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Nina Hachigian is a Senior Fellow at American Progress. Based in Los Angeles, she is the co-author of The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers[…]

Nina Hachigian on Iran

Nina Hachigan: So, I think that the key on Iran is to get these other big powers to be on the same side as we are. The fact is that China is Iran’s biggest customer. Russia has been supplying arms to Iran. India regards Iran as a strategic partner, and the fact is, we’re not gonna get anywhere in our Iran policy in getting Iran to roll back its nuclear program until we get all these powers on the same page with us, and that means engagement because they are not in favor of any kind of military action, and nor would military action be effective, according to most experts on the subject. But- so if you get these big powers around one table and together put pressure on Iran, that’s when you can come up with a solution. I don’t think Americans are disinclined to engage. I think politicians are. And I think it’s a way for politicians to look tough. And I think that you don’t wanna be the politician, you know, where Iran did something horrible on their watch and you were trying to, you know, recommend that you wouldn’t even talk to them, you just end up looking weak, I guess. I think it’s a problem of our political system and of our media. I think Americans, the people, are perfectly happy to talk to people that we don’t like.

Yeah, it’s funny, ‘cause that’s what we thought when we came into writing the book. We thought that Americans like Joe Six-Pack, rah-rah, you know, we gotta be Number One- and the fact is that the polling does not bear that out at all. There is a small portion of the American population for whom you can use that- you know, that characterization, but it’s about thirty percent. And the rest of Americans are really multilateral- really want America to work with others, willing to work through the UN, even if it means we don’t get our way every time. I mean, Americans are quite broadminded and quite collaborative. And it’s a small population and politicians who are different from that and do have this kind of more zero-sum mentality- I think that’s fed by the media that likes to characterize issues as a fight and as a battle, and I think they do that because that’s what we respond to, and I think we respond to that because we are kind of programmed genetically to pay attention to stuff that’s bad more than stuff that’s potentially positive.

There is no one global institution where the most powerful players can together sit around a table and try to solve these problems. So the UN Security Council doesn’t have Japan or India, the G8 doesn’t have China or India- there is no one forum, and that’s a big problem.

It’s- you know, it has the capacity to either decide to join with the world order and make it stronger, or to detract from it. It’s a major player because it has the most- it is the source of bomb-grade material for potential nuclear weapons. It’s got close relationships in Iran and all around its region. And it is now powerful economically because of oil prices, and we have an acrimonious relationship with Russia at the moment, but we still need to work with them if we want to make sure that, for example, terrorists don’t get their hands on nuclear material.

We gotta figure that out. And I think, you know, time will tell, but at the moment, I would say both.

Recorded on: 5/14/08