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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Interview: Iran Uncertain About Obama's Intentions

Council on Foreign Relations

Interviewee: Gareth Porter, Historian, Investigative Journalist
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org

December 17, 2008

Gareth Porter, a veteran investigative journalist and historian just returned from Iran, says early optimism that President-elect Barack Obama would open a new dialogue with Iran has dissipated. Porter says many Iranian political figures now see Obama's selection of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state as an indication he will continue Washington's insistence that Iran first signal a willingness to suspend its nuclear enrichment program before engaging more intensely.

You've just come back from a twelve-day trip to Iran. What kind of mood did you find in the Iranian political elite vis-à-vis the next U.S. administration?

I had the impression that they are looking to the Obama administration for a potential opening to Iran, but at the same time are very skeptical about the chances at this point that that's going to happen, particularly in light of his announced national security team.

You mean the fact that he picked Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state?

That was the primary thing that I was told that really has had an impact on Iranian thinking about the chances for a negotiated agreement with the United States in the coming year. Before her being named there was a good deal more anticipation within the Iranian leadership about the possibilities for negotiating with Obama. But there had been from the beginning, I was told, two very different points of view about Obama's administration and about Obama himself. One was that he was elected because of a demand on the part of the American people for change, which they could imagine would extend to the foreign policy realm and particularly to Middle East policy. They were aware, of course, of Obama's specific statement in the campaign about being willing to talk without preconditions with Iran.

 


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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.



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