tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT January 8, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EST
>> our guest is dr. trita parsi, the founder and president of the national iranian american council and his new book is titled "a single roll of the dice -- obama's the plot -- obama's diplomacy with iran." thank you for joining us. how would you characterize the relationship between the united states and iran? >> it is an institutionalized committee. >> what does that mean? >> the enmity, the institutionalized part is that we have seen over the last three
decades big portions within both governments that have created a self interest in retaining that amity. careers that have been advanced through deepening this amity. this is not something that can easily be broken up. there are too many people on both sides in both countries benefiting from the continuation of amity. >> are we talking about antagonize meant between the two? >> we have some limited pockets in which the two have managed to collaborate but nothing that has been able to turn the strategic dynamic of their relationship around into something more positive. both parties continue to see how they can undermine each other. i'm of the view that the obama administration had a very genuine effort in the first year of the presidency of trying to reach out and do something
positive. i think it was quite genuine and i think it was well thought through. however, it did not have the sustainability, political will and capital behind it to sustain it. you have to have a diplomacy that is sustainable over a couple of years to be able to undo this. 30 years of an entity is not going to be undone by three weeks of diplomacy. >> i tried to frame this question in my mind several ways and i cannot think of the right of verb to insert into the question. what is iran's beef with the united states and what is the united states'beef with iran? >> it the long list. it begins in 1979 with the hostage crisis. that is the point in which awareness of iran in america
became quite stark. uc iranians challenging the united states regionally as well as outside the region that time, challenging american leadership globally. there has been support for terrorism and groups that are anti-american. on the iranian side, it began 1953, when the united states and the british secret service did a coup against a democratically elected prime minister of acheron. that's when a lot of the -- against iran. that is when a lot of the grievances began. then it has deepened. during the 1980's, at the united states sided with iraq and provided iraq with intelligence and weapons in spite of the fact that saddam hussein was using chemical weapons against iranian population and the civilian population.
we have sanctions and other things. this is a situation where both sides have piled a lot of antagonism on to each other. at some point, it is futile to go back and say who is more at fault. >> what is iran possible and what is the goal of the united states? >> is unfortunately not clear what the goal is and what we would like to see. nor is it clear what the iranians are asking for. there are some contours', but to see the substance remains unclear. there are a couple of things -- the iranians want to be recognized as a regional leader. they want to have a seat at the table. they don't want to have any decisions made without its input. they want to be accepted major power in the region.
there are a major power but not and accepted one. it's not part of a single security package. it is as alone as it could possibly get. it does not have access to legitimate avenues of influence. >> it wanted recognized, they want power, they want to be a player at the table. >> the type of security order the united states assumes they want -- the iranians are not looking to be accepted in the existing architecture in the region but want to change it. >> because of the nuclear weapons? >> i think -- >> a nuclear weapons would make them a player. >> i think with the iranians want is to have the capability.
there has not been a decision made to build it. there certainly moving toward a state where there gathering of the components needed to build it. >> are you saying the goal of the united states is unclear? >> if we unpacked it a little bit, what our goal in the sense of enrichment in iran. are going to accept it in iran or not? the previous administration was clear -- no enrichment. the obama administration is using some ambiguity here and i don't think that's the illiterate. i think it's part of it has not been a decision to let the u.s. can and cannot accept. what is the goal with the regime itself? are we willing to accept it or do we want to see a democracy in iran, or at what pace? are we going to have a relationship with this power?
>> what's the level of communication within the two countries? >> almost none. right before admiral mom left office, he gave a talk at the carnegie endowment and said right now, there is no communication between the two sides in the persian gulf. if there is -- after 30 years of not communicating, we are misunderstanding each other and we are miscalculating. when you misunderstand and miscalculate, you escalate. >> let me tell the folks at home, our guest is dr. trita parsi, the founder and president of the national iranian council. his background, born in iran, raised in sweden, came into the united states and it is a ph.d.
at johns hopkins university. we will learn more about the national iranian council as we go along. "this is america." >> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. e.rysingapore tourism boardhi er e isth something for everyone. singapore airlines -- a great way to fly. poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard.
the ctc foundation. afo communications. the rotondaro family trust. >> let's go inside iran for a moment. what is the population? >> approximately 75 million. >> its a big country with huge resources and tremendous strategic position. >> bordering countries are? >> i think are 15 countries bordering it from armenia, pakistan, iraq, kuwait and on the persian gulf side, you have saudi arabia and the united arab emirates. >> who rules iran? >> iran is currently ruled by a non-democratic government headed by supreme leader, the ayatollah. it is an undemocratic system to
have small pockets within it. there are elections taking place and they are not usually fair or free. they are local elections as well but ultimately, the decision making power is in the hands of the ayatollah and those around him. >> everybody knows mahmoud ahmadinejad, but there are elected people and unelected people. it is the unelected people who have the power. >> even know they are elected, it is not necessarily free elections. there was a lot of fraud taking place in the 2009 elections. even if there wasn't, it's not as if anyone can stand in those elections.
the guardian council, they'd do not have to bota it -- say why they are disqualifying certain candidates. you have people trying to stand for candidacy in the elections in 2009 but only four people were approved. >> it is a theocracy? >> it certainly is. >> and persian, not arab? >> iran is a mixture of a lot of different cultures. the persians are a majority but there are several different ethnic groups. iran hosts the largest jewish community in the middle east outside of israel itself. ancient jewish minority dating back over 2000 years. >> a power struggle going on? >> a very intense power struggle is currently going on.
>> where would china, russia, turkey, the arab world, fit into the picture as we take a look at iran? i know i have thrown everything that you there. >> many of the arab countries, saudi arabia in particular, are very concerned that if the united states were to negotiate with the iranians and find a strategic relationship, this would come at the expense of both saudi arabia and israel. there is not a lot of regional enthusiasm. >> everybody has their own agenda. >> everyone has their own agenda. these people don't all favor war, but the status quo is attractive. russia and china i would argue are the two biggest benefactors because we have sanctioned ourselves out of the influence.
no one trades with iran. the two countries that have replaced are china and russia. this goes back to 1995 when the u.s. was imposing the largest sanctions at that time. 15 or 16 years later, it has become quite true. did they put the screws to iran? >> i would say the turks have, based on their own interest, they are a rising power and their economy is doing well. they have ambitions of becoming a top 10 economy by 2023, which is the 100 year anniversary of
the secular turkish republic. in that, they cannot afford to do that. then he ran for energy and they're trying to balance the relationship. they understand there will be a rivalry between iran and turkey for hundreds of years. these are to very powerful states and want to balance that as well. the competitive element of that relationship will not get out of control. they are facing increasing difficulties in doing so, particularly in areas like the situation in syria where iran and turkey are increasingly coming out loggerheads. >> the three events recently -- and i don't want to lose sight of the revolt within iran a couple of years ago, but three
recent events -- the story about the assassination attempt or plan to do so to the saudi ambassador in the united states and then the ransacking of the british embassy. the third, the capture of our ground, the cia drown. how do you see those three huge incidents? >> i would add a couple of incidents. at the same time, you have the assassinations of iranian scientists. >> yes. >> you have things being blown up left and right. we had a major explosion on november 12, what appears to have been a missile station with several senior iranian officials being killed. >> who would be in back of that?
>> it is unclear. >> internal or external? >> most likely external. you have had computer devices targeting the iranian program and additional sanctions, all adding to a picture in which we're getting deeper and deeper into a conflict dynamic. it may not be a hot war, but it started to have all of the different hallmarks of some sort of covert were taking place. the dangerous part of that is i am no longer confident that either the iranian government or the american government are in full control of the dynamics. the dynamics are in control, meaning we are no longer fully capable of making sure one of these incidents do not spark a larger confrontation. that would put those three as part of that.
>> president obama, his response was at first no response about to drown and that it was at give it back to us. that does not -- about the drone -- that does not seem like a good policy. >> clearly i do not think the iranians are willing to give it back. i don't think the united states have any expectations the iranians will give it back. >> i saw dick cheney do an interview and he said we have the capability to go in there and blow it up. to go in and try to get back is out of the question, but we could have blown it up. lord knows what kind of technology exists nowadays. that would have been a good idea. >> it would lead to war. >> do you think?
>> absolutely. >> to have something laying off the field and blow it up? >> i don't know at what point the united states knew where it was. i think by the time they knew where it was, it was in iranian hands. i would say that level of restraint is impressive mindful of the dynamics we are in. >> once they located it, it was in the hands of human beings? >> if you went in, you would have a war. >> you have an older book called "treacherous alliance" that has to do with the united states, israel and iran. the new book has to do with obama's foreign-policy in regards to ran specifically, singularly.
how is it working out for the obama administration? you may reference earlier in the conversation but please elaborate. >> i think the obama administration's obama assessment is as a result of their policy, have managed to get a far stronger international coalition and consensus against iran. we have far greater sanctions. because the bush administration was not particularly positive and as a result, there was a lot of resistance going on. i think the obama administration was right. they have had greater success in getting a greater amount of sanctions. the point at which i find it to be less important is it's not bringing us closer to a resolution. i think the biggest mistake from the u.s. side was once the
turks and brazilians managed to intervene and negotiate with iran and get them to put their signature on a deal, the obama administration was so deep into its -- >> what brazilian deal? >> i explain this in detail in the book. they negotiated with iranians and got them to agree to a deal that was following the same benchmarks as the deal the u.s. put on the table a couple of months earlier. at that point, the iranians did not come and give a yes to the proposal. a couple of months later, some things had changed. but the bottom line is that deal called the tehran declaration, followed a letter the president sent to the leaders of brazil and turkey only three weeks later. but by that time the obama
administration was so deep into the sanctions drive, two days before the negotiations took place, china and russia had just come around to the sanctions. between the sanctions and the deal, they sold -- they chose the sanctions. >> is it worth going to war to prevent iran from having nuclear weaponry? when you think of pakistan, india and israel? >> i think it would be a very negative thing for the iranians to get a nuclear bomb. but i think it's an important question asked in washington every day -- but it's still a premature question. to actually entertain that question means we have exhausted diplomacy. my assessment is that is not the case. >> if you were president of the united states, what would you be doing differently than is being done now, especially when you
say the communication between the two sides is practically nonexistent. >> it takes two to tango and i have a significant sympathy with the administration that is not going to be easy to negotiate with iran. however, to negotiate with an issue like this, comparing it to previous negotiations, they take at least four years. i would say in order to choose a diplomacy past, one cannot just a just to the existing political space for such a policy. you have to actively go out there and create more space for it. the obama administration did not do that. >> what should they be doing? >> they should be saying we can resolve this diplomatically but it will take time. we'd political space and there would be a strong push back against those elements whether in tehran or israel or congress to have been institutionalized interest in sustaining this conflict. >> are there people in iran who
are willing to talk in a power position? >> yes. but there are also people similar to washington who are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening. >> sanctions -- why not just cut off the exports and imports? the oil and gasoline? why not go after the central bank? >> congress just passed a bill in which they want to sanction the central bank. the problem is if you take the iranian oil off the market, not just because of demand and supply, but because of the risk premium, you're going to drive up oil prices. for every dollar it goes up, the iranians will make more money based on what they can still sell. they can still sell oil to the chinese and russians. most importantly, from an american perspective, for every dollar that goes up, gas prices in the u.s. goes up. for every dollar gas prices go up, we need to kill -- we kill
jobs in this country. we cannot create jobs and energy prices soar. >> tell me about the national iranian council. >> it is an organization i and others founded in 2001. it came directly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks in which several of us who had been involved in the iranian american community in the united states were taken aback by the fact that the community overwhelmingly was opposed to these terrorist attacks but had such great difficulty collectively voicing that, of voicing their opposition. >> what do you say your mission as? >> to ensure the iranian americans contribute to the democracy in the united states and are as much a part of the political process as they can be. >> to people come to you and consult with you? >> from where? >> it the u.s. government. >> of course. i'm in contact with the u.s.
government and other western government. our organization produces a lot of analysis on what happening in iran as well as the dynamics between iran and the rest of the world. >> optimistic or pessimistic? >> i'm not particularly optimistic. 2012 is going to be an increasingly tense and dangerous years in which unfortunately, because of the political climate in tehran and washington and israel, something very, very bad can happen. if we can ride out 2012, some opportunities may rise to move in a direction of resolving it. but 2012 will be a decisive year. >> we are at the end of our time. thank you for the education and congratulations on the past book and the new book. thank you for visiting with us. >> for information about my new book and online video for all "this is america" programs, visit our web site.
>> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation. afo communications. the rotondaro family trust. the rotondaro family trust.