Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Henry Kissinger: Iran must understand that we mean it seriously

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, 82, talks with Spiegel about the risks of the war in Iraq, Iran's current nuclear crisis, clashes with Europe and China's future role in global politics. The following excerpt concerns the 'Iran' part of the interview:

Kissinger: ...Neither Japan, China nor Russia want to see another atomic power in Asia. These joint efforts will lead to a result. There will be a bit more to and fro as far as the details are concerned, but the basic decisions have been made.

SPIEGEL: Are you similarly optimistic about the situation in Iran?

Kissinger: At some point in Washington the most important decision will have to be taken. The question is who will get the upper hand: those who believe in regime change or those who favor negotiations? But let me make one important point: I was involved in decision-making processes when there were two superpowers. At that time one could be pretty sure that both sides would exert the same amount of restraint before starting an atomic war. And on top of that just imagine what complicated thought processes both went through trying to work out the opponent's possible behavior. The whole system of international relations is going to have to change. We have to bear this in mind when looking at Iran. The democratic countries have to keep an eye on the consequences of the spread of nuclear weapons and ask themselves what they would have done if the Madrid bombs had been nuclear. Or if the attackers in New York had used nuclear weapons, or if 50,000 people had died in New Orleans in a nuclear attack. The world would look very different than it does today. So we have to ask ourselves how much energy we want to put into fighting the problem of further proliferation of nuclear weapons.

SPIEGEL: At what point should the UN Security Council start dealing with Iran's atomic program?

Kissinger: We should avoid another confrontation in the Security Council until we know exactly what we want to and are able to achieve. Iran is more important than North Korea. It is a more significant country and there are more options.

SPIEGEL: Is there a military option?

Kissinger: Tactically speaking it would be unwise to rule out a military option. But every time someone says America should have this as an option, all hell breaks loose. It is important that we agree on the dangers of proliferation. And by this I don't mean just having another meeting of foreign ministers. We should see what pressures and incentives we have at our disposal. But Iran must also understand that we all mean it seriously. Naturally nobody wants another crisis in this region...

To read the interview in full go here.