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U.S. and Iran: Negotiations or war?

This is the last segment of a two-part interview with Pepe Escobar.

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VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: How will Iran react to recent posturing by the United States? Senior editor Paul Jay discusses the geopolitical context with Pepe Escobar, correspondent for the Real News, and a columnist for The Asia Times Online.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Would the election of Rafsanjani make any difference? It would seem, the way things are proceeding, the Iranians would have to have a serious backing-down on the whole inspection process, and a declaration, and I don’t know what, but something that would convince world public opinion and to some extent American public opinion that there’s been a real shift in Iran’s position. According to the study I quoted, the Plesch-Butcher study, they say this isn’t going to happen, Iran won’t back down, and if that’s the case, then we are headed towards a war.

PEPE ESCOBAR, VIA BROADBAND FROM PARIS: I think we are headed towards a war, because to back down for Iran means everything that they subscribe about the nuclear non-proliferation treaty does not apply to them. Like, India can have a nuclear program, Brazil can have a nuclear program, but Iran cannot, under the same rules and the same treaty. So they say, why other countries, other developing countries, can have a nuclear program and not us? They never questioned the fact that they are building a nuclear bomb, because they are not. Everybody’s convinced, even in Iran, that they are not. For all purposes, and I’m talking about very competent U.N. inspectors, there is no nuclear program—oh, I’m sorry, military nuclear program. There is a very well- organized civilian nuclear program with some holes in it. But the Iranians won’t back down about their rights. The question of national pride for them is extremely important. They want to be treated as, I would not say, Saudi Arabia, but at least as Pakistan is treated by the U.S., with respect (between commas) but, you know, equals. And there’s no dialogue. They know that deep inside what the Bush administration wants and always wanted is regime change. And this for them is unacceptable.

JAY: Rafsanjani’s election won’t change this.

ESCOBAR: And Rafsanjani election won’t change the basic framework of how they conceive the whole situation and how they see as the behaviour of the Bush administration as totally illogical. From a Persian point of view, you have to understand how they view a deal with the West. It’s, respect us as a nation and as an emerging and in fact great power in the Middle East, as a great regional power. Don’t impose on us. Let’s discuss, and we can reach a deal like that. It’s like haggling at a very sophisticated carpet bazaar. You know, in the end you get your carpet, which is us, the West, but in the end they sell the carpet for the price they think is appropriate.

JAY: But the carpet, at least on the face of it, is said to be an absolute guarantee of no nuclear bomb in Iran. I don’t know yet that there’s any evidence that there actually is a nuclear bomb program[ crosstalk ].

ESCOBAR: There is no evidence if you read all the IAEA reports. And the last one says all the pending issues that have not been discussed yet with Iran will be solved until November or December 2007. According to Khomeini and according to the theocratic regime in Islam, a bomb is anti-Islamic. So they would never go after a nuclear bomb. What could happen is rogue factions in the Republican Guards have access to nuclear technology and by themselves engender rudimentary bomb. This could happen.

JAY: Whether there’s any evidence from the U.N. inspectors that there is a bomb may not be any more relevant to those making decisions in the United States than the U.N. inspections of Iraq, because the fact that no weapons were being found in Iraq didn’t change the policy. Is the policy actually set in stone, do you think, amongst the Cheneys and others? Or is this part of a negotiating strategy on behalf of the Americans?

ESCOBAR: If we look at the evidence, and if we look at the buildup towards the war in Iraq, and if we look how the same buildup is being reproduced now before a possible attack against Iran, Iran is still the big prize. Baghdad was just on the road towards Tehran. You will probably remember that after Mission Accomplished in 2003, the neocons were saying, “Real men go to Tehran.” This still applies. The original plan is to dismantle, to provoke regime change in Iran, and to appropriate special Iran oil and gas. Iran is not only about oil; Iran is about gas as well. And the problem is Iran is making gas deals with China and Russia, and this irks the Bush administration to kingdom come. They simply cannot allow that, because if you have China, Pakistan, India, Russia, and Iran together, you have what is called the Asian Energy Security Grid, which is completely independent from American interference. This means what? Development as a whole for Asia, from central Asia to northern Asia to south Asia, all the energy they need is there, and Iran has most of it, and Iran is making deals with them and able to accept their investment as well to provide them with the energy for a hundred years. Iranian gas will last more than a hundred years, by the way. So this is what it’s all about. It’s an energy war which is being counteracted by the neocons as a permanent war.

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