Are we headed for a military conflict with Iran?
Dennis Ross is an American diplomat and author. He has served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and is currently a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (that includes Iran) to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ambassador Dennis Ross is The Washington Institute's counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow. For more than twelve years, Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and dealing directly with the parties in negotiations. A highly skilled diplomat, Ambassador Ross was U.S. point man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians to reach the 1995 Interim Agreement; he also successfully brokered the 1997 Hebron Accord, facilitated the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, and intensively worked to bring Israel and Syria together.
A scholar and diplomat with more than two decades of experience in Soviet and Middle East policy, Ambassador Ross worked closely with Secretaries of State James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright. Prior to his service as special Middle East coordinator under President Clinton, Ambassador Ross served as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff in the first Bush administration. In that capacity, he played a prominent role in U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control negotiations, and the 1991 Gulf War coalition. During the Reagan administration, he served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff and deputy director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. Ambassador Ross was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton, and Secretaries Baker and Albright presented him with the State Department's highest award.
Question: Are we headed for a military conflict with Iran?
Dennis Ross: I don’t think we have to be.
I think that in the case of the Iranians, the whole Iranian leadership and elite wants nuclear weapons, but not all of them want it at any price. And the, again, statecraft is governed by recognizing the areas where those whose behavior want to change vulnerabilities, and focusing on how you can play on those vulnerabilities. Your main vulnerabilities are acute in the economic area. So the challenge is to find the right set of pressures on them economically to get them to realize that the price is going be too high as they measure price, not as we might.
But then, at the same time, when you concentrate their mind, this too _________. When you concentrate their minds and what they stand to lose, if the only outcome that they think is going to be one of humiliation, then they’re not going to concede. So at the same time you concentrate their minds, you gotta offer them a pathway. There has to be a door that they can walk through where they can have an outcome that’s an acceptable outcome; that’s a dignified outcome; that in the end allows them to say, “Alright, we’ve achieved something that’s important for us,” and the rest of the world is able to say, “Okay look. They’re not going to be a nuclear weapons state.” So I believe it’s possible to find that outcome, but I also think that we’re beginning to run out of time.
Recorded on: September 12, 2007
Although the Iranian elite wants nuclear weapons, Ross says, not all of them want it at any price.
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