Former Ambassador: US Needs Improved Russian Relations For Iran

Former Ambassador: US Needs Improved Russian Relations For Iran
Former Ambassador: US Needs Improved Russian Relations For Iran

With President Obama’s foreign affairs nominations gearing up to begin the confirmation process, the country and the world soon may have a better idea of how his foreign policy will shape up in the second term.

Host Carmen Russell-Sluchansky spoke with Chris Hill, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, and Charles Dunbar, former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar and Yemen, to discuss Iraq, China, Iran and defense cuts under John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.


We saw China discussed quite a bit in the campaign with Republicans saying that the President just was not hard enough on China especially when it came to things such as currency manipulation, but obviously as you both have talked about, we have large economic interests there in Asia, and Ambassador Hill was just saying that he sees it as more complicated relationship rather than confrontational. How do you see it as far as going forward? What kind of things do we want to get out of China if not, say, loosening the currency?

Issues like currency manipulation, intellectual property and so force are ones that have to be worked on over the long term but we’ve made this decision again when we think about the broad relationship with China but it is broad, and I would say just as an old diplomat, it is not one that we can allow to sort of get out of hand and become confrontational. This is not a situation in which we are likely to win in a long run. So, I agree entirely with Ambassador Hill that there should be a regular structured diplomatic dialogue, in which all the issues are addressed and the job is one of negotiation, bargaining and compromise. And I suppose that compromise is the word that I see as something that should be very large in our diplomatic dialogues on all the issues. With respect to Iran I just want to say I entirely agree that we need to broaden the discussion and not to have this war option very much in the foreground of our thinking in the way we approach the Iranians. I heard a very interesting discussion by somebody that I am sure Ambassador Hill knows, Abraham Sofaer who was a legal Advisor in the State Department, he was the Legal Advisor to Secretary Shultz during the Reagan administration, and he made the very clear point and obvious point that you don’t have to like somebody or agree with them to talk to them and to recognize that they have interest too, that they are trying to serve. And I think he compared it to our relationship with the Soviet Union, and while the two relationships are completely different, the disaster that we would face if we got into some kind of war, which Israel was involved and we were involved rescue Israel was, we would have really failed, our diplomacy would have failed the American people for our standing in the world and how difficult things would be for us thereafter. So, I just want to agree on those two points. Afghanistan, I don’t know what to say, I think the president is right, I think that we do have to get out, it is deeply troubling to me because Ambassador Hill has had experience, maybe you have been to every place.

No, I haven’t been to Afghanistan.

It is a nice place, try to get there, there are very nice people. It is just that I worry a lot that the country is going to fall back into civil war and we are going to be faced with a job of somehow containing that, but I really worry that our presence there, and of course it has brought a lot of benefit to western presence in the United States presence, it has brought a lot of benefit to the Afghans. But if they are not going to be able to stand up and consolidate themselves, it is going to be a terrible situation. I see that as a problem that is going to be very hard to have come out in any way that we can be satisfied with.

Ambassador Hill, since you both talked about Iran a bit, obviously, this is constantly particular priority in foreign affairs, in US foreign policy especially since it was also a big part of the campaign that led Obama to reelection. There were just reports out today that the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iran has once again failed to come up with some kind of talks on nuclear investigation. You were the head of the US delegation to the six party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue, so I imagine this might feel a little bit familiar to you as Ambassador Dunbar pointed out, I mean, you both really pointed out, you can’t be too aggressive, but at the same time this is a huge issue that a lot of people in this country and also around the world are concerned about. What does the US need to be doing differently here since we don’t seem to be getting too far?

Right. I certainly believe that the United States doesn’t need to be doing something differently but I think the Iranians have to do some things a lot differently. So, let me first of all say that I agree with Ambassador Dunbar and in fact I should tell you that Ambassador Dunbar and I did not rehearse this but we do completely agree on just about everything, that we really do need to have a conversation with the Iranians across the overall relationship and I don’t think to be making progress with the Iranians would be only talk about nuclear issue, I think there needs to be a broader discussion, and I think while the 5 plus 1 format is good one, I think it is a good platform for doing a lot of things, but I think one of the things we ought to have is good bilateral channel and it is not clear if we have been able to have that in the first term. So, I think procedurally we probably need some kind of bilateral channel and in that bilateral channel, I think, we need to address the full range of issues that we have with Iran, which are considerable. I think we also, and I do believe there have been efforts in this regard, need to be working very closely with Russian Federation on Iran. I don’t think the Russian Federation alone can solve the Iran issues, I don’t think the United States alone can solve the Iran issues, but I think we should work together on this, because I think the consequence of nuclear Iran is a rather frightening prospect in that part of the world. I think you would see many of the Arab countries regarding Iranian nuclearization or weaponization, if it came to that, as being a kind of sheer bomb and then I think in the Middle East you would get some countries like Saudi Arabia to think that they need to have a sunni bomb. So, I think the consequences are enormous here and I think countries like the Russian Federation and the US that have often not worked this closeдн as we shouldб given that we do have similar interests on these things, I think we need to, I hate to use the line, but press the reset button still again and try to do a little better job together.

I am actually glad you brought up the Russian Federation. I did feel I was going to have to bring it up somewhere, considering what network we are on.

About Carmen Munir Russell-Sluchansky 360 Articles
Carmen is a multimedia journalist based in Washington, DC whose work has appeared in a variety of outlets including National Geographic, NBC News, the BBC, Asia! Magazine, The China Post, Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel.