The Cable

Is Clinton warming up to Iran?

MANAMA, Bahrain – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ate dinner on Friday only five seats away from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. And although Clinton and Mottaki didn’t speak to each other, or even shake hands, Clinton’s speech had a distinctly warmer tone toward Tehran -- only three days before the next meeting between Iran and the P5+1 countries in Geneva regarding Tehran’s nuclear program.

Addressing the Iranian delegation directly during her opening address to the 2010 IISS Manama Security Dialogue, Clinton said, “In Geneva next week, the P5+1 will meet with representatives from your nation, the first such meeting since October of 2009. We hope that out of this meeting, entered into in good faith, we will see a constructive engagement with respect to your nuclear program. Nearly 2 years ago, President Obama extended to your government a sincere offer of dialogue. We are still committed to this dialogue.”

Clinton then spoke about Iran’s right to have a peaceful nuclear program, focusing on the possible end state if negotiations go well -- rather than harping on the international community’s long list of complaints regarding Iranian behavior.

“The position of the international community is clear. You have the right to a peaceful nuclear program, but with that right comes a reasonable responsibility, that you follow the treaty you signed and fully address the international community’s concerns about your nuclear activity,” she said. “We urge you to make that choice … we urge you to restore the confidence of the international community and live up to your international obligations.”

Clinton went on to praise Iran as the home of one of the world’s greatest civilizations, while noting that the latest IAEA report showed that Iran has not yet made clear it intends to pursue a peaceful resolution to the controversy over its nuclear program.

“We continue to make this offer of engagement with respect for your sovereignty and with regard for your interests, but also with an iron clad commitment to defending global security and the world’s interest in a peaceful and prosperous Gulf region,” she said.

When asked at the conference what Clinton expected to come out of next week’s talks in Geneva, Clinton said, “I believe that is largely in the hands of the Iranians.”

In an interview Wednesday with the BBC’s Kim Ghattas, Clinton said that Iran was entitled to enrich its own uranium, after it had satisfied international concerns.

"We've told them that they are entitled to the peaceful use of civil nuclear energy, but they haven't yet restored the confidence of the international community to the extent where the international community would feel comfortable allowing them to enrich," Clinton told the BBC. "They can enrich uranium at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner in accordance with international obligations."

Experts in the audience said that Clinton’s remarks about Iran’s right to enrich uranium didn’t mark a change in policy, but noted that her focus on Iran’s sovereign rights and mention of enrichment did mark a new tone ahead of the negotiations in Geneva.

“This has been policy since at least 2008, when the P5+1 put a package proposal to Iran that asked for a suspension of enrichment until Iran restored confidence,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the IISS non-proliferation and disarmament program. “She wasn’t breaking any new ground in terms of the position, but in tone is was totally positive, setting the right mood music for the Geneva talks beginning Monday.”

Mottaki was seated next to, and seemed to get along famously with, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

Josh Rogin

The Cable

Clinton reacts to Qatar's World Cup victory

MANAMA, Bahrain—Doha, Qatar, was full of life Thursday night, with men in white robes dancing in the streets, hanging out of car windows, blowing Vuvuzela horns, and participating in all sorts of other non-alcoholic celebrations of Qatar's victory in securing the 2022 World Cup.

Your humble Cable guy landed in Doha Thursday evening on his way to the IISS 2010 Manama Security dialogue, which began Friday in Bahrain. But before going to bed late Thursday night, we had the chance to party along with the locals, eat some baby camel (true story), and tour a city filled with posters and other advertisements for Qatar's expensive bid to host the tournament.

Of course, the United States was among the finalists for the hosting honors. So when The Cable sat down Friday for an exclusive interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we couldn't help but ask what she thought of Qatar's selection.

Clinton said that the selection of Qatar for 2022, Russia for 2018, and the earlier selection of Brazil for 2014 represent an effort by FIFA, the world soccer body, to spread the honor to new regions and reward new audiences.

"It does make a certain logic, to kind of expand the global reach and give people who love football more than we do -- soccer football, not football football -- a chance to have their moment," she said.

Clinton did admit to being at least a little unhappy about the decision, and gently alluded to the fact that Qatar is a long way from building all of the stadiums needed for the tournament, not to mention protecting fans from the blistering summer Doha heat.

"Obviously we were disappointed because, look, we could do it tomorrow. We've got the facilities already built," she said. "We don't have to air-condition stadiums."

Photo by Sandy Choi