Clinton's Remarks about Iran, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

This page contains a recording and a transcript of a discussion between President Clinton and Charlie Rose held at The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland sometime between January 26 and 30, 2005.

Click here to hear an mp3 file of Clinton speaking about Iran at Davos (mp3 file, 6mb).

The original video from which this audio file was made can be found (in streaming RealPlayer or Windows Media formats) here at the World Economic Forum Web site. [Hat tip: religion of bacon.]

An accurate transcription can be found here at the EIR site (which is owned by the LaRouche organization, with which we disavow any connection; be forewarned that other portions of the EIR site contain or link to offensive material). [Hat tip: Kragar (Proud to be Kafir).] Here's a slightly improved transcription, based primarily on the EIR transcription linked to above (a few words may be missing here and there, especially in portions of the talk where Clinton repeats himself or verbally stumbles):

Rose: (Referring to the Iraqi elections) Do you have confidence that this government, uh, will, as they write the constitution, will not be a mirror-image of the Iranian theocracy?

Clinton: Oh yeah. Yeah -- the Shi'ites have been pretty smart about that. And if you look at the Iranian -- Iran's a whole different kettle of fish, but it's a sad story that really began in the 1950s when the United States deposed Mr. Mossadegh, who was an elected parliamentary democrat, and brought the Shah back in [Rose says "CIA" in the background] and then he was overturned by the Ayatollah Khomeini, driving us into the arms of one Saddam Hussein. Most of the terrible things Saddam Hussein did in the 1980s he did with the full, knowing support of the United States government, because he was in Iran, and Iran was what it was because we got rid of the parliamentary democracy back in the '50s; at least, that is my belief.

I know it is not popular for an American ever to say anything like this, but I think it's true [applause], and I apologized when President Khatami was elected. I publicly acknowledged that the United States had actively overthrown Mossadegh and I apologized for it, and I hope that we could have some rapprochement with Iran. I think basically the Europeans' initiative to Iran to try to figure out a way to defuse the nuclear crisis is a good one.

I think President Bush has done, so far, the right thing by not taking the military option off the table, but not pushing it too much. I didn't like the story that looked like the military option had been elevated above a diplomatic option. But Iran is the most perplexing problem ... we face, for the following reasons: It is the only country in the world with two governments, and the only country in the world that has now had six elections since the first election of President Khatami. [It is] the only one with elections, including the United States, including Israel, including you name it, where the liberals, or the progressives, have won two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote in six elections: two for President; two for the parliament, the Majlis; two for the mayoralities.

In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70% of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.

Rose: But, but those are the guys who are in power, and is the power held by another party?

Clinton: Okay, so here's the problem. Under their constitution, the religious council, headed by the Ayatollah Khamenei has the authority over intelligence funding, terrorism funding, and has the power to invalidate laws and scratch candidates from the candidate lists, so the people that represent the ... 30% to one third, can negate much of this two-thirds to 70%. And the President is in the middle, getting whipsawed and the people underneath him, supporting him, get more and more disillusioned.

Now, they still kind of like the West in general, and America in particular, because we don't represent what they don't like about the governing of Iran since Ayatollah Khomeini. What no one can answer is, number one, how would those two-thirds react if some military action were taken?

Rose: What would you guess?

Clinton: It depends on what it is.... Everybody talks about what the Israelis did at Osirak in 1981, which I think, in retrospect, was a really good thing. You know it kept Saddam from developing nuclear power.... It is not clear to me that that option is available in Iran, and it's not clear to me that if we did a lot more than that, and a lot of civilians got killed, that you wouldn't ... lose the two-thirds you've got. And also, you're not fooling with Iraq. You know one of the reasons -- you can say whatever you want, but one of the reasons -- we did this, is that this guy didn't have the capacity to hurt his neighbors and the United States. Iran is more than three times as big. They have a very sophisticated network....

So ... I still hope there is a diplomatic solution. It is madness. There is an elected government in Iran supported by two-thirds of the people that wants a rapprochement with the West.... And we can't get there. It's crazy.

Rose: If the Israelis might want to do it, what should the United States say?

Clinton: Well, the question is, first of all, I think we ought not to do "it," any "it," until we have exhausted all reasonable diplomatic efforts. Keep in mind, again, this is heresy. The reason you should not want Iran to have an active nuclear program is not that they might not have a bomb. India has bombs. Pakistan has bombs.

Rose: Israel has bombs.

Clinton: Yes, but so what happens? Well, you know what my number one worry between India and Pakistan was? In the beginning, when they started these bomb-building programs, we knew more about their programs and their doctrines than they knew about each other. Plus, the Pakistanis -- a lot of their people in their military intelligence service -- were tight with the Taliban, and I was worried about the security of the materials.... But deterrence still works just like it did between us and the Soviet Union. So, if Iran had a nuclear weapon, the main thing it would do is cast a pall over the Middle East, but they would have to think a long time before they'd use it because they would be toast if they used it.

So, what is the real worry?... If you have ever seen these facilities, the real worry is the same worry we had with Pakistan: What if the people representing the third in Iran that had the religious council, decide that fissile material should be smuggled out of Iran and given to a terrorist group?

We now know this. You can get on the internet and see this. If you have basically a cookie's worth of fissile material, and you put it into a traditional bomb, you can amplify the destructive power by 100-fold, or more; so the reason you don't want Iran to have an active nuclear program is, given the present state of play, you will never know whether the materials are secure, or are being transported to terrorist networks.

Rose: But the question is, and it comes to the Oval Office and it comes to other places, if they are about to have it, and they say that by the end of 2005 it may be too late, what do you do if negotiations haven't worked? I mean, what's the hard call for a President of the United States?

Clinton: 1981 ... Israel bombed a nuclear reactor that was ostensibly set up to generate power at a place called Osirak in Iraq. They took it out, and it served the desired purpose. It delayed Saddam Hussein's ability to develop nuclear power for a considerable number of years. Now, keep in mind that I haven't seen any intelligence in four years now. Some people think I didn't [see] any before then....

Rose: What kind of intelligence are they talking about?

Clinton: Or they thought I didn't have the intelligence to understand the intelligence, but anyway, that was then; this is now. I don't know that there is a target in Iran, which could be taken out with one or two bombs with almost no civilian casualties, right? I don't know if that option is available now. It may be, I just don't know. I'm not saying it is.

Rose: What everybody has said is that it is much more difficult.

Clinton: It's much more difficult. They are a much more formidable foe, and I am not entirely convinced that what our British, German, and French, and other friends are trying to do won't work, and, you know, there ought to be some sort of mega-deal there.

You know the religious council in Iran has not entirely shut down democracy, they haven't totally invalidated everything they have tried to do. I think there is still a lot of internal back and forth going on there. I personally believe that we ought to give some final vigorous push to diplomacy to try to deal with this.

Rose: What's the carrot and the stick, though, if you talk about diplomacy? What do you give them? You say there will be no economic sanctions, or no kinds of sanctions of any kind, we'll give you an opportunity to participate, we'll encourage you to participate in global trade....

Clinton: Yes, all of the above, and there are lots of other details. The British, French, and Germans had a whole deal worked out there, and then the Iranians didn't stay with it, and they wanted to go back, and, you know, it was kind of back and forth, but a lot of this involves how you define national greatness.

Rose: What do you mean?

Clinton: Well, I think every country's image of itself is rather like a person's image of himself or herself. It is the product of the accumulated dreams and nightmares of your family. Think about it. I remember I had a screaming match with Boris Yeltsin one time when he was telling me I couldn't expand NATO, and finally, I grabbed him, and I said, "Boris, look at me: All the time we spent together, you really think that I would send American jets to an airport in Warsaw and use that base to bomb Russia?" I said, "look at me. Do you believe that?"

He said, "No, I don't, but a lot of old ladies in Western Russia do." He said, "Look, it's irrational, of course it is; but it's irrational to you because you live in a big country protected by two oceans. You were never invaded by Napoleon and Hitler." He said, "Everything we do is affected by these nightmares."

Similarly, the Chinese, with whom I worked and was very close, and I got them in the World Trade Organization, they did things I thought were nuts and self-defeating in fighting political dissent and stifling debate, and having no dialogue with the Dalai Lama, which I thought was not just morally wrong, but didn't make sense. You know to crush the Tibetan culture, I just didn't get it, you know, and I talked to them, they said we do a lot of things that look crazy to you because our number-one nightmare is internal disintegration, and you never had internal disintegration in your country.

So, all I am saying, if [the Iranians'] image of their national greatness either does, or does not, require them psychologically, and in terms of where they are going, to have nuclear weapons: If they ever use them, they would be toast! You know that's why nobody ever used it in the Cold War. But we don't want them to have [them] because even if they never used it, it would affect the politics in the Middle East, number one. And number two, the more people that have these weapons, the more nuclear material you have around, the more vulnerable it is to pilfering. It is a serious problem. The one thing we have not done a good job of since 9/11 is that we haven't spent nearly enough money and done nearly enough work to contain the nuclear, chemical, and biological substances in the world. So that's where we are, but I don't have an easy answer.