US – Iran negotiations – Full Porter interview

July 17, 2008

TRNN's Senior Analyst Pepe Escobar talks to Investigative Historian and Military Policy Analyst Gareth Porter about Iran and why the Bush administration seems to be changing tactics. Porter says that Vice President Dick Cheney might have lost influence in the White House.

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TRNN's Senior Analyst Pepe Escobar talks to Investigative Historian and Military Policy Analyst Gareth Porter about Iran and why the Bush administration seems to be changing tactics. Porter says that Vice President Dick Cheney might have lost influence in the White House.


Story Transcript

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: Gareth, where exactly are we at regarding US-Iran negotiations or a breakdown of negotiations, especially after these latest developments—the Iranian missile test, Admiral Mullen saying that US cannot open a third war front, opening of an interests section office by the US in Tehran, talk of leverage? Where exactly are we at?

GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE HISTORIAN, MILITARY POLICY ANALYST: Well, I think we’ve seen an important step toward negotiations between the US and Iran, the most important one yet—still a small one, but that is the fact that William Burns will be attending the P5+1 pre-negotiation talks, if you will, with Solana in Tehran next week. So that’s the first time the United States has been willing to sit down with Iran without the Iranians caving in, if you will, to the US demand that they stop their enrichment of uranium.

ESCOBAR: And what created the conditions for this [inaudible]?

PORTER: I think, essentially, it is the dawning of the realization within the Bush White House that he’s got to do something other than just threaten Iran or, you know, talk about the military threat being on the table, the military option being on the table, simply because it’s not going to work.

ESCOBAR: So the talk of leverage was smoke and mirrors.

PORTER: The talk of leverage goes all the way back to early 2007. And the first person that really talked about that, apart from President Bush himself, was Robert Gates. There’s a very complicated relationship here that we can’t go into right now, but it has to do with Gates having already taken on the function of trying to restrain Bush and Cheney on attacking Iran, while at the same time playing the game of being the tough guy, you know, sort of supporting a tough line against Iran, part of which was to say we have to have some leverage against Iran, and then we negotiate with them. So it was always for Gates and Rice that we’ve got to negotiate with Iran; Cheney was saying we should talk about the military option; and Bush was somewhere between there for quite awhile. So I think that there’s a lot of loose talk about leverage here by people who really simply want to get to negotiations.

ESCOBAR: So what you’re saying is the Cheney faction is a minority in the national security [inaudible]

PORTER: Well, absolutely it’s a minority. It’s a minority of himself, his staff, and Elliott Abrams, the Deputy National Security Advisor, effectively. But the numbers have nothing to do with the reality of power, as we know. This is the most powerful single figure, apart from the president of the United States, in the history of US foreign policy.

ESCOBAR: And under this new configuration, how do you interpret this leak a few days ago of Bush giving a green—an amber light (I’m sorry) for Israel to start preparations on an attack?

PORTER: Well, that’s one interpretation of what’s going on. I think it’s far more complicated than that. In fact, I think the Mullen speech after he came back or the Mullen remarks when he came back, saying that we really don’t want to open up a third front, saying that it would be destabilizing that the US—it would be too much for the US military to handle, means that, essentially, the military leadership and the others in the administration who were opposed to strike against Iran are now free to really express their views openly. That’s a slightly new stage, I think, indicating that the balance continues to tip against the Cheney faction. So, basically, Bush is a non-decider. He has not made up his mind finally about what he’s going to do. But he clearly is not ready to make a decision to support what Cheney wants him to do at this point, that’s for sure.

ESCOBAR: So, in a nutshell, the Bush administration will talk to Iran in the next few weeks?

PORTER: They will talk, but let’s face it: we’re still in the stage of talks about talks. This is a preliminary stage. It does not mean that the Bush administration is about to drop its demand. But what Solana is hoping, and I think what the Iranians are hoping, is that there can be some creative talks here that have to do with a kind of new proposal—not a new proposal, but putting on the table an existing proposal that has to do with a compromise on your enrichment in Iran, but enrichment that would have western countries in firm control, in a way that would give them assurances against using any of the fuel rods or the results of the enrichment for the use of a bomb program. That’s really the hope of it, that there can be real serious discussions about that.

ESCOBAR: [inaudible]

PORTER: I think that the Iranians will accept a degree of western control, as long as the symbolism of enrichment on Iranian soil and the symbolism of Iranian scientists involved and having the knowledge is part of the deal.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.