Saturday, May 02, 2009

Zbig Talks to Iran about Iran Talking to America

An interesting interview on Iran's English-language satellite station, PressTV:


By Susan Modaress, Press TV

The following is a Press TV interview with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Polish-American statesman and former national security advisor under President Jimmy Carter.

Press TV: Dr. Zbigniew, thank you for joining us today on this special edition of Face to Face.

Brzezinski: It's nice to be with you. It is nice to have the opportunity to talk to Iranian viewers.

Press TV: And our international viewers abroad as well?

Brzezinski: Of course, but the former are more important.

...

Press TV: What do make of President Obama's comments acknowledging Iran as the Islamic Republic after thirty years?

Brzezinski: I totally endorsed him. You know, I met with [head of Iran's interim government Mehdi] Bazargan and [leader of the Iran Freedom Movement Ebrahim] Yazdi after the [1979 Islamic] revolution.

And without going into enormous amount of historical detail, I am positive, without pointing accusatory fingers, there was even then a chance for some normalization. I am glad it may be now beginning to become reality. But normalization takes two, it can not be undertaken by one side alone.

I think President Obama made a historic effort. I think it was intellectually brave, politically courageous, and potentially and historically constructive. I think it is therefore very important to go forward. But it can only go forward if there is reciprocity.

Press TV: Iranian officials have asked for action, saying that actions speak louder than words. Do you think that these comments are basically enough on the part of the United States in reaching out to Iran?

Brzezinski: A relationship has to be built on mutual accommodation. A relationship between serious powers is not built on begging or pleading. If there is a genuine interest in mutual accommodation, actions as well as words, have to be reciprocal. Words are usually the beginning of a diplomatic dialogue. I think President Obama made a really historically significant gesture, and it can leads to things.

But, we sit down and start pointing fingers at each other, but and if we start to say: you have to take the first action ... No, you have to take the first action, it is not going to be very productive.

Press TV: I do not think that either side is at that point right now. I think that acknowledging that Iran is the Islamic Republic was a positive gesture definitely. But, then there are analysts who say what America needs to do, is stop setting pre-conditions for negotiations with Iran. You cannot set preconditions for pre-negotiations and negotiations.

Do you think that on that front perhaps the United States stop its "carrot and stick" policy, as some analysts like to put it?

Brzezinski: Well, you confused the two. Preconditions is one aspect of the American policy, and the "carrot and stick" is a generalized description of some aspects of it. It so happens that in my testimony before Congress, in my writings, I have said that if there are to be negotiations, they can not be based on unilateral preconditions. The United States should not insist on unilateral preconditions. Or alternatively there can be reciprocal preconditions; one side does this, the other side does that-more or less simultaneously.

But that kind of process can only get on the way if there is a willingness, seriously to sit down, to in effect signal a willingness to discuss seriously, and not start by making demands that one side only has to undertake actions and the other side can simply sit back and wait on whether it approves of these actions.

That is a formula for a stalemate. So I am hopeful that mature leadership in both countries, sense of responsibility for the region in the future, and awareness of the fact that both countries play important roles in the world, will accumulate to create condition under which we sit down in the wake of the intuitive undertaken and talk with each other as people are prepared seriously to negotiate.

Press TV: And for the United States at this point in time, what is that concrete action? What is the bottom line for the United States to see for negotiations to resume?

Brzezinski: Willingness to negotiate. That is all.

Press TV: Will the United States change its policies, change its actions and not just its words?

Brzezinski: Well you know, I could ask you the same question, except that you are interviewing me and I am not interviewing you.

Press TV: I could give the answer that Iranian officials are saying ...

Brzezinski:"If you were someone who was involved with Iranian government I could ask you: what actions are you prepared to take?

I am not authorized to negotiate. I am not negotiating. I speak for myself. But as someone who knows something about international affairs, I can say that you are not going to get negotiations going if one side insists that the other side undertake actions, that the side insisting then approves and then after that there are negotiations. Negotiations begin by serious discussions.

I think, what Mr. Obama did is to initiate the process in a constructive way, from the American side. It is a decision for Iran to make on its own, from the standpoint of its own sense of history and interests, whether it wants relations with the United States or whether it does not.

I hope that it does, because I think that it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for Iran. But that is a judgment that each side has to make on its own.

Press TV: And on the part of Iranian officials, what I have been hearing - of course I do not have a government post - but what they say is that they are open to dialogue, if and when they see a change of policy and if and when the situation is right, hopefully the situation is right and to the benefit of both sides.

Brzezinski: I do not think that you are getting the point that I am making. If the Iranian position is that negotiations will only take place when they see evident changes in American policy, then I think they are failing to see something important that has already taken place; namely an overture that is constructive in spirit and in historic significance.

And the proper response to that is not to say that we are going to wait and see that you prove by some actions, that we either desire or specify or will then judge. That is not the way to begin serious negotiations.

Press TV: So what you are saying is that the United States' change of tone has been a step forward.

Brzezinski: Well, in diplomacy and in international affairs, tones are very important. Abusing, accusing, insulting, are sometimes also negotiating methods. The intent then if it is conducted by intelligent people, who know what they are saying, is obviously to prevent negotiations.

You can operate that way either if you are very stupid, or if very, very Machiavellian. But if you do not want negotiations to succeed, you can start them by insulting, abusing, accusing.

Press TV: Let us talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You were an extremely influential figure during the Camp David negotiations. Do you think that a two-state solution is possible at this point in time?

Brzezinski: I think it is not only possible, but it is necessary. It seems to me that if there is not such a solution in the not too distant future, the opportunity for that solution may pass.

There is settlement activity, which makes a real accommodation difficult. There are incidents, events, tragic situations, like what happened in Gaza, which poisoned the atmosphere.

There is a tendency, in different degrees perhaps and not yet irrevocable, but there is a tendency on both sides towards more extremist views.

So I think, time is of the essence. But I do think that still, it is possible to have a settlement in part because, according to public opinion polls, both within Israel itself and within Palestine, the majorities are still for settlement. And very interestingly, public opinion polls show that the majority of American Jews, who are as Americans interested in American policy and try to influence it, the majority, 60%, favor a two-state solution.

Press TV: What about the coming to power of a figure like Benjamin Netanyahu. Do you think that this will affect negotiations between the two sides? ... (more)
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