• The puzzle of a full-scale war against Iran was fully arranged but Bush hesitated.
Below is English translation of the exclusive interview with the former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice which originally conducted in French:
One of the things that Iran's Leader has always warned against is the policy which you, as the secretary of state, pursued to overthrow the Islamic Republic, using conventional methods of cold war. In this issue of The Age of Reflection, we have published this strategy for the first time, under the title of "the history of networking of moderate Muslims". Now, considering the methods Ayatollah Khamenei has taken against your policies, do you think that he is a powerful rival in this political struggle?
First of all, I should say that George Bush's hesitations prevented the war against Iran from happening, because the puzzle of this war had already been fully arranged and everything was ready for a full-scale war; but the president preferred to hesitate. I believe that political concepts have changed a lot today, and political books should be rewritten. Iran is a terrorist country, but maybe it's not so smart to use this term in the current situation.
But you have used this term against Iran a lot while you were the secretary of state?
Bush chose the term and it was not a wrong choice then. But today we should act in a smarter way. Bush had a plan to evaluate Iran's political system from within. The relationship between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei was important to Bush and me, and I'm still interested to observe this relationship. The smallest changes in the relationship can change political options completely and redefine the political dimensions. This is why I always insisted in my speeches, and am still doing so, that today America shouldn't use its old policies against Iran. We have to revise our policies with regards to the current conditions. Of course I still believe that a military war against Iran was far better and more reasonable than the way Bush chose to react against Iran. Bush's policy against Iran was a dirty strategy which yielded no result. He just thought that the costs of a ground war against Iran were so high that maybe America couldn't afford it. But now we are paying a higher price for our hesitation against Iran.
My question was about Iran's Leader. Do you consider him a strong rival in this political game, considering the strategies he has used against your policies?
I strongly believe that Iran is not a reliable country. We can't trust this country and give it some authorities in the global arena. I insist on my belief and have never seen any wrong in it, but I have to add that Iranian politicians are smarter than what Bush's administration, or that of his father, believed them to be. About Obama, he is repeating the same old mistakes proudly! Many Americans might have been taken by surprise the time I called Iran the "axis of evil" in the world.
You are still criticized for that. Some, even among America's allies, considered it unfair, and some said you are re-introducing a kind of theology which contradicted the spirit of liberalism.
Yes! Even now and despite all the criticism, I'm insisting on it and believe it was the best term to call Iran in that time. Some even criticized me and said it might have a bad social effect, and I knew that, but the reality can't be ignored. We tried for long to get on with Iran's religion and political approaches and to move on alongside, but all in vein. So we now have to change our approaches and policies against them, either in the field of politics or in other fields, including religion. There is no other way. I believe Bush never understood Iran's policies truly and because of that America couldn't confront Iran in different fields the way it should have. He had to know that in Iran religion and politics are not separated and should have introduced a policy towards the religion in Iran. But he never looked at it this way and didn't accept that we could shake Iran's political foundations with the help of a religious war.
Does it mean that you consider religion as Iran's source of power?
If Iran has been able to make some progresses geopolitically, it's all because of the belief in its religious and ideological principals. If Iran was like Germany or French, maybe the regional map looked different today. In order to understand Iran's policy, we have to distinguish between its international policies and actions and its domestic approach. We have to study these two separately. For the past 30 years, Iran has based its international decisions and actions on "realism" and has never fallen for the illusions or imaginations of the region or its rivals. This is what the current and former presidents of the United States have never understood.
When you were the Secretary of State, some critics stated that the models which led to the collapse of the Soviet and which you were then using against Iran, lacked the necessary local features to affect on the domestic political environment in Iran. When you were the Secretary of State, you established the Office of Iran Affairs to identify the "complexities of Iran's political environment" and fill the information gaps. The "Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group" also was established under the supervision of Elizabeth Cheney for the same purpose. Did such actions give you a new understanding of Iran's political environment? Did it lead to a change in America's strategies and tactics against the Islamic Republic of Iran? In brief, what lessons did you learn then?
Iran has always been an unreliable country for America and Americans, and all the efforts to change its strategies couldn't resolve this lack of trust; however America has never been after creating trust, because trusting a country like Iran has no place in its international relations. Iran has a political history which America can't ignore. Throughout history Iran has been after seeking power and adding to its military and territorial might. This feature can't be ignored by the US and doesn't let it form political and international relations with such a country. With establishing the Office of Iran Affairs in the US State Department, we wanted to provide our partners with information and political and strategic power. I was one of the first in America's political system to reject Iran's nuclear power either for peaceful or any other purposes. I always believed that a nuclear Iran could be a powerful rival, or even enemy, for the US in medical and scientific areas. But unfortunately my friends in the State Department had a different view then. But now everyone agrees that Iran should never have nuclear power, neither in military or medical fields, nor in any other scientific fields. I emphasize, Iran shouldn’t be nuclear. The president's worries over Iran should be as much as or even more than his worries over North Korea's advances and actions. I believe what North Korea does is more of a political show, but Iran is far more advanced than what it shows and this is what we should be worried about and consider. We have to look for a solution. As I said before, Iran is the only country which bases its foreign policies on realism and never makes illusions or imaginations of its rivals or enemies. But unfortunately the US has been after its illusions and imaginations many times in its foreign policies, causing bad impacts.
While you were the secretary of state, you tried a lot to promote moderation and networking of liberal Muslims in the Islamic world and Iran. Do you think the moderates are powerful enough to make the fundamental changes which you desire?
Iran's policies are based on its religious beliefs. America's mistake is that it distinguishes between the political Iran and the religious Iran. I think these two are not separable. They always told me that I didn't know Iran's political system, but I have to say we don't have anyone in America's political system who understands Iran's political and geopolitical positions. Iran's political system and geopolitics is too complex to be understood inside America. One has to live among Iranian politicians to understand their political method a little. I've always said in my interviews that no country has made more trouble for us than Iran. Therefore we should always be defining different strategies to confront it as long as America's worries over Iran continue to exist. Today "liberal Islam" can't be a solution for making fundamental changes in Iran, because Iran is active in the region and is greatly involved in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, promoting its plans and goals through beliefs, and religious definitions. Thus I don't think that liberal Islam is a solution for the relations between Iran and the US. I've said before that if Iran insists on its policies and gets nuclear, it will get more isolated in the world.
What do you think of the future of the Middle East and Iran's hegemony in the region? Can Iran maintain and increase its role in the region for the next decade?
I don't want to talk about it but I just say that I still believe in the "greater Middle East Map" and think it can solve many of America's problems in this geopolitical region. Yet, considering Iran's situation today, practicing this plan is very difficult. İf fundamnetal changes happen in Iran's policies, that will take place sooner.
Other than the "Greater Middle East Map", you are the founder of several doctrines, on the threshold of the 21st century, which disrupted a lot of the global equations and also the political environment of countries including those in the Middle East. These changes affected political thoughts and philosophy too. Now, considering what was said, let's bring up different questions. Your doctrine of the "New Middle East", which was a political and security strategy, had religious bases and integrated theology and politics into each other again. On the night of September 11, 2001, George Bush declared a war against the devil and said, "Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror... Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America." This terminology was an emphasis on the religious bases of your policies. Ms. Rice, do you think that there will be a cold war with religious bases between Iran and Russia on one side and America and the west on the other side? If so, what would the war result in and how would it end?
Consodering the current global and geopolitical conditions, I don't think a cold war would happen. Russia isn't willing to enter a cold war with the US. It wants to maintain its relations with countries like Iran and that is because Iran support Russia in political areas. Therefor a cold war will not happen. Furthermore, I don't want to use the term "the new cold war" in this new political puzzle, because the political and religious relationship among nations have become very complex. I think we no longer can talk of "political intolerance", because the concept of "enemy" has taken a new meaning, and accordingly the wars break out over different objectives. Anyway, I believe that today in the world some events may happen and affect the relationship between countries, changing it despite prior predictions. What is important is that we have to use the current conditions in the best way in order to improve the quality of our relationship and goals. It's obvious that we can't expect, even theoretically, that always the best things happen to us. But we still can wish that things and events change in a way that serves our interests and arranges the puzzle according to our desire. I'd like to Russia and its allies not to seek shortcuts in forming relations with the US because we have been hurt many times by our relations with this country. It's unlikely for the US to make political dealings with Russia just like before and restore the relationships.