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Kissinger: talks work only if US gives Iran something.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says diplomatic talks with Iran will only work if the United States is willing to give the Islamic Republic security guarantees that it will survive.

Even then, he said, diplomatic talks may go nowhere because the Islamic Republic has made hostility to the United States "the organizing principle" of its existence.


Kissinger, now 88 years old, appeared Sunday on the Fareed Zakaria program on CNN television.

Kissinger, who served as secretary of state in the 1970s under two Republican presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, condemned the opposition to diplomatic talks with Iran that is espoused by many Republicans today.

Kissinger said the real issue is not whether to talk, but how to frame the talks. First, he said, there ought to be some kind of time limit, presumably to prevent the Islamic Republic from stalling, as it has been accused of doing in the past.

Second, he said, the United States needs a "defined objective that really meets the need [of Iran]." In other words, can the United States politically agree to guarantee the Islamic Republic's survival? That would mean ignoring Tehran's human rights performance, which would be objectionable to many Americans. It could also mean actively opposing the Green Movement and other opposition to the regime. There is a precedent, however; to end the Cuba missile crisis with the Soviet Union in 1962, the United States effectively pledged not to take any action to try to topple the Castro regime in Cuba. That policy has now survived a half-century.

Third, Kissinger said, the world needs to know if there are any pledges to Iran that would induce the Islamic Republic to rejoin the international system, act as "a substantially responsible member" and abandon its active opposition to the way the world is run.

But Zakaria did not pursue the first and third points and flesh out the details. He did not ask, for example, what the world should do if the Islamic Republic would not follow Kissinger's outline of traditional foreign relations modalities.

Kissinger said a proliferating country always argues that it is under a military threat and needs nuclear weapons to protect itself. With regard to Iran, Kissinger said, "We should certainly be prepared to meet those concerns if, in response, their nuclear program is, in fact, irreversibly ended."

He said he had no problem giving the Islamic Republic guarantees on its security. He didn't detail what kind of guarantees he was thinking of. A guarantee never to attack Iran militarily, such as the guarantee to Cuba, would probably be easy to make.

But Supreme Leader Ali Khamenehi has said publicly he doesn't want to make a compromise on Iran's nuclear program because he believes the Americans would then just shift their demands to some other area, like Iran's human rights performance. That would suggest the Americans would have to make a commitment to ignore Iranian human rights issues to bring Khamenehi on board. The United States never made such a commitment to Cuba.

Khamenehi might also want a US commitment to abandon the opposition. Many in Iran believe the United States today funds Kurdish, Arab and Baluchi rebel groups as well as the Mojahedine Khalq. It would be easy for Washington to pledge no financial support for those groups. And it declined to endorse the Green Movement in 2009 because, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, the Green Movement asked the United States to remain silent.

But Kissinger said such promises might not be enough. "Iran has made hostility to the United States the organizing principle" of its political system," he said, adding that it was far from clear the leaders of the Islamic Republic could bring themselves to abandon their outsider posture. Kissinger said the Islamic Republic might well fear that it cannot "survive in the world I have described," that is, acting as a normal player and not as the center of opposition to the global political system.


Kissinger appeared to fear that the regime cannot back away from its outsider posture because the regime itself sees that posture as the only thing that really justifies its continued existence.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Mar 16, 2012
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