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Hillary Mann transcript

Tuesday 13th February 2007

After Brzezinski's startling evidence to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, another former insider, Hillary Mann, discusses Iran.

From CNN:

M. O'BRIEN: The U.S. is building a case against Iran. Over the weekend the Pentagon releasing what it claims is evidence the Iranians are funneling weapons to Shiite insurgents inside Iraq, but the Defense secretary claims the U.S. is not planning an attack on Iran.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have no intention of attacking Iran. The president said that. The secretary of State said it. I have said it before.


M. O'BRIEN: So shall we take that at face value, or is the Bush administration drumming up support for another war? Hillary Mann left the Bush administration in 2004. She's a former National Security Council director for Iran and the Persian Gulf Affairs. She joins us from Washington.

Ms. Mann, good to have you with us.


M. O'BRIEN: What do you think? Is the administration trying to gin up a war against Iran?

MANN: What I call it is a -- they're trying to push a provocative accidental conflict. They're pushing a series of increasing provocations against the Iranians in, I think, anticipation that Iran will eventually retaliate, and that will give the United States the ability to launch limited strikes against Iran, to take out targets in Iran that we consider to be important.

M. O'BRIEN: So you believe the U.S. is looking for a pretext for some sort of attack?

MANN: Pretext, not for an all-out invasion like what happened with Iraq, but a pretext to take out -- to degrade some of the nuclear facilities and to take out some of the buildings or the headquarters in Iran of the Revolutionary Guards, for example. And other power centers for this government that this -- that our administration finds to be so difficult and anathema.

M. O'BRIEN: Why? Why would the -- at this point, with all that the U.S. is dealing with in Iraq, why would the U.S. focus on Iran at this point?

MANN: I think it's -- we're now almost into year four of the Iraq war. It is, of course, by all accounts, is not going well, even by the Bush administration's accounts. The Bush administration has long seen Iran -- the Iranian government as fundamentally illegitimate.

The theocratic government there, the president has repeatedly said, in both public and in private, that he sees that government as illegitimate. It represses its people, and as long as it stays in its form, there can never be the democratization and peace and stability that he thinks needs to come to the Middle East.

That has long been the policy. That I think now what you see is the opportunity, both in terms of what is happening on the nuclear issue, what's happening in Iraq and on the terrorism front. Now is the opportunity to increase the provocations on Iran to force them to do something to us that would allow for a retaliation.

M. O'BRIEN: What is Iran's goal, do you think?

MANN: Iran's goal in Iraq or in the region?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, in Iraq -- and, I guess, extend that out to the region, as well.

MANN: I think Iran's goal is -- as they see themselves, you know, from my experience with them -- they see themselves as a very important power, as an anchor power in the Persian Gulf. They see themselves almost tantamount to Saudi Arabia. A very large country sitting on enormously important energy resources, geo-strategically critical both to the United States, to China to the former Soviet Union, to other powers in the Gulf.

I think what they are looking for is a recognition of their importance in the Gulf, their legitimacy, and for somehow for that -- for their role to be -- to be normalized in the Gulf and then, of course, worldwide, some acceptance of the Islamic Republic.

M. O'BRIEN: So, what would you suggest? What should the U.S. do to try to neutralize that potential threat?

MANN: I think we should do what Nixon and Kissinger did with China in the early 1970s. We should respond positively, constructively to Iranian overtures, to enter into comprehensive talks with Iran and to strike a grand bargain.

A grand bargain would mean we would have to make some concessions, and it would mean the Iranians would have to make some important concessions. But at the end of the day I think there is a path. The Iranians have put this on the table before.

There is a path to go forward to resolve the outstanding differences between the two countries, and eventually normalize the relationship, like the U.S. and China, like with what we did at the end of the Vietnam War in opening China to the United States.

M. O'BRIEN: Hillary Mann, thanks for your time.

MANN: You're welcome.