Bush asking Iran to eliminate all access to nuclear technology: Gary Sick
Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) The Columbia University Professor Gary Sick took part in a telephone interview with the Mehr News Agency on the Bush Administration policy toward Iran, the relations between U.S. and Europe and the U.S. presidential election. The text of the interview follows: Q: What is your assessment of President George W. Bushs policy toward Iran?
A: I think it is extremely unlikely that the Bush administration will take any preemptive military action against Iran, at least under the present circumstances. As you very well know the United States is very heavily occupied in Iraq and Afghanistan and I think the Bush administration knows very well that any attempt to intervene in Iran would in fact be a much bigger problem and probably much more difficult than the operation in Iraq and for that reason I think that is not likely to happen.
There is a real possibility of an accidental escalation either because of Iranian activities or U.S. activities in the region. Whether theres a clash of some sort accidentally in Iraq or along the Iran-Iraq border or at some point in the Persian Gulf. I think an example of that is the Iranian arrest of those British on the river some time ago. Incidents like that which probably are not regarded as aggressive on either sides can escalate into a conflict and I think accidental confrontation is in some ways a danger but clearly the United States is going to keep up its pressure as much as possible on Iran to try to get it to accept a less threatening version of its nuclear program, particularly focusing on enrichment and reprocessing as very dangerous and trying to persuade Iran to give up both of those in ways that would in fact give Iran the capacity to build a nuclear weapon not necessarily to try to stop Iran from building nuclear power plants. Q: What is the role of Iran in establishing stability in Iraq?
A: Yes, I think events in Iraq are going to be very important and particularly as we come up to the elections supposedly in January, if there are outbreaks of fighting, if there is a Shia opposition to the election and if Iran supports the Shia opposition, I think that could in fact lead to very serious differences of views between Iraq and Iran and also between the Unites States and Iran.
Q: The unilateral policy of the U.S. has hurt the relations between the United States and its European allies. Europe has a different approach than that of the current Bush administration but, Mr. Kerry has said his policy is different from that of Bush and he has sought the support of the former allies of the United States. So the Europeans prefer Kerry rather than Bush. What is your opinion in this regard? A: There has been some difference of opinions in the past between Europe and the United States. The Bush administration has taken a very hard line position asking Iran to eliminate all access to nuclear technology. The Europeans were more willing to compromise and to negotiate based on limited Iranian access to nuclear technology particularly peaceful access, nuclear technology that did not immediately threaten the possibility of building a nuclear weapon.
Those differences I think have in fact narrowed very much. The European position and the American position are still different but they are not as different as they used to be. The Europeans are in fact taking a much tougher line with regard to Iran because of this difference of opinion about enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of plutonium.
The Europeans, especially the three countries that have been negotiating with Iran have begun to take a much more demanding view about Irans program so the differences are not that great. The big difference it seems to me between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush is that Mr. Kerry says quite clearly that he would favor a direct dialogue with Iran and he does not say that because he intends to praise Iran or that he has any illusion about differences of views but he does believe that the way to deal with those differences is to address them directly. Mr. Bush does not say that.
The real issue in my mind if Mr. Kerry becomes president is whether Iran itself is preparing for a direct dialogue and that is not clear to me. In the past the United States has proposed talking to Iran, has proposed an opening for discussions and Iran has rejected it. So, I never make any predictions about this because I cant predict who will win in the election, but if Kerry should win the election I think he will in fact propose direct conservation with Iran in some point next year.
I cannot also predict how Iran may respond because in the past some people in Iran said they would like to have direct conservations with United States but others said no, only at very extreme circumstances where pre-conditions were made that the United States has to lift all the sanctions, that the U.S. has to do a whole series of things first then they would be prepared to talk.
To me at this stage its not really predictable, but I do believe that the Unites States and the Europeans will continue to cooperate at some level in terms of their policies which they have been doing up until now. Each takes a different position but they have been in fact coordinating their policies and talking about them and I would expect that to continue not with Europe breaking away from the United States but rather Europe taking a more collaborative view with Iran wanting to talk and the U.S. resisting such operations but both sides talking to each other and collaborating about their view with regard to Iran.
Professor Gary Sick is Adjunct Professor of International Affairs and Acting Director of the Middle East Institute at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. Gary Sick served in the National Security Council under presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan and is the author of two books on U.S.-Iranian relations. He is also the executive director of Gulf 2000, an international research project on political, economic and security developments in the Persian Gulf.
Strange. Gary Sick says almost nothing in this whole interview. He never answers, "Q: What is the role of Iran in establishing stability in Iraq? " The rest of the answers he gives are vague generalities and references to the past.