Although the Iranian elite wants nuclear weapons, Ross says, not all of them want it at any price.
Question: Are we headed for a military conflict with Iran?
Dennis Ross: I don’t think we have to be.
I think that in the case of the Iranians, the whole Iranian leadership and elite wants nuclear weapons, but not all of them want it at any price. And the, again, statecraft is governed by recognizing the areas where those whose behavior want to change vulnerabilities, and focusing on how you can play on those vulnerabilities. Your main vulnerabilities are acute in the economic area. So the challenge is to find the right set of pressures on them economically to get them to realize that the price is going be too high as they measure price, not as we might.
But then, at the same time, when you concentrate their mind, this too _________. When you concentrate their minds and what they stand to lose, if the only outcome that they think is going to be one of humiliation, then they’re not going to concede. So at the same time you concentrate their minds, you gotta offer them a pathway. There has to be a door that they can walk through where they can have an outcome that’s an acceptable outcome; that’s a dignified outcome; that in the end allows them to say, “Alright, we’ve achieved something that’s important for us,” and the rest of the world is able to say, “Okay look. They’re not going to be a nuclear weapons state.” So I believe it’s possible to find that outcome, but I also think that we’re beginning to run out of time.
Recorded on: September 12, 2007