In a Wall Street Journal editorial page interview, the U.S. secretary of state sounds skeptical about the Iranians meeting the standards that would avoid expanded sanctions:
The September deadline for Iran set by the administration to enter into talks is "not an open window for just delay and kind of rope-a-dope, you have to get somewhere," she says. Mrs. Clinton adds the U.S. is drawing up a list of tougher sanctions against Iran with other countries in case Tehran doesn’t bite.
"I think it’s important for Iran to know that we’re not talking about anything other than change in behavior, a change in actions, that could bring benefits to them." But not a change in regime, at least not with an overt U.S. push. Mrs. Clinton doesn’t go beyond offering "vocal support" for democrats, saying "It would not be useful."
So can you trust Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . . .
. . . and the mullahs to negotiate in good faith . . .
. . . and implement any deal if you do get one?
"No, we don’t trust any of them. We would not reach any agreement with the Iranian government that we did not think could be verified by external means."
On the other hand, she believes withdrawing from engagement is counterproductive:
The experience with North Korea since the Clinton administration struck a deal in 1994 would seem to be a cautionary one for Iran. Mrs. Clinton disagrees. "I think we made progress, then we backslid, then we made some more progress" in North Korea, she says. "I guess I would question the wisdom of the Bush administration reacting to the discovery that there had been cheating on the framework agreement and withdrawing everyone. I think countries test limits, especially countries with the world view like the ones we’re discussing. I think it’s better to discover their efforts to circumvent the agreements and the limits and then"—she hits an open palm against the arm of the couch—"come down harder. Don’t withdraw, don’t leave the field. Look at the result of that. They began reprocessing plutonium. That was not in anyone’s interest."
She sounds a little more sanguine about the prospects of engagement with Syria:
In efforts to engage, without preconditions, the world’s rogue regimes, the early trial run looks to be Syria. The U.S. is sending an ambassador and high-level delegations to Damascus to try to turn the Syrians. Administrations of both stripes have tried and mostly failed, but Mrs. Clinton isn’t discouraged.
"I always start from the conviction that countries act from their own self-interest as they define them. Part of diplomacy is to open different definitions of self-interest," she says. The U.S. wants Syria to help secure the Iraqi border, cease meddling in Lebanon, make peace with Israel, and break with Iran—a not unambitious wish list. "Given what’s been going on in Iran and the instability that appears to be present there, it may not be in Syria’s interest to put their eggs into that basket," she says. "So we’re testing the waters, and I think they’re testing the waters. They obviously want to know what’s in it for them," such as the lifting of sanctions.
Hat tip: Shmuel Rosner.