Lamont on Iran

Do you suspect Iran is making a nuclear bomb?

I suspect they are making a bomb, just like India and Pakistan have. It’s a source of great nationalist pride. I think they’re a little paranoid. They see Afghanistan on one side of them and Iraq on the other side of them, and a [U.S.] president who is talking about an Axis of Evil. Maybe they are worried. I certainly read all of [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad’s evil rhetoric about wiping Israel off the map, so I think there’s a whole variety of motivations for them to get the bomb.

Do you think it’s inevitable that they’ll get the bomb, and should the U.S. base its diplomacy on that assumption?

No, on the contrary, we should work diplomatically and aggressively to give them reasons why they don’t need to build a bomb, to give them incentives.

How would that work?

We have to engage in very aggressive diplomacy. I’d like to bring in allies when we can. I’d like to use carrots as well as sticks—to see if we can change the nature of the debate.

Iran has a large middle class; they’re dependent on the sale of energy products to China; they want to engage more with Western Europe; they have a longstanding relationship with Russia, so there are levers we can use with people who have real leverage with Iran.

We have so many different ways we can engage them, and all this saber rattling and “Axis of Evil” rhetoric is playing into the hands of the nationalists and the extremists in Iran.

We can’t take diplomacy off the table. But Lieberman is the one who keeps talking about keeping the military option on the table.


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