me, from what I’m hearing, that Ahmadinejad claims to have won the hometowns of all his opponents, Mousavi, Karroubi, Rezaie, all these guys. And this seems very odd. So, I think people want to have a free and fair election, should be sad that the only people allowed to run were people that were vetted already by the ayatollahs. But still, the turnout was massive, and we hope that for the sake of the Iranian people, that the election will be accounted, you know, faithfully. Right now, we don’t seem to see that.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your reaction, Trita Parsi, to Nate Silver’s analysis, you know, the whiz kid on the elections here in the United States predicting to a very remarkable extent who would win in every election around the United States and, of course, predicting Obama’s victory. But he said, “There is a statistical analysis making the rounds [...] which purports to show overwhelmingly persuasive evidence that the Iranian election was rigged.” He said, “I do not find this evidence compelling.”

And he said there’s no one more than him would like to see Ahmadinejad out. But he said, “Iran’s election results were reported by its Interior Ministry in six waves. The first wave covered about one-third of the total vote; there were then two relatively large waves that reported [about] 20 percent of the vote each, and then three smaller waves [that] reported the remainder of the vote. What other observers have found is that, over the course of the six waves, there is an extremely strong, linear relationship between the number of votes reported for Ahmadinejad and the number reported for his principal opponent, [Mir Hussein] Moussavi (who had declared victory before any results were officially announced).”

He said, “To be clear, these results certainly do not prove that Iran’s election was clean.” But he goes on to say, it does not prove that Ahmadinejad actually stole the election.

TRITA PARSI: Well, he has a very interesting analysis. And I think he also showed that if you use the same type of a mathematical description of what happened in American elections, you would actually get a very similar type of a graph. So he’s, on that grounds, dismissing this.

But I would say that the perception that exists, and is quite widespread, that there is some fishiness with this vote, is based on several facts that have nothing to do with this graph. It’s based on the fact that they were not supposed to come out with any results as early as they did. And, in fact, there are some question marks as to whether they could have counted up about, I think, a third of the votes in only two hours after the polls closed. Beyond that, if there is -—

AMY GOODMAN: And these are paper ballots, right? These are paper ballots all over the country.

TRITA PARSI: These are paper ballots. And —-

AMY GOODMAN: And the vote counting was coming in within a couple hours.

TRITA PARSI: Exactly. And the rules of the Iranian government itself is, the system rules is that you’re not supposed to be certifying the vote until three days after, and it’s supposed to be done by the Guardian Council. Yet, Ayatollah Khamenei comes out very early and essentially endorses the results. So there’s a lot of other things that have happened that have put a question mark on these polls.

And one final thing is, of course, that if there’s absolutely nothing that went wrong, if there is absolutely no wrongdoing here, then it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to be able to have a recount or to be able to prove that there’s nothing wrong. Why, then, would it be necessary to arrest more than about a hundred of the leaders of the opposition over the weekend? It doesn’t seem to really make sense. So there’s a lot of the actions of the government itself that is fueling the perception that this was not an entirely fair election.

AMY GOODMAN: You had asked earlier in the weekend on television, if in fact Ahmadinejad had won, where are the people supporting him out in the streets? But they came out in droves this weekend.

TRITA PARSI: Absolutely. But the question is this: if this was a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad, one would have the expectation that at some places there would be actually people in large numbers celebrating that. But none of that was seen. There was no sporadic celebrations in his favor in any large numbers. But instead, two days later, after significant organizing, there was a very, very large rally in Tehran. It just doesn’t seem to entirely fit the pattern.

And I want to be very clear, none of these things are, and in any way, shape or form, conclusive evidence that there was any wrongdoing happening there. But all of them together raises the question marks and has created that perception that this was not a fair election.

AMY GOODMAN: David Makovsky, I want to read to you a piece from Time magazine, just the very top, where it says, “When Obama Administration Iran czar Dennis Ross and top US Iran negotiator William Burns were planning the details of the President’s outreach to Tehran with senior European diplomats earlier this spring, they discussed a possible nightmare scenario for the June 12 presidential elections in Iran. It was not, however, the prospect that incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might win, or even that he might steal the election, as many are alleging he now has, that had them worried. Quite the opposite, it was the possibility that the provocative Iranian President might lose to a moderate challenger.

“‘We even had a nightmare scenario [yesterday],’ a senior European diplomat said the day after [the] meeting with Burns and Ross in March. If a moderate were elected and negotiations with Iran still went nowhere, how would the US and Europe stop Iran from going nuclear?”

Your response to this, David Makovsky?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Look, I think the key question is, is the Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, a supreme leader who makes the decisions on nuclear on policy, or is it a president? It’s very murky at the top in Iran. If the Supreme Leader is merely a consensus builder, then it makes a big difference who the president is. If the Supreme Leader makes his own foreign policy decisions irrespective of that president, you’ll reach a different conclusion.

I do think that the United States would like to engage Iran, when it knows which Iran emerges from this election. And look, the effort to isolate Iran for eight years has not worked, in the sense that Iran is closer to nuclear weapons than they were at the start of the Bush administration. Now, that doesn’t guarantee, Amy, that engagement will succeed. But I think there’s a good faith US effort to see if there can be, you know, a search here for common ground.

AMY GOODMAN: On what evidence are you basing Iran developing nuclear weapons? And when do you think they will have them by?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Look, I mean, the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, issued a report in February that said -— and we’re not talking about American intelligence; this is the International Atomic Energy Agency based in Vienna that’s run by a fellow, an Egyptian, former diplomat named Mohamed ElBaradei — that says that Iran has enriched over a thousand — I think it’s 1,010 kilograms — of nuclear fuel. My understanding is, once they get to 1,500 kilo, they are then able to take that low-enriched uranium and process it into high-enriched uranium.

Now, of course, the big obstacle is that the IAEA inspectors are at the Natanz enrichment plant. So it’s not like Iran just goes from, you know, step one to step two. There’s clearly — they would have to throw out the inspectors, which would create an international incident. But, I mean, people are thinking of this as somehow a replay of the Iraq war, and this is what the Americans say, but America doesn’t have evidence. The reports are coming out of Vienna from this thirty-seven-nation international organization governing board called the IAEA.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you allege that it is —-

TRITA PARSI: Amy, would I be able to jump in just for one quick second?

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, yes.

TRITA PARSI: I think what David is saying is quite right. This is a report from the IAEA saying exactly this. But I think also David is right when he says that it’s not so, that just because they have low-enriched uranium that automatically means that they have the material to be able to build a bomb. They would have to enrich it further, above 90 percent, in order to do so. And they can’t do so without kicking out the inspectors.

So, essentially what David is spelling out is not evidence that there is a weapons program. If they had kicked out the inspectors, if they had started to engage in reprocessing this, then I think one would be able to make a much starker case, stronger case, that there is evidence of a weaponization program. But that has not been seen. And the IAEA has essentially over and over again said that they have no evidence that such a highly enriched uranium processing has taken place in Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: David Makovsky?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Could I get back? Could I just back into this?

I mean, I don’t think Trita and I are disputing the facts. The question that’s between us might be over interpreting these facts. And no one is saying, you know, Iran has a bomb tomorrow. It’s just not true. The question is, at what point, if Iran has enough low-enriched uranium, when they meet that threshold, are they then in a position to decide, “Do we kick it up to the next level, to go from a reactor-grade fuel to weapons-grade fuel?” The nuclear fuel part is -— has been described by senior US officials, the long pole in the tent. It’s the hardest part in the march to a nuclear weapon. But no one is saying that Iran has a warhead. But the key thing is, do they have enough low-enriched uranium that, should they desire to kick out the inspector, they could do the warhead in pretty short order? I don’t know, six to twelve months, some people say. So, but no one, I don’t think, is saying that Iran has a nuclear weapon. I have not heard that from anyone, anyone responsible.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you agree —-

TRITA PARSI: And I think you’re right, David, but the question is, do they have a weaponization program? No one is saying that they have a weapon. But if one says that there is a weaponization program, then one has to come up with the evidence to show that not only do they have low-enriched uranium, which they, according to the NPT, are entitled to have, but they’re actually going beyond that. And that’s where I think you’re right: it’s not just about the facts; it’s also about how we interpret it. But also, where do we draw the line, in which we say objectively, this can be considered a weaponization program and this is not a weaponization program?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: That’s -— I think that’s the key question for the Obama administration in these talks with Iran, should they happen, is, where do you draw that line? You know, is the line, you know, if he keeps stockpiling low-enriched uraniums, then, you know, at any whim, they can throw out the inspectors? And in pretty short order — I think that the warhead is not considered a hard thing to do. They could go in short order. But no one is — I don’t think we’re disputing — we don’t have any differences between us over weaponization. The question is, at what point do you draw that line? Because if Iran decides to throw out the inspectors and goes to the weaponization program, they could do it very quickly.

TRITA PARSI: Well, it’s not that quickly. I mean, just for Natanz to be able to reconfigure the centrifuge would take somewhere between three to six months. And then, one has to assume that everything would work perfectly fine in order for them to be able to have enough material for an actual bomb, highly enriched uranium. So we’re not talking about a short order, in the sense of a couple of days or a couple of minutes or hours. This would still take a considerable amount of time, which would provide the international community with many, many different options to be able to prevent weaponization in Iran.

And more than anything, I think part of the answer actually lies in what David said. The more inspections and verification we have in place in Iran, the greater the opportunity will be for the IAEA and the international community to have transparency and be able to detect any wrongdoing in Iran at the earliest possible stage. And I think the wisest step right now is to move towards that, because if we are setting our goals and our objectives at a level in which our objectives essentially are unfeasible, we will continue to repeat the pattern of the Bush administration, in which they wanted maximalist objectives and they essentially achieved none of them.

AMY GOODMAN: David Makovsky, the central — one of the central theses of your books is diplomacy up to a point and then the right to use military option. What would that mean?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Look, first of all, it’s clear. First resort is political engagement. And I hope Trita’s point would — was the Iranian government’s point, which is intrusive inspections, verification — we don’t know what we don’t know, if there are other covert facilities. So the more inspections and more intrusive measures possible, I think, would be key in building confidence. So I like his point.

I think the key — the first effort is to try to solve things peacefully. Whenever you can solve things peacefully, you’re much better off. The question is, are you able to solve it peacefully? And can you enforce any deal reach? And Trita puts forward an interesting idea of intrusive inspections.

What I think — what seems to me — what we called for in the book is to use the military option as only a last resort, but to try to really do multilateral efforts, to have the United States consult with its allies in Europe, in the Arab world, in Russia, in China, and to see if we can reach a common — a unified strategy with Iran. These are countries, many of them who wanted us to talk to Iran. I know the Arabs are all skeptical that anything will emerge from diplomacy but, I think, are willing to give it a shot and basically make clear that, say, look, if these talks fail, do we have a common approach in dealing with the aftermath, whether it’s economic sanctions or things like that? It’s clear our preference is clearly a political solution in working with Iran. But can we convey to Iran that there are profound consequences for it, economically and otherwise, if talks do not succeed? But the effort is a good faith effort to try to see if talks can work.

AMY GOODMAN: When we go — after we come back from break, I want to get Trita Parsi’s response to this. What would a military option mean? David Makovsky wrote with Dennis Ross, the current US envoy to Iran, Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East. We’re also joined by Trita Parsi, who wrote Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests, David Makovsky, who, together with the current US envoy to Iran, Dennis Ross, wrote Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East, and Trita Parsi, who’s head of the National Iranian American Council and author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US.

Can you analyze for us David Makovsky’s co-author Dennis Ross’s and David Makovsky’s approach to Iran, this issue of diplomatic first, but with a clear possibility of military option at the end, what a military option would look like?

TRITA PARSI: Well, I strongly agree with David that, obviously, diplomacy has to come first. And I think the difference may come across as being rather small, but they can have significant consequences.

I think that one of the things that the Obama administration has done quite right and should be commended for is that they have essentially unilaterally changed the atmospherics between the two countries. And it’s because of a realization that no negotiations can truly succeed unless there is — unless they take place in an atmosphere that has a far greater element of trust than currently exists.

And that’s precisely why I think that the emphasis of what will come if diplomacy fails probably isn’t very helpful. If one has a plan A, I think one should be fully committed to that plan A. One should obviously have a plan B in place, as well, and a plan C, perhaps. But you don’t talk about your plan B, you don’t talk about your plan C, because the more you talk about your plan B and C, the less credible your plan A will come across. You essentially undermine your plan A. So I think it would be more constructive at this moment, particularly since we are in the phase of trust building, to emphasize on the necessity of the diplomacy. Everyone will figure out that there’s obviously going to be consequences if diplomacy fails. But there’s no need to talk about that, because that can end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

AMY GOODMAN: David Makovsky, do you see Iran as a rational player?

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Yes, I think it definitely has some rational elements, and it could very well be that the Supreme Leader thinks that it has a very set of cost-benefit analysis. My concern is that the dichotomy is not whether it’s rational or irrational. But even if you look during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, both were rational actors, but even rational actors can miscalculate when there’s not a lot of communication. And we’ve had thirty years of non-communication here.

In the Cold War, there were constant meetings. Everyone had diplomatic relations with everybody. You also had 500,000 NATO troops. Since the Cuban Missile Crisis, you had an American-Soviet hotline. You don’t have any of these things in the Middle East. And that’s why it’s so much more dangerous here. So, to me, the critical distinction isn’t if Iran is rational or not. To me, the critical thing is how much communication is there to avoid miscalculation. And I think, given the lack of communication, miscalculation is very high.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, I know you’re going to have to leave to do another interview. Your book is called Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US. And we’re going to end by talking about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech. But the issue of Israel having nuclear weapons and the possibility, if the US were not to strike in a situation where Iran got nuclear weapons, but Israel would, can you talk about the secret dealings of Israel with Iran over the years?

TRITA PARSI: Well, Iran and Israel actually have had relations going back all the way to the creation of the Jewish state. But even before that, of course, the history of the Iranian people and the Jewish people stretch back to 2,500 years.

There is a perception right now, of course, that the tensions and the animosity between the two countries is almost a permanent feature or something that has been going on for a very long time. And in essence, it actually is not. You’ve had a cold war between Israel and Iran for about a decade and a half. But even during the 1980s, even during the first years of the Khomeini government, in which it was far more radical than it is today and used far more radical rhetoric than it used today, Israel and Iran actually continued to deal with each other behind the scenes, because of a perception of common strategic imperatives.

What changed this is the reconfiguration of the geopolitical map in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end — the defeat of Iraq, which essentially eliminated two of the common threats that Iran and Israel had had together throughout — since the 1950s forward.

What we have right now, I think, is a climax of a strategic rivalry between the United States and Iran. And I have to say that I was somewhat concerned about the comment of the Israeli Foreign Minister in saying that Iran cannot change. I think we’re actually witnessing right now a tremendous process in Iran that has a promise of change, particularly if those who are calling into question the result of the vote end up being successful, because that means that it is not so that Iran is a constant, that at the end of the day the Supreme Leader always will win the battles. It means that there is an intense struggle inside that country about its identity, about its nature and about its future. One should not make any assumptions that essentially deprive the international community and Israel itself of various options, of various opportunities.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US. We’re asking David Makovsky to stay with us.

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