July 15, 2003

From State Policy Planning Bureau

From State Policy Planning Bureau to 68th and Park

Richard Haas, incoming President of the CFR, in a wide-ranging interview worth reading in its entirety.

On the Sunni fear stemming from the perceived possibility of a "crude majoritarianism":

Q: "When the British took control of Mesopotamia after World War I, which later became Iraq, a popular uprising killed thousands of Iraqis and British troops. Does that kind of Iraqi nationalism persist?"

RH: "For all the divisions within Iraqi society, it is a mistake to underestimate Iraqi nationalism. We are also seeing strong signs of Sunni resistance. It is understandable why. Sunnis have enjoyed a special place in Iraqi society that is far greater than a narrow calculation of their numbers would suggest. So when Sunnis see all this political activity involving the Shiites, and look up north and see the Kurds, we get a lot of Sunni resistance. This suggests the need politically to think about an Iraqi society that doesn't degenerate into almost a crude majoritarianism. There have got to be checks and balances to safeguard individual as well as group minority rights."

On the Iranian student protests:

Q: "The regime change theory is based on a supposition that protesting students and others will overthrow the government?"

RH: "Maybe those who believe that are right. At some point, Iran will have, I believe, a very dramatic regime change. I'm just not willing to base all of our policy upon that. It seems to me more of a wish than a strategy. I think, though, that we could have very hard-headed conversations with [senior Iranian leaders], in which we could get on the table [Iran's] nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism. And we could potentially enter into a deal with them, particularly if we had the Russians and the Europeans with us. I am encouraged by signs that Russia and the Europeans now are interested in such a structured conversation.

There are [other] things we could continue doing that would promote the so-called winds of change within Iranian society. That's, in a sense, what we did during the Cold War. We engaged the Soviets on [matters] like arms control where it was in our interest to do so. At the same time, we did things through broadcasts and Helsinki Accords [on East-West cooperation in the 1970s] and so forth to try to foment internal change. The two need not be mutually exclusive."

On NoKo:

Q: "Should the United States talk to North Korea?"

RH: "Again, I'd say yes. If one goes back to the last meaningful conversation, which was held this past autumn when Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly went there, the North Koreans clearly put a lot on the table. Now what they put on the table was flawed, unacceptable, inadequate--choose your adjective. But again, the message I took from that is that at least certain things were potentially in play. My view is to test them. It is a long shot. It is just possible we could negotiate a deal with them that would meet our requirements in the nuclear area and the missile area. If not, the mere fact that we gave that a good-faith effort helps us manage the multilateral politics with China, the South Koreans, the Japanese, and others about ratcheting up the pressure on the North. I think the diplomatic exploration is a no-cost undertaking."

I disagree that diplomacy w/ NoKo is a no-cost undertaking if done in a bilateral setting. Washington has refused such a negotiating format for so long now that it will appear a concession to Pyongyang even before any discussion occurs. And we have been massaging the Chinese, South Koreans, Japanese, and Russians on helping us apply pressure on NoKo so that I don't think we really need to do much cleanup in terms of the multilateral politics in the neighborhood.

I've got a feeling the sweet-spot is going to be more productive trilateral negotiations among China, NoKo and the U.S. For one, the Chinese appear to be finally waking up to the gravity of the situation. Another possibility supposedly on offer from Beijing and being mulled over in D.C. and Pyongyang? A multilateral format with "sideline" bilaterals. If the sidelines are de minimis but can be pitched in amorphous fashion to Pyongyang so they bite I've got no beef with that.

For more on NoKo (particularly some interesting comments from Bill Perry), scroll down a few entries.

UDPATE: As predicted above, it appears the trilateral framework may indeed prove the compromise solution. The U.S., while still preferring the S. Koreans, Japanese and (perhaps) Russians to take part--might well accept this formula. Such a trilateral compromise might well have occurred a while ago if the Chinese had pursued the option with more alacrity earlier. It appears that have finally woken up to the gravity of the situation w/r/t NoKo's nuclear capabilities.

This isn't an ideal solution for the U.S. as we are not around the table with "friends" like Japan, S. Korea and Russia. But, all things considered, I think we might go with this with, potentially, a request for S. Korean and/ or Japanese "observers" to join the talks. Developing.

Posted by Gregory at July 15, 2003 11:08 PM
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