Former UK Ambassador to Iran Richard Dalton. . .on Iran’s Unrest


Here is a several minute long clip of a short discussion I had with Sir Richard Dalton, former UK Ambassador to Iran from 2002-2006 and editor of a new Chatham House report, Iran: Breaking the Nuclear Deadlock.
Despite Dalton’s clear concerns about the unprecedented eruption we have seen recently in Iran, he believes that engagement with Iran’s regime should be a top priority.
— Steve Clemons


17 comments on “Former UK Ambassador to Iran Richard Dalton. . .on Iran’s Unrest

  1. questions says:

    Thanks for the quote arthurdecco. I don’t really know who “Dr. Phil” is, but I can google him I guess.
    My sense of the contradiction is this — first he says “Bush vetoed” something Israel wanted to do, and then he says one needs “the approval of Tel Aviv” to do anything.
    So if Bush vetoed Israel’s move, but needed Israel’s approval to veto Israel’s move, but then vetoing suggests to me a kind of unilateral action but he couldn’t act unilaterally because he needed Israel’s permission to stop Israel from doing what Israel wanted to do but Bush vetoed it…..
    Is this clearer? How do you ask permission from someone to veto that someone’s action? I don’t get it.
    But, as arthurdecco will testify, I’m dense! And since I don’t know who Dr. Phil is, likely I’m denser than density itself.
    Oh, and arthurdecco, if you think of me so seldom, then please don’t feel bad about not addressing my posts. I’ll understand that it simply never occurs to you. It’s ok. I won’t think you unkind or spaced out. I’ll know that you have less dense things to deal with.


  2. JohnH says:

    qeustions–I don’t see the contradiction in Baer’s statement. I believe he is talking about Iran’s capabilities within its borders and in the immediate area surrounding its borders, which incidently includes a good chunk of Iraq, Afghanistan and the oil facilities across the Persian Gulf.
    Israel also faces severe constraints on projecting power much beyond its borders, which is why it needs American as its proxy. I think Baer is merely stating that Israel can veto any initiatives in the ME but can’t necessarily force the US to launch any initiatives, either. At some point the distinct interests of the two countries emerge, that being when the US has to actually do something on behalf of Israel.


  3. arthurdecco says:

    questions, Are you familiar with the following quotation?
    “You wouldn’t worry so much what other people think about you, if you realized how seldom they do.” Dr. Phil


  4. questions says:

    From the interview above:
    “Totally out of the question. Even Bush understood this. The New York Times is right when it says that Bush vetoed an Israeli attack, simply because there is a balance of power in the Middle East between the U.S. and Iran, and it’s a fairly even balance of power. I mean not in terms of aircraft tanks or submarines, but in a monopoly of violence, there is equality.”
    “In American politics, you can’t do anything in the Middle East without the approval of Tel Aviv, at least on some level. It’s impossible. I mean, I cannot think of a country that is so beholden to a small country like this, even a superpower, in all of history. I can’t even think of it.”
    Is it just me, am I the only one who sees a contradiction, deep, profound and wide, between these two sentiments? Expressed by the same person. In the same interview. Unselfconsciously. Wow.
    And is Iran’s security apparatus better than Israel’s? I thought that wasn’t possible. But what do I know? (See, that’s an opening for arthurdecco and the like to post!)
    Otherwise, the interview was pretty interesting. Thanks for posting it.


  5. Carroll says:

    Also interesting…
    Report: U.S. to block Iran sanctions at G8 summit
    By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent
    Tags: Iran, Nuclear Program
    The United States is opposed to enacting a new set of financial sanctions against Iran that are due to be discussed in the G8 summit next week, diplomatic officials in New York reported Friday.
    According to officials, sanctions against Iran are expected to top the G8’s agenda. Sources are also predicting a pointed debate between the heads of the industrialized nations over an appropriate response to Iranian authorities’ suppression of reformist demonstrations in Iran led by Mir Hossein Mousavi and other Iranian opposition leaders.
    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi hinted in a newspaper interview earlier in the week that the G8 is due to decide on new financial sanctions
    The Obama administration, according to the diplomatic sources, has discarded the notion of direct talks with Iran. However, the United States is still interested in re-engaging Iran through the renewed discussion of its nuclear program through the five permanent United Nations Security Council members and Germany.
    American officials expressed concern that a decision to enact harsh steps against Iran during the G8 meeting could badly hurt the prospect of Tehran agreeing to renew negotiations with the permanent Security Council members.
    In addition to U.S. reluctance to enact fresh sanctions, G8 members Russia and China have been known to oppose any punitive steps against Tehran.”


  6. Carroll says:

    Worth reading re Iran.
    Saturday, July 04, 2009 04:22 GMT
    Q&A: “U.S. and Iran Share an Equal Monopoly on Violence”
    Omid Memarian interviews former CIA operative ROBERT BAER
    BERKELEY, California, Jan 23 (IPS) – “Obama is going to have continuous pressure from Israel to attack Iran and, in some way, their nuclear facilities, and this is going to be tied up with Gaza and Lebanon,” according to Robert Baer, a former top Central Intelligence Agency operative and the author of “The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower.”
    In an interview with IPS, Baer discussed the regional implications of the Gaza conflict and his take on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Hamas and Hezbollah, three major groups in the Middle East which have been called terrorist organisations.
    Excerpts from the interview follow.
    IPS: Some analysts believe that attacking Hamas in Gaza, two years after the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, is a part of a bigger plan which will end with attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. Is Israel walking this path?
    Robert Baer: No. I think that there is a military veto in attacking Iran. It’s just not possible.
    IPS: Why is that impossible?
    RB: Well, for one thing, we know there will be an Iranian reaction in the Gulf. Iran will not be attacked like Hamas and just respond locally. It will respond internationally. It has no choice. This is their deterrence power. In Iran, it is very important to understand a lot of lessons.
    If you look on the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] website, you see the lessons they learned from the Iran-Iraq War. These wars are wars of attrition; they go on forever. You just can’t win them, especially against the United States. So they have developed secondary asymmetrical warfare ability, guerilla warfare, which is very effective.
    You know some of the best minds in Iran went into the Pasdaran [Revolutionary Guards], and they weren’t necessarily fanatics. In a sense, they were much more nationalists. And in my experience, these people in the Pasdaran, in the operational level, are probably the most capable, intelligent/guerilla force/political thinkers in the Middle East, including Israel and Jordan. And they knew exactly what they were doing. And they do not clearly fit in to any political definitions in Iran.
    IPS: Is the possibility of a limited attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel also out of question? Especially given what we learned in a recent New York Times article that last year, Israeli leaders asked President Bush to carry out such an attack, though the president did not accept.
    RB: Totally out of the question. Even Bush understood this. The New York Times is right when it says that Bush vetoed an Israeli attack, simply because there is a balance of power in the Middle East between the U.S. and Iran, and it’s a fairly even balance of power. I mean not in terms of aircraft tanks or submarines, but in a monopoly of violence, there is equality.
    There is no question there is equality. We could bomb Tehran, but what does that get you? Nothing. It’s sort of like bombing the U.N. compound in Gaza by Israel. What does that give the Israelis? Nothing. Yeah they could destroy it, but what does that give them? Hamas still is going to exist.
    You can bomb all military bases in Iran over a period of two weeks, but Iran is still there – it still has the ability to project power, project its will and maybe even come out of that type of conflict even stronger. And Iran’s power is so economical, the price of oil is not going to make any difference, simply because the idea of arming Hezbollah or supporting Hamas in Damascus is nothing in terms of money. I mean the price of oil could go down to 10 dollars, and it’s still an affordable defence for Iran.
    IPS: Obama has repeatedly mentioned talking to Iranian leaders and bringing change to U.S. foreign policy. How could the designation of Dennis Ross as a key advisor on Iran policy contribute to his promises?
    RB: Dennis Ross – the important thing is the Israelis are comfortable with him. If a dialogue with Iran occurs, they know he won’t betray them. I mean they have had years and years of testing this guy. He’s Jewish, he’s been honest with the Israelis; he’s gone along with their projects, even the crazy ones. If a dialogue is open, the Israelis know they won’t be surprised. If Obama had brought someone new in, some professor from Harvard that the Israelis didn’t know, they would immediately freeze him out and there would be huge political blowbacks.
    IPS: Regarding Ross’s positions on certain issues in the Middle East and particularly Iran over the past decade, how will Obama be able to adopt a new foreign policy path in the region?
    RB: Well, he [Obama] needs the backing of the Democratic Party to get these things through politically, and that’s why he has brought in people like Dennis Ross and Denny Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, simply because he needs that political backing. He cannot bring in untried people and run them against the Democratic Party, because if there is an opening with Iran, there will be a connivance of Israel, maybe a silent one, simply because the Israelis have to go along.
    In American politics, you can’t do anything in the Middle East without the approval of Tel Aviv, at least on some level. It’s impossible. I mean, I cannot think of a country that is so beholden to a small country like this, even a superpower, in all of history. I can’t even think of it.
    IPS: And why is that?
    RB: Look at New York City. Look at the major newspapers. They have a Zionist agenda. They do. I’m not Jewish. I’m not anything. I don’t care about the Israelis. And I’m not anti-Semitic. It’s just a fact. I suggested to my publisher writing a book on Israel, and he said forget it. You can’t talk about the reality of Israel. The only place you can talk about the reality of Israel is in Israel. They tell you things you will never hear in the United States.
    IPS: Like what?
    RB: For instance, why are people on Gaza so unhappy? Well, if you had to live in a prison, wouldn’t you be unhappy? You would never get that in the New York Times. Look at the New York Times; it’s almost an extension of Israel.
    IPS: What is the impact of the Gaza conflict on the future of Iran-Israel and United States relations? Have the recent attacks destroyed Hamas entirely?
    RB: No, it’s impossible. Hamas is an idea. Hamas is not an organisation. Hamas is an idea, and unless the Israelis go in and force 1.5 million people into Egypt, they will never subdue Gaza. They can go in and they can slaughter the leadership and put 10,000 people in jail, and Hamas will come out stronger. The losers in this will be Fatah.
    IPS: What are the main characteristics of Hamas and Hezbollah’s military and political behaviour?
    RB: They redefined the idea of warfare in geography. The fact that Hezbollah dug into caves or the fact that they use fiber optics to communicate shows enormous sophistication and primitive warfare in combination. I mean, what army in the world uses fiber optics except Hezbollah? You can’t intercept fiber optics. There is nothing you can do.
    You look at [Hebollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah, and he has redefined Islamic politics because he’s gone into an alliance with a Christians. Bin Laden wants to kill Christians; I’m going to reduce it to that. Nasrallah is looking at them as allies. ”


  7. Paul Norheim says:

    actually I think I remember some of the things WigWag said
    about Iran before the election. He did not like the regime any
    more at that time than he does now. But I think he may have
    had a certain basic trust in the Iranian regime as a rational
    player among other players in the Middle East. He actually wrote
    several interesting posts arguing for Iran to obtain the nuclear
    bomb – based on the logic of deterrence within the Middle
    Eastern context.
    Obviously, the recent events in the country have made him think
    in entirely different ways, as he now seems to regard Iran as an
    unstable country comparable with Pakistan. Now he has been
    playing with neocon ideas about intervention, attacks on the
    nuclear plants etc, ideas that he before the election
    characterized as “dumb”, “stupid”, or “foolish”.
    I can`t remember his exact words, but I think I remember his
    positions and way of thinking.


  8. ... says:

    wigwag changes his pov when suitable and while one can say anything they want to after the fact, finding a quote for those same ideas prior to the latest offering from wigwag is highly unlikely… that is the fun thing about scribbling on the net… “cohen is now of the same view as i was before”.. manure is on sale!! lol… some of us aren’t buying…


  9. Paul Norheim says:

    thanks for the clarifications. You say that even you don`t “have
    a clue what Obama should do”. But at TWN you have tentatively
    played with several ideas recently – from US support of
    separatist movements to attacks on the nuclear installations;
    even an invasion.
    Before the elections in Iran, you said several times – as far as I
    remember – that a US/Israeli attack on Iran would be stupid,
    with potentially disastrous consequences. Now you`re playing
    with those “stupid” ideas.
    Why? Because Iran became more unstable after the election
    (“Iran = Pakistan”, which to me is still a premature conclusion)?
    Or have you changed your mind regarding the potentially
    disastrous consequences and stupidity of an attack?


  10. Carroll says:

    This was my “guess” also was about the Ross -Iran deal.
    And I may be wrong, but think not, … Obama is not changing his Iran plan based on “anyone’s opinion”, certainly not journalist, except for what unbiased experts, military commanders and intelligence tells him regarding Iran.
    Barring any earth moving event, he is going on with Plan A on Iran until and unless he needs a Plan B and Plan B isn’t writ in stone at the moment and will evolve as/if needed.
    Sic Semper Tyrannis
    Harper on Ross, Clinton et al
    Dennis Ross: Goodbye and Good riddance. After much fussing around, and consulting with a wide range of Washington types, I am now convinced that we can lift our glasses and toast Dennis Ross’ departure from his desk outside the principal’s office at the State Department. I am told, by several people, whose access to the corridors of power at Foggy Bottom are unasailable, that Ross was, to put it in straightforward lingo, dumped, fired, kicked the hell out. He did something that clearly crossed the line, and was working at cross-purposes to Secretary of State Clinton and special envoy Mitchell. Maybe he also crossed Richard Holbrooke. I hope to get more of the inside details soon, but for now, I am convinced by these sources, that Ross was dumped, and that it was the AIPAC/WINEP crowd that had to be somewhat appeased, by giving Ross a desk at the National Security Council, somewhat equivalent to a cell with a view at one of those old Soviet gulags.
    I dismiss the spin tales coming out of Lobby and neocon quarters, that Ross was brought over to the White House to “teach them a thing or two” about how to deal with Iran, and that he is the darling of Tom Donalon, the number two under General Jones.
    That is the good news portion of what I am hearing. Ross will not give up without a fight, and he will count on the AIPAC/WINEP crowd continuing to whimper that he must be given a prominent seat at the table. Look for him to try to muck around with the expected new NIE on Iran.”


  11. WigWag says:

    Paul, neither, A, B. or C.
    I never believed that Iran was an incipient democracy; Cohen did.
    I never thought the Iranian system provided a role model for the Sunni Arab world; Cohen did.
    I never believed that Iranian citizens had a government that was more respectful of or concerned with their aspirations than citizens of Sunni Arab states had; Cohen did.
    I never believed that Palestinians were better off because Iran was arming Hamas; Cohen never claimed they were either but his columns implied that he might have thought they were.
    Cohen’s view of the nature of the Iranian regime has completely changed and he is now urging Obama to eschew engagement with the mullah coup-meisters. I would be interested in his new view about what he recommends instead, just like I would be interested in Steve Clemon’s view of what extending an “open hand” actually means in practice. Neither Cohen or Clemons has spelled out in any detail what they think Obama should do next. I’m interested in their opinions because I don’t have a clue what Obama should do next either. I am still trying to make up my mind and it helps to hear a variety of views, especially from people I usually disagree with.
    Cohen’s new found opinion of the nature of the Iranian regime is the one that I and many others had all along.
    That’s the point of view I was talking about.


  12. Paul Norheim says:

    “…the point of view that I had all along.”
    I`m curious: which point of view?
    a) More aggressive sanctions?
    b) An attack on the nuclear installations?
    c) Invasion & regime change?


  13. WigWag says:

    “wigwag falls into this description for now quoting cohen who he couldn’t stand a few weeks ago.”
    I still can’t stand Cohen, but I do admire his bravery. Reporting from Iran and writing articles that the ruling mullahs are sure to read and be offended by is courageous and commendable.
    I would also point out that before the Iranian election I disagreed with Cohen. Since the election, Cohen has abandoned his previous point of view and has now adopted the point of view that I had all along.


  14. ... says:

    “crack cocaine realists” .. wigwag falls into this description for now quoting cohen who he couldn’t stand a few weeks ago… whatever serves your war 24/7 purpose i guess…


  15. Franklin says:

    I’m doubtful that negotiations will have any impact on the intention of Iranian hardliners to develop a nuclear weapon.
    From their view, the nuclear weapon will confer more prestige than money itself can buy.
    Many of the incentive packages also seem to proceed from assumptions about a more benevolent relationship between the leaders and the people than actually exists.
    There may be grounds for diplomatic engagement on some other basis (e.g. a belief that economic inter-connectedness will limit the more noxious tendencies of the ruling clique towards its neighbors and its people).
    On the nuclear weapons program though — with the current group in charge — negotiations aren’t likely to change anything.


  16. Celia Durkin says:

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    Further information about the Symposium can be found under:


  17. WigWag says:

    No one was a bigger advocate for engaging Iran than Roger Cohen. Cohen has been in Iran for several weeks and has witnessed the carnage personally. He’s now reversed his position almost entirely.
    This is what he said in his column yesterday,
    Let the Usurpers Writhe
    Published: July 1, 2009
    “…Demonstrations may have disappeared from Tehran’s streets of shame, but Iranian acceptance is at an all-time low. The government is now illegitimate. Power has been usurped. The equation has changed.
    I think Mahmoudi’s right. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad may begin to unclench their fist, as isolation and sullen defiance grow, in a bid to deliver what they would not allow the reformists to initiate: détente with America.
    Obama must leave them dangling for the foreseeable future. He should refrain indefinitely from talk of engagement.
    To do otherwise would be to betray millions of Iranians who have been defrauded and have risked their lives to have their votes count. To do otherwise would be to allow Khamenei to gloat that, in the end, what the United States respects is force. To do otherwise would be to embrace the usurpers…”
    Like most commentators, Cohen himself, has expressed the importance of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Given his new found animosity towards the Iranian regime, he must hold this view more strongly than ever.
    Cohen surely understands that the inevitable result of the policy he is now recommending is either (1) a muscular sanctions regime enforced by either the United States or NATO; or (2) U.S. acquiescence to and support for an Israeli attack, or (3) A U.S./NATO attack on Iranian nuclear installations.
    If he’s against engagement, and he’s against Iranian nuclear weapons, it’s obvious that he is now in favor of a far more belligerent attitude towards Iran by the Obama Administration.
    This is a complete reversal of opinion by Cohen who has been the most prominent cheer leader for engagement from his perch at the New York Times.
    If Steve Clemons and other reasonable but severe critics of the Iranian election (this leaves out “crack cocaine realists” like Flynt Leverett) believe that engaging the Iranian regime is still the way forward; it’s time for them to begin to lay out what they think the particulars of that engagement should look like.
    Engaging the regime in a way that protects U.S. interests over the long run by showing respect for the tens of millions of Iranians who think the regime is legitimate, is no easy task.
    Those who think it’s what we ought to do should at least make some recommendations about how to accomplish this complicated task.


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