Sunday, September 18, 2005

Condoleezza Rice: Iran can’t afford to be too isolated from the international community.

Newsweek, Sept. 17, 2005 - In her first speech to the United Nations, Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on Saturday urged diplomats to be tough on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The United Nations “must be able to deal with great challenges like terrorism and nuclear proliferation, especially when countries like Iran threaten the effectiveness of the global nonproliferation regime,” she said. Earlier in the week, Rice, accompanied by Gen. Raymond Odierno, sat down with Newsweek editors and discussed Iran, Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and a number of other topics:

There’s a sense that, obviously, the U.S. is trying to achieve some sort of consensus, sending out teams, trying to amass evidence and make a case that Iran is indeed developing nuclear weapons, but doesn’t seem to be selling people...
I don’t think there’s a question here about people—the United States thinking the Iranians are a nuclear weapons threat and the rest of the world thinking not. All the evidence is people are concerned about what the Iranians are doing. I don’t know if you heard [French Foreign] Minister de Villepin yesterday, but he was very strong about this. I mean, he basically said live up to your compliance obligations or you’re going to go to the Security Council...
There are two problems here. One is that there’s no chance the Europeans are going to use sanctions. They can’t work in the Security Council. The chance of sanctions on Iran, including oil, is zero. The chances on sanctions without oil in the Security Council are minimal. The chance of EU sanctions, particularly given Germany’s position, seems to me very, very low. So you’re betting a lot that as Iranian noncompliance becomes more evident, the EU will actually wield, you know, pull out the stick. And on the other side, the carrot that the Iranians want is you, is the United States. There’s nothing the Europeans can give them. So why are the Europeans negotiating when they won’t deal with a stick and they don’t have a carrot?
Now, I can’t tell you exactly what this looks like when it ends up on the Security Council, but I can tell you this: The Iranians who say—who try to pretend that they’re just going out—doing everything they can to avoid being in the Security Council. So it does matter to them not to end up in the Security Council. Why does it matter to them not to be in the Security Council? Because it has to do with legitimacy with their own people. They don’t want to be an outlaw state. Look, the Iranian people are not the North Korean people. They’re not going to eat bark. And Iran can’t afford to be too isolated from the international community.
They’re not going to eat bark at $66 a barrel. [Laughter]
No, but-well, no, but if they get themselves into a situation in which they are completely isolated from the international system, they’ll be eating the equivalent of modern bark in an economy that can’t work. We know the Iranian economy is living on oil, but the Iranian economy also isn’t functioning and it’s not giving benefits to that huge under class, under-employed population that actually brought [President] Ahmadinejad to power. So let’s not paint the Iranians as having no liabilities and no vulnerabilities in this process. They have considerable vulnerability in getting completely isolated from the international community, which is why they’re fighting so hard not to...
...How concerned are you about Iranian designs on Iraq?
Well, I do think the Iranians have interests that they would like to see expressed in Iraq. Now, they are a neighbor so Iran and Iraq are going to have relations. I don’t think anybody can tell the Iraqis they shouldn’t have relations with the Iranians. But they need to be transparent relations. And I’m not—I’m concerned that the Iranians may try through either—through covert means to influence the politics there, but I also recognize that they have a very deep constraint, which is that they’re not terribly well liked in Iraq...

To read the interview in full go here.