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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Rowhani and the Iranian Elections: Dore Gold Debates Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on BBC Radio4 Morning Program

Filed under: Iran, Israeli Security, Nuclear Warfare, Radical Islam

Click to hear the debate

June 14, 2013

JOHN HUMPHRYS: I’m joined by Jack Straw, former foreign secretary, and by Dr Dore Gold, former foreign policy advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister. Jack Straw, how should we now be treating, dealing with Iran?

JACK STRAW: Well, we should obviously wait for the results of the elections. I agree with Mr Naji that Dr Rowhani is someone we can do business with. I got to know him quite well because he led the National Security Council in Iran during the period of President Khatami and so I negotiated across the table with him. But there are other candidates, I don’t think they will do as well, but there’s a Mr Velatati, who was a foreign minister for well over 10 years before 1997 but he also served President Rafsanjani who was sort of in between the moderate Khatami regime and Mr Ahmadinejad.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: So you’re quite optimistic then that something will come from this election that will enable us to, as you say, do business with Iran again properly?

JACK STRAW: Well I keep my fingers crossed, but I also believe we have to do business with Iran. There have been bad mistakes made by the Iranian regime but there was a catastrophic failure of strategy, led by the Americans, from January 2002 when President Bush demonised President Khatami, a moderate, as part of the ‘Axis of Evil’. Now I was involved in the negotiations with Iran from 2001, but we saw the way in which that announcement, that demonization of Iran, and being led by a relatively moderate leader, undermined that moderate leader and then paved the way for the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And let me also just say this: Iran is incredibly difficult to negotiate with. I think we have to understand why, because they’ve been so humiliated by the West. But there isn’t any concrete evidence, any smoking gun that their lack of cooperation with the Security Council over their civil nuclear programme equals, in terms, clear evidence that they have or are developing a nuclear weapon.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Right, and let me put that to you Dr Gold, if anyone has demonised them you could argue that it has been Israel.

DORE GOLD: Well, for a very good reason. Because they are not just a threat to Israel they are a threat to the whole Middle East and I would suggest even beyond. The fact of the matter is that Olli Heinonen, who was the head inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency briefed a few years back all of the ambassadors serving in Vienna and presented intelligence information that he received from several countries, not just one, which clearly indicated that the Iranians were building a nuclear warhead for their Shahab 3 missiles. Those are the missiles that are capable of hitting Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East which are allied to Great Britain in one way or another. So, we do have a problem with Iran. The other issue is of course who is controlling this nuclear programme? It is clearly the Supreme Leader who is the commander in chief of the armed forces of Iran, and it is also the Revolutionary Guards who work under him, who are part of the regional ambitions of Iran.  A country that is a status quo country, that has no regional ambition, acquires nuclear weapons it is a serious violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but it is not the same as Iran.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: It may be therefore Jack Straw, you’re being rather naïve?

JACK STRAW: Well, hang on a second, Israel has a most extensive nuclear weapons capability, it has no territorial ambitions apart from stealing the land of the Palestinians and it’s not going to use nuclear weapons for that but it has (a) very extensive nuclear weapons programme, and along with India and Pakistan are the three countries in the world, plus North Korea more recently, which have refused any kind of International supervision of their nuclear programme.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Well let me put that to Dr Gold; you can’t argue with that Dr Gold?

DORE GOLD: Well we can have a whole debate on Israel in a separate programme.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Well it’s entirely relevant isn’t it? The fact is you’re saying they want nuclear weapons; the fact is you have nuclear weapons.

DORE GOLD: Look, Israel has made statements in the past. Israeli ambassadors to the UN like myself have said that Israel won’t be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.

JACK STRAW: You’ve got nuclear weapons.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: You’ve got them.

JACK STRAW: You’ve got them. Everyone knows that.

DORE GOLD: We have a very clear stand, but we’re not the issue.

JACK STRAW: No, no, come on, you have nuclear weapons, let’s be clear about this.

DORE GOLD: Excuse me; let me be clear about something else. Who is sending weapons boats into Yemen, full of arms to get involved in the civil war there? Who is taking over Bahrain? Who is taking over Southern Iraq? Who now has boots on the ground in Syria killing Sunni Arabs? Iran. So let’s put things in perspective. We have countries of different capabilities but there is an aggressor in the region that is threatening the whole Middle East, which is why we, the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Bahrainis are all united in calling on the west to deal with this problem.