Pressure Rises in Iran Negotiations
TRNN’s Thomas Hedges talks to Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council and Matthew McInnis of the American Enterprise Institute who say that hardliners in Washington are not primarily interested in a nuclear-free Iran but regime change and how to incite it
THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN PRODUCER: Last November, negotiations between the United States and Iran on its nuclear program were extended until June of this year. Many expect this to be the last extension of current talks, which started over a year ago. With parties on both sides growing impatient, the curtain is falling fast and has added a fresh sense of urgency to the negotiations. They’ve also prompted opponents to admit more freely that the nuclear issue is simply a tool in destabilizing the government in Tehran, rather than curbing a nuclear weapons program.
MATTHEW MCINNIS, FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INST.: And I think at the heart of at most Americans would rather see a different regime in Tehran. I would be really surprised if we really want to keep this particular regime. Now, how we deal with it is a policy debate.
HEDGES: Matthew McInnis is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, which is a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. While McInnis does accuse Iran of having violated the terms of the interim deal last summer, he argues that more importantly the deal is almost meaningless. In a report he published last week on the negotiations, he wrote that Iran’s system of government was the fundamental problem, writing that Iran has shown no signs of a strategic shift in its ideology away from opposing U.S. interests in the region. He also said that America’s revolution in the region isn’t over.
MCINNIS: We recognize that the Iranian people actually would like to be closer to the West, even if they have particular grievances against the U.S., whereas the current regime, the government inside Tehran, their whole existence, their whole reason for being, why they have their jobs is based on an ideological framework that gives them legitimacy. And so if you change that ideology, their legitimacy comes into question and they have to find another reason to justify why there should not be another counterrevolution or an internal revolution to get those guys, get Khamenei, get Rouhani, get Rafsanjani, get the IRGC, get them all–kick them all out.
HEDGES: The debate over Iran’s compliance to the interim deal or joint plan of action is quickly deflating as politicians shift their attention away from the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, which is charged with inspecting Iran’s nuclear reactors, and closer instead to the rhetoric of people like Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel. He’s slated to speak in front of Congress at the beginning of next month.
TRITA PARSI, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: The bottom line is this: there were some unclarities in the JPOA that have been clarified. But the most important thing is is the IAEA that has been tasked to verify whether the parties are living up to the agreement or not, they are the authority on this, not the American Enterprise Institute.
HEDGES: Trita Parsi is founder and current president of the National Iranian American Council. He says that pro-sanction advocates in Washington like the American Enterprise Institute have taken an ad hoc approach to stopping a rapprochement between Iran and the West.
PARSI: Only a few people who are very far removed from the negotiations, who never favored negotiations in the first place, actively opposed negotiations, now suddenly think they can come and give the best advice on how the negotiations should be conducted. None of the people at the table believe that if the talks break down right now there will be the political opening to restart them. This is rather an indication of some are so desperate to kill this deal who don’t want to see diplomacy to succeed, who want to push this towards a military confrontation, that they’re looking for anything, including things that are not there, to be able to say that the deal should be scrapped.
HEDGES: That view has been amplified by the newly elected GOP-controlled Senate, where four pro-sanction bills have been drafted. Senate leaders Bob Corker, Richard Shelby, Mark Kirk, and Robert Menendez have increased their opposition to negotiations, while newly elected senators, like Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who sits on the banking committee and directly legislates sanctions, have shamed the White House for even approaching the negotiating table.
TOM COTTON, U.S. SENATOR (R-AK): The problem here is not the nature of the weapon, but it’s the nature of the Iranian regime. They continue to be the world’s number-one sponsor of state terrorism. I am deeply skeptical, as are my colleagues here on this committee, that any of this will ever change, no matter how skillful our negotiations, unless the regime in Iran changes.
HEDGES: That position isn’t new. The Bush administration in 2007 came close to using force against Iran as key Senate leaders like John McCain backed the effort.
GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: The best diplomacy, effective diplomacy, is one in which all options are on the table.
HEDGES: But, for Parsi, among others, the increasing hostility towards Iran and the talks is more worrisome now than it was before.
PARSI: And I think one thing that we have to keep in mind is this: it is true that right now the voices in favor of war are not heard very loudly. But that is for a very simple reason, and that reason is that there are an ongoing negotiations. The presence of diplomacy is what has shut down the voices of war. If talks break down, those voices of war will once again rise up, and they will be very powerful.
HEDGES: Parsi doesn’t think that’ll happen during President Obama’s remaining time in office. Obama has vowed to veto additional sanctions–something Congress most likely can’t overturn.
PARSI: But the pressure on the next president of the United States in his or her first year in office will be tremendous if this deal fails. And causing a deliberate failure of the talks, supposedly in order to create a better situation for new talks, is highly unconvincing. And even if you believe that that could happen, the likelihood of that happening is very small. The likelihood that it would lead to a war is much, much greater.
HEDGES: For The Real News, Thomas Hedges, Washington.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.