June 27th, 2007
04:15 PM ET
9 years ago

Richardson: Diplomacy path to progress with Iran

Richardson discussed his views on Iran Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson, speaking Wednesday at the Center for National Policy, stressed the need to increase worldwide security.

"There are few issues that deserve more attention from Congress than keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people," he said.

Richardson, governor of New Mexico, talked specifically about Iran and how to persuade the country's leaders to halt their nuclear enrichment program, saying "the key is to make them see that they will be better off and more secure without nukes than with them."

He said he hopes that the United States and other global leaders, including China and Russia, will work together to break ground with Iran. "We have many differences with the Iranians, but we and our allies also have common interests with them," he said.

Progress is possible through bipartisan, international diplomacy, Richardson said, but he noted leaders must forget "poisoned relations" from the past.

Despite a track record of diplomatic failures with Iran, Richardson said he remains hopeful that diplomacy is a powerful weapon. "There is reason for optimism that Iran might well choose to chart such a new course if presented with the right incentives," he said.

- CNN's Karen Hopkins

Filed under: Bill Richardson
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Fabio Escobar, Amherst NY

    Everyone is "hopeful" that diplomacy will work, but the bottom-line question is always going to be this: are you willing to use military force to keep such weapons from Iran? If so, under what conditions?

    June 27, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. RightyTighty

    “There is reason for optimism that Iran might well choose to chart such a new course if presented with the right incentives,” Richardson said.

    So Bill wants to buy off the Iranian's?? How naive, and yet typical of the demorats.
    They can not be trusted with our safety again...

    June 27, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. Tom Z, Deltona, FL

    Gov. Richardson said about Iran that “the key is to make them see that they will be better off and more secure without nukes than with them.”

    This is a very naive statement. Iran's leaders have a very deep-seated religious conviction that Israel must be "wiped off the map". There is no way to convince them to back off their nuke program short of a major attack against their nuclear facilities.

    Unfortunately, that would draw Russia, as well as neighboring Islamic nations into a conflagration the world hasn't seen in a long time.

    June 27, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  4. Chris, Corvallis, OR

    Tom in Fl.,

    What's naive is your view of the issue. First, not all Iranian leaders hold such a radical view. Additionally, this 'deep-seated' view is not held by the general population. Generalizing an entire country with such broad strokes is not only a disservice to the Iranian populace, but also a disservice to the rational thinking that has allowed America to become a world leader.

    Secondly, Bill Richardson has been involved in foreign negotiations for years. To call his view naive, when he has been directly involved in such matters while you and I are able to casually form opinions from the comfort of our couch, is ill-informed.

    Personally, I'm quite tired of my fellow Americans trying to sum up world politics by continually pointing to false dichotomies. Geopolitics do not lie so cleanly among party, national or religious lines.

    June 27, 2007 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  5. JD

    Chris in Corvallis: What is truly naive is to believe it matters what most Iranians think. Those in power are a select few, and they rule with an iron fist. Their views are much like Tom said. I agree that the Iranian populace does not reflect the leadership, but it doesn't matter at all. Iran is a real threat, and diplomacy has no teeth until we change the rules.

    June 27, 2007 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  6. Bill, King George, VA

    The olive branch instead of the hammer? It's about time. Diplomacy is our ONLY way out of the quagmire we have created in the Middle East. You have my vote, Bill.

    June 27, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  7. Gretchen, Plymouth, MN

    I would surmise that if Bill Richardson can talk North Korea out of nukes, he may be better able to use diplomacy with Iran than President Bush or any neocon who believes the best world order is the US owning all the world's oil.

    June 27, 2007 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  8. Tom Z, Deltona, FL

    Chris in OR,

    The leaders in charge of Iran (the president and the imams) are the ones who count and would be the ones with whom any negotiating would be done. They are all wanting to destroy Israel. The history of Islamic "negotiating"(from Mohammed to Arafat) is to agree to anything, but do nothing. They just wait until they feel they are strong enough to press their advantage and attack.

    June 27, 2007 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  9. Chris, Corvallis, OR

    JD, you're not reading the posts - you're having a knee-jerk reaction and making assumptions based upon the polarity of ideas you're used to dealing with.

    It does matter what most Iranians think - it's just a question of the degree. (Again with a false dichotomy.) Several reports point to changing public view in Iran brought about by many factors:


    Research. There's a wealth of information, much of which is better than these, if you're willing to read.

    You've also generalized a viewpoint to an entire country's government. There are moderates within the Iranian government to whom we could appeal.

    With that being said, I didn't say that the US military would not be an integral part of negotiations. Most negotiations, even if not stated explicitly, carry with them a sense of consequences, both positive and negative.

    So back to my point: I strongly disagree with Tom's statement that an attack is the only way to get Iran to, "...back off of their nuke program." This is simply wrong.

    June 27, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  10. Tom Z, Deltona, FL

    I highly recommend an excellent book on this subject: "Epicenter" by Joel Rosenberg. Joel has worked with some of the world's most influential leaders, including Steve Forbes, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli deputy prime minister Natan Sharansky. HE has been interviewed on over 300 radio and TV programs, including ABC's Nightline, CNN Headline News and The History Channel.

    Check it out...

    June 27, 2007 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  11. Ilie Dragomir, NY, NY

    The question is not as simple as attacking Iran or not. There is absolutely no guarantee or even a remote certainty that an attack would annihilate Iran's nuclear potential. Attacking a country three times the size of France poses huge military and logistical problems. Furthermore, military action against a country that neighbors Russia's sphere of influence might fuel a deeper freeze between the two nuclear superpowers. For the time being the greatest hope and probably the most immediate results would be achieved through diplomacy.

    June 27, 2007 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  12. Chris, Corvallis, OR

    Tom Z.,

    I disagree with your notion that the President of Iran and the Imams are the only group that matter. This group does not operate in a vacuum, and there is sufficient evidence to suggest that change can be affected via other routes. I also direct you to my post to JD concerning military options and negotiation.

    I'll state my primary thought again: Your indication that a military strike is the *only* option available to the US is irresponsible. There is a gradient of options available, and to not explore these is closed-minded and dangerous.

    June 27, 2007 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  13. Tom, Dedham, Mass

    "The right incentives", code words for bribes and payouts to get countries to think OUR WAY (isn't that the type of stuff the liberals are hammering Bush for trying to do in Iraq?)

    We used diplomacy and bribes for years and what did that get us, USS Cole bombings, WTC bombings(#1)and Embassies just to name a few.

    We can be diplomatic to a point in exchanging of foods, some goods and services, but under no conditions should we consider doing what other presidents have done like having Ayatollahs at the white house to bribe them with weapons and such (guess who?).

    Is Richardson prepared to not only be diplomatic, but be willing to use might as well?

    June 27, 2007 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  14. cliff, honolulu hi

    I'm sure that the next president will need an experienced sec. of state. Maybe Mr. Richardson is applying for that job early.

    June 27, 2007 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  15. Emily, Vncouver, Canada

    One thing seems clear to me; as long as the Neo-cons are bumbling around the world, particularily in the Middle East, Iran is right to think their only protection from these war criminals of ours is to take the example of North Korea and get (nuclear) armed. This whole 'nuclear issue' is not about nukes to our war mongers in the White House, it's about oil/power and revenge on the Iranians for calling us what we were when we the CIA established the Shah in their country eliminating Mossadegh, their Prime Minister; 'satanic' criminals who brought untold misery to them (guess why they had a revolution and hated the Americans?) Our policy of blind allegiance to Israel's inhumane destruction of their arab population has angered the entire Arab populace. The majority of Iranians want no such thing as the obliteration of Israel, but the more Iran is pushed into a corner, and then even 'pre-emptively' attacked, the more you will see the people (the majority of which are young people who want anything but war with either the US or Israel (and left alone would choose guess what? – westernization) the more we are breeding hatred and desperation in the ME. Ever notice how the more simplistic fundamentalists, the pro-war folk just incite the same type of fundamentalists of opposing countries to gain power. We have a choice, grow up or get used to bloodshed. Not just there but here too; our own NIE confirms the INCREASE of risk to us due to our lamb-brained policies in Iraq. This set of idiots in power here will never make that conceptual leap because they're incapable of being wrong. Ever. Time for us all to mature and move on with the business of survival on planet Earth. We don't remotely have time for this adolescent caca anymore.

    An American in Canada

    June 28, 2007 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  16. josh embry, austin, tx

    Talking to Iran.
    US: Lets Talk.
    Iran: Lets (not) talk about (killing) Isreal (with nuclear weapons).

    June 28, 2007 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  17. Doug M. Detroit, Mi

    The situation with Iran is complex; it's not an either/or solution. There are many different views involved, many different millieu's. Even within concurring world views, there are many different sub-views on how the so-called Iranian "issue" can be resolved to the satisfaction of all involved.

    First of all, the United States has no right to proclaim that thier world view riegns supreme. They are only one of many views involved. What this will take is negotiation, negotiation, negotiation. The U.S. has lost whatever influencial cachet they might have had with other nations which may have had any influence with Iran. Other nations no longer trust anything we say with regard to "intelligence." They will wait for thier intelligence services to confirm or deny any intelligence that the U.S. intelligence services provide. Iraq, "WMD's", "Imminent threat" and "They'll welcome us with rose petals" has earned us that reward. Other nations no longer trust us at our word. Thus, it will be next to impossible to form another "Coalition of the Willing..." And now that Tony Blair has been shuttled into the sunset, don't count on the Brits to slavishly follow us into Terhran. This will make any military action against Iran most likely a unilaterial show, which will make it extermely challenging. And maybe, because of nemerous variables involved, undoable.

    The Bush Administration world view is that Iran is a so-called "Rouge" nation. This is interpretted to mean that Iran lives outside the established rules of conduct by other nations, one of which is the alleged support of so-called Iranian sponsered terrorist entering Iraq and contributing to the chaos in that country. Iran disagrees. This is what gnaws at the Bush Administration. They say they have incontrivertible proof that it is so. But then, they said they had incontrivertible proof on the "WMD's", too. And we all know how that turned out...Admittedly, its a debateable point, but you cannot unring a bell.
    No one beleives anything this administration says.

    From the Iranian point of view, they live in a dangerous nieghborhood. On thier eastern border is Pakistan, an Islamic Military Dictatorship with Nukes. Further east is India, with more Nukes. What is really scary is that both of these countries hate each other and the potential for nuclear conflagration between the two of them is ever present.

    To thier north, within missle range, are both Russia and China, both armed to the teeth with nukes.

    To thier southwest is Saudi Arabia, a U.S. sponsored Islamic state that is also armed to the teeth and has has serious religious and political differences with Iran. Should conflict ever break out bewteen the two, you can bet your bottom dollor that the U.S. will give Suadi Arabia every sophisticated weapon at thier disposal and encourage the Saudi's to use them liberally.

    To thier far west is Israel, a nuclear power that has a history of pre-emptive strikes, either real or imagined. And to thier immediate west is Iraq, a souveriegn nation that was invaded by the U.S. on specious grounds. All of this means that from the Iranian point of view, they are surrounded by enemies, nuclear powers all, and armed to the teeth. Since nuclear armed nations are not attacked by other nations, in the Iranian point of view, a nuke sounds like a damn good idea. Others may disagree. But to the Iranians, it makes prefect sense.

    Military strike proponents can think-tank this all they want, but U.S. military strike against Iran, conventional or otherwise, will have unforseen blowback consequences. While there is no way that Iran can ever defeat U.S. forces when it comes down to force-for-force, the Iranians can excert powerful influences elsewhere in Iraq and in other places throughout the Middle East that the U.S. would be unable to cope with in thier present configuration. Look for Iraqi Shite's to send Iraq up in smoke. Look for U.S. casualties to spike like 1968-73 in Vietnam. In fact, you may even want to change Iraq's name to Iraqisnam. Look for nascent democracy to collaspe in Lebanon. In fact, look for a general Shite surge throughout the Middle East. It will be ugly. There will be no favorable outcome for the U.S. or thier interest.

    It is my own view that if Iran gains nukes, nothing will happen. Everybody in the nieghborhood will sit down and talk. They will come to an accomodation. Even Isreal will come to the table, because you should always dialouge with a nieghbor who has mutual interest in not being destroyed by the other. It's just that simple. I offer North Korea as an example. Since they exploded thier bomb, GWB has stopped threatening them with military strikes and started talking. The same thing will happen with Iran.

    But whatever the outcome, a military strike will only rip the mound off of the ant-hill, ala Iraq. It is a no win situation. let them have thier bomb. They'll never use it unless directly attacked by an enemy seeking to end thier way of life as they know it, the same way that we would.

    Different points of view are required. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate...Without them...???

    June 28, 2007 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  18. Anonymous

    The right-wing and Joe Lieberman assume that another pre-emptive strike or war, this time in Iran will protect U.S. interests.

    Since when did the world decide that the U.S. gets to be the unilateral policeman of the world?

    It should be the U.N. that votes on security resolution matters that effect these issues. Fact of the matter is that Iran has attacked nobody.

    Furthermore the economic sanctions ARE working as just yesterday riots erupted in Tehran to protest gas prices. Huge segments of the Iranian population want a more liberal government.

    June 28, 2007 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  19. Chris, Corvallis, Or

    Bravo, Doug, bravo. You've summed it up in a much better manner than I could have.

    Tom Z., try reading a few books that don't center on a strictly westernized, Christian view of how the world supposedly works. It's that sort of narrow viewpoint that led us to the flawed Mid-East policies we currently have.

    June 28, 2007 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |