MANAMA, Bahrain — International sanctions are not likely to
convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear program and Monday’s talks in Geneva
between Iran and the P5+1 countries are only the first step in a process that
could take years to succeed, according to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.
Bildt, who is considered one of Europe’s leading voices on
foreign policy, is no friend of Iran. He’s a vocal critic of Iran’s human
rights record and has worked hard to free Europeans held in Iranian prisons.
But he gave a speech on Sunday at the 2010 IISS Manama Security Dialogue that included criticism of the sanctions
regime the United States and Europe have worked to put in place. He also
happened to sit next to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at theDec. 3 gala dinner at which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke.
The Cable sat down with Bildt on Sunday for an exclusive interview about Iran, the
nuclear negotiations, and his dinner date with the Iranian leader.
Bildt disagreed with
Clinton’s view, expressed in our exclusive interview with her two days before, that the international
sanctions regime had brought Iran back to the table and was thus having an
effect on the Iranian leadership’s decision making.
“They were at the table one year ago, they were at the table
six months ago, and they are at the table again. And I think it’s at the table
where the solution can be found. I fail to see any solution that is not at the
table,” Bildt said.
“The sanctions are part of the scene but they are not the
solution,” he told The Cable. “There
are some people that seem to believe sanctions are going to sort out the
problem itself, as if you have sufficiently hard sanctions, the Iranians are
suddenly going to fold and say, ‘We agree with everything that you’ve said.’
That’s a pipe dream.”
Sanctions might have some effect over the long term, but
that could take a very long time, he said.
“You’re talking about a 10, 15, 20 year process,” Bildt said.
“The thing that can change things in the near term is the talks.”
But even the nuclear negotiations that begin on Monday in Geneva
will need several follow-up sessions before progress is can be made, said
“I think we’re talking about a fairly lengthy process. We
have a gulf of mistrust between the Iranians and the Americans that is
profound. One side is locked into 1979 and one side is locked into 1953,” Bildt
said, referring to the dates of Islamic Revolution and the U.S. sponsored coup
that overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh. “It will have to be a step by step approach,
where you start by some smaller steps before you’re ready to take some bigger
Luckily, the West has some more time to negotiate with Iran,
Bildt added, because he believes that their nuclear progress is going much
slower than anyone anticipated.
The U.S. State Department has just released the full transcript of your humble Cable guy's interview with Secretary Hillary Clinton:
How are you doing?
QUESTION: Excellent, excellent.
I was in Doha yesterday and there was a big celebration there, unfortunately at
our expense, but --
Well, but (inaudible). I think clearly, the FIFA organization has a plan to
expand the sort of global reach of the World Cup. I mean, South Africa never
had it, Russia never had it, and obviously Qatar and this region has never had
it. It makes sense. I mean, Brazil will have it next. I mean, obviously, we
were disappointed because, look, we could do it tomorrow. I mean, we've got the
facilities already filled, we don't have to air condition stadiums, and we can
do it tomorrow. But it does make a certain logic to kind of expand the global
region and give people who love football more than we do - soccer football, not
football football --
-- a chance to have their moment.
QUESTION: Excellent, excellent.
Well, I know your time is short, so let me --
QUESTION: -- start right in. As
you can see, I'm wearing my U.S.-Iran flag pin today, which I --
(Laughter.) I've never seen one before.
QUESTION: I purchased this at
the State Department gift shop. It's made in China. It's okay.
(Laughter.) Love that, Josh.
QUESTION: So we're here and all
of the Arab leaders are here and we're two days before the first big engagement
with Iran in a long time. So first of all, I'd like to ask you, what is your
message at Manama to all of these leaders about Iran? What do you want to say
to them about what's about to happen?
Well, I'll be speaking there. Are you coming tonight?
Okay. I'll be speaking tonight and I want, very directly, to let Iran
understand that we are serious about this engagement. We were serious from the
beginning of the Obama Administration. The door remains open. And we hope that
the negotiations in Geneva bear some results.
But at the
same time, we're realists, and we know that they're probably coming back to the
table because sanctions are working. And I don't think they believed that we
could ever put together the international coalition we did for sanctions. And
from all that we hear from people in this region and beyond, they're worried
about the impact. And so they're returning to Geneva and we hope that they're
returning, willing to negotiate.
QUESTION: Excellent. So we had
a dual track, engagement and pressure. We focused on engagement for about a
year, then we were focused on pressure, now we're going back to engagement. How
long are we going to focus on engagement again before we start focusing again
on pressure? Is it another year? Is that the thinking or what?
I don't think we can - I don't think we would put timetables on it. I think
this is more of a day-by-day assessment. We know where we're headed, and that
is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. We know we have the vast
majority of the world with us on that.
But I think we'll have to take stock of where we are after Geneva. We'll have
to see how the Iranians respond on other things we've engaged with them on,
like the two hikers that are still in prison and Mr. Levinson, who --
-- also is in Iran, in our opinion. So let's see where it goes.
QUESTION: Okay. So how do we
know if it's progressing or not? What is the metric? What - how do --
Well, for example, the IAEA has concluded that Iran's nuclear program has had
some difficulties. So I think that's given us a little bit of a breathing
space. I mean, if they're having difficulties, maybe they'll be more
responsible. We won't know until we test it. So it's - in negotiation, we know
where our goal is, and we had a very clear set of milestones which we reached.
Now, we've always wanted to get them back to see whether there was any
potential there. And as we go along, we're going to keep the goal in sight,
keep the international coalition together, keep the pressure on Iran. The
pressure is not lifting because they're coming to the table in Geneva. And then
we'll take it step by step.
QUESTION: Understood. And
you're not going to see Foreign Minister Mottaki. He's going to be here two
days later, so --
I think he's here tonight.
QUESTION: He's here tonight. So
you're going to see him or you're not going to see him?
If he comes to dinner, I'll probably see him.
QUESTION: So what do you -
what's your message to him?
Well, he doesn't talk to me.
QUESTION: I see.
I mean --
QUESTION: So, he - you can talk
to him through me; so what would you like to say?
Hear my speech tonight.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you
optimistic that this round of negotiations --
I'm neither optimistic nor pessimistic. I think that it's like - I know, we got
QUESTION: Okay. Look for --
I can talk with you, Josh.
QUESTION: Sure, sure.
QUESTION: No problem.
We have to see what attitude they bring. I mean, part of the problem was that
they had their own internal debate --
-- how to handle all of this.
And it wasn't until recently that they were willing to come back and talk. So
you're dealing with a regime that has been badly shaken by the events of June
'09, the election, and the decision-making apparatus was kind of knocked off
kilter, which meant that trying to get any action step out of them was more
difficult than it would have been prior to '09.
QUESTION: That's right, true.
So it's not that - nothing - none of this is a static situation. There are so
many moving parts. And we have to watch it all, and we do, trying to evaluate
what they're doing, what their decision making is, what the economic pressures
-- what the international community's opinions are. So all of that moves kind
of in a bunch.
QUESTION: I understand. That's
so interesting. I'm going to lose you right now, so let me ask you one final
QUESTION: I'm told that there
is a deal on New START with the Republicans. I'm told that they will bring it
up December 13th. I'm wondering, could I have your comment? Is this
a success of your promise to bring it up during the lame duck session? It seems
like it's really going to happen.
Josh, it's like a no-hit game, and I can't talk about it because we have made a
lot of progress, but it's not done till it's done.
And we have been encouraged by the positive response we've received from a
number of Republicans. But they're also telling us it depends on what else happens
in the session. And I believe that we have enough votes to recognize the
national security importance of doing this. But I'm not counting any chickens
until they vote. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I understand. Thank
you so much.
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