Michael Makovsky is the Foreign Policy Director at the Bipartisan Policy Center and he formerly worked at the Pentagon under President George W. Bush. Aaron David Miller is a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Prior to joining the Wilson Center, he served as an advisor on the Middle East under six secretaries of state.
Katherine Lanpher (KL): Iran is scheduled to resume talks with the UN Security Council and Germany, often known as the P5+1, regarding their nuclear program. Given that gave talks in the past and ended with little to show, what are the hopes this time around?
Aaron David Miller (ADM): The question is whether over the last several years, the punitive impact of sanctions combined with the threat of war has changed the calculations of the “malocracy” in Tehran that they want to acquire a nuclear weapons capacity. No one knows the answer that question. But unless you find some way of altering their acquisitive character, the fact that they really do want a capacity to develop a weapon, then it’s going to be very difficult to pursue a diplomatic solution. There will be a lot of talks and a lot maneuvering but not much substantive progress. Certainly not enough to satisfy the P5+1.
KL: It’s interesting that you talk about their acquisitive nature, when it comes to the mindset of the leadership in Iran. What exactly is in it for them in pursuing a nuclear weapons program, especially when we look at the fact that the sanctions talk is tough and it’s getting tougher?
Michael Makovsky (MM): It believes that the regime would be strengthened from achieving nuclear weapons capability which is generally assumed to be a popular issue in Iran. Even those who oppose the regime support the country achieving a weapons capability. It would also gain greater control over the Persian Gulf and oil prices which is very important for the viability of the regime. It would also strengthen Iran’s influence in the region which has been the interest of Iranian governments going back for a couple millennia.