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ensure that it would never disturb the peace of Europe again. Fortunately, after a few months passed, cooler heads prevailed. We decided to take the opposite approach, which was embodied in the Marshall Plan. The idea was that as long as Germany was angry and hostile, you are always going to have instability in Europe. Better would to be to try to integrate Germany into a regional security system. Up to now, the United States has not been willing to recognize or accept that Iran has legitimate security interests of its own. As long as we expect the resolution of the Iranian

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crisis to be based around an effective surrender by Iran and Iran’s embrace of the conditions that the United States wants to impose on it, we are not going to have a settlement. TP Iran’s presidential elections are coming up in June 2013. What is the best-case scenario for the United States with these elections? SK Frankly I don’t see a great deal of hope. I think the results of the last election show that the electoral solution is not at hand for Iran. Nonethe-

less, I think that there is the possibility that there will be more discussion and that various points of view may be presented. That would be about the most that you could hope for. I don’t expect that Iranian voters will be presented with a legitimate option to choose between a candidate fully committed to the policies of the Supreme Leader and one who is not fully committed to those policies. That is not going to happen. Such an election will happen at some point in the future, but I don’t foresee this election having a decisive effect on the path of Iranian

politics. I do think that we have a very short window right at this moment for negotiating with Iran because we have our president and secretary of state in office, and in a couple of months Iran will be caught up in domestic politics and that will make things very difficult for negotiations. We do have a window now, but I don’t see any sign that we are going to take advantage of that opportunity. TP In 2009, we saw a public outcry in the form of the Green Revolution. Do you foresee any form of public noise-

making anytime soon, whether it is in this election or in the years to come? SK I don’t anticipate an outburst like what we saw after the 2009 election anytime soon. The last time I was in Iran a couple of years ago, I spoke to a number of people about this, and I’ll tell you one story about a gentleman that I met at Cyrus’ tomb. He said to me, “We tried something. It didn’t work. Now we want to live our lives. The situation here is not so awful that we cannot live under this regime. We do not want to throw ourselves against the bayonets of the Revolutionary Guard. We want to live our lives. We are going to get the result that we want; it is just going to come at a different time than we had hoped. It is going at its own schedule. Meanwhile, we want to live.” This is very Iranian. When you have been around for 35 centuries, and you have had great peaks and tremendous periods of tragedy, you realize that history unfolds at its own pace. It’s a very different attitude from what Americans have. Americans want everything to happen very quickly. We would like to see something happen right now. Iranians don’t think like that. I think they would like that to happen, but their understanding of history is different from ours. They believe, and I agree with them, that they are going to see a new form of government at some point in Iran, but they wouldn’t dare to suggest when that is going to happen. I sense that there will be growing frustration. Possibly there will be divisions in the ruling group. The Supreme Leader will die at some point; possibly that will change the system to a certain degree, but I don’t see dramatic or violent mass uprising or protest in Iran any time soon. People sometimes ask, “When is Iran going to have its revolution like what Egypt had and the other countries in the Arab world?” The answer is that Iran already had its revolution. They are not going to have another one. Iran has learned a lesson 30 years ago that the people in Egypt and in Libya are learning now. No matter how bad the situation is, it can always get worse. Revolution doesn’t bring you what you think it’s going to bring. Oftentimes, it is better to live with what

you have. They all gathered together as a nation to overthrow the shah. Even though they disagreed widely among themselves, Iranians agreed on one single, obvious fact, which was although we don’t know what’s coming next, it will certainly be better than what we have. They learned that this was a mistake. Other countries are learning that decades later, so I think that the Iranians are what I would call a “post-utopian society.” They don’t believe in the fantasy of the revolution in the same way that the Egyptians did a couple of years ago. They [Egyptians] may be coming around to the Iranian point of view these days. TP The United States has a longstanding history of supporting autocratic regimes in the region. Now, in the midst of the Arab Spring, do you think that there are any lessons that policymakers in Washington can take from 1953? SK Maybe the best lesson to learn is that the United States doesn’t know what’s best for countries in the Middle East. We should be guided by some of our friends in the region and not arrive and try to dictate to people and countries what direction they ought to take. I think we’ve shown over the years that we misunderstand much of what happens in the Middle East. There, as in other parts of the world, we often take steps to resolve short-term problems. We are able to do that because our power allows us to make dramatic, short-term alterations in politics, but in many cases we resolve short-term problems in ways that create long-term problems for us that are far greater than the ones that we originally intervened to resolve. P

For the full text of this interview, visit The Politic’s website at www.thepolitic.org

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The Politic - Spring 2013 I  
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