Informative on the stupidity of this Mitchell.
1. Maté: We begin today’s show in Lausanne, Switzerland, where six days of historic talks over an Iran nuclear deal have reportedly closed. The Associated Press says negotiators will issue a general statement that enough progress has been made to continue in a new phase aimed at a comprehensive agreement in June. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said U.N. sanctions against Iran should be lifted if a nuclear deal is reached.
2. MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV: I think sanctions should be suspended after the agreements are reached. They should be lifted. There are different ways; to lift them completely or first suspend them temporarily and lift them legally afterwards. But, in practice, it should mean that sanctions should be lifted, and should not interfere with legal trade and economic activity between Iran and its foreign partners.
3. Goodman: Meanwhile, Congress has vowed to impose additional sanctions if negotiators fail to reach a preliminary deal. Well, for more we go to Lausanne, Switzerland, where we are joined by Trita Parsi, Founder and President of the National Iranian American Council. He has been following the negotiations closely there. His book is a “A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran.” Welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the agreement that has been worked out, Trita, just now?
4. Parsi: Frankly, no one can, because the details have not been released. All we know is that AP reports that there’s going to be a statement about an understanding, and the reason for that is that the Iranians refuse to agree to two-phase agreement because of bad experience with doing that in 2009. But, if it, in reality is, a political framework, or just a mere understanding, will be revealed once we have the details which is scheduled to be released today.
5. Maté: Trita, what was Iran’s bad experience, that you mentioned, and what are you looking for to happen next?
6. Parsi: Well, in 2009, on October 1, in Geneva, for the first time, the Iranians and the Americans sat down during the first year of President Obama’s term, and they discussed the principles of a swap deal. The Iranians agreed, in principle, to a swap deal and then later on, around October 20, they had a conversation about the details. At that stage, it turned out that the two sides actually had irreconcilable differences when it comes to the details. The narrative that came out of that then was that the Iranians had first agreed, and then backtracked. And it was very easy for the West to put the blame on the Iranians, which then later on became a critical component towards imposing new sanctions on Iran. That’s exactly what the Iranians are trying to avoid here. They do not want to agree to anything that is unclear at this point, and then later on when additional negotiations are taking place, find out that there is a disagreement, and then, then they get the blame for it.
7. Goodman: Can you talk about the significance of putting this off? I mean, what does it mean to say it’s a self-imposed deadline, and what you see as the major sticking point?
8. Parsi: Well, I think it is important to keep in mind that this deadline of March 31, in reality is primarily an American deadline, because of the pressure that Congress has been putting on the president of the United States. The other actors, primarily look at June 30 as the real deadline, mindful of the fact that the interim agreement is valid for another three months. They could have walked away with nothing, and the interim agreement would still be in place. So, what that means then is that the way that Congress has been putting pressure on the U.S. team has not worked in such a way that the Iranians are pressured. Rather, the pressure is truly on the American side, and is adding time pressure on the Americans in a way that the others are not feeling. But, nevertheless, it seems they are going to be able to walk away with something that would enable the U.S. team to come back and resist the pressures from Congress. The next step then would be to continue the negotiations and work out a real framework, a real final deal with a deadline of June 30.
9. Maté: You mentioned the obstacles — or the potential obstacles from Congress. There is a measure from Senator Bob Corker that’s going to come up next month that would give Congress the ability to kill the deal, basically. Do you see that as a significant factor here — can Congress stop whatever deal would be reached?
10. Parsi: Yeah, on April 14, it is scheduled to be marked up in the Senate. This is what is called an oversight bill, but in reality it contains measures that is more of an interference in the negotiations than mere oversight. For instance, the president does not have his suspension rights for sanctions for the first 60 days after a deal is struck in order for the Senate to review the deal. That is actually a direct interference because what the two sides are negotiating about right now is precisely the schedule of sanctions relief. And if they come to a conclusion on that, and then the Senate says, no, hold on, we are withdrawing your suspension rights for 60 days, that is direct interference can cause the blame of the collapse of talks to fall on the U.S. side.
11. Goodman: What has surprised you the most, Trita Parsi? You are a very close follower of relations between U.S. and Iran, and of course, other countries are involved with this as well; Russia, the foreign minister is just returning.
12. Parsi: Well, I think there is something absolutely unique and historic going on here. The P5+1 have their own severe disagreements and actually conflicts, particularly between the U.S. and Russia right now, and the EU and Russia. Yet, on this issue, they have managed to keep a tremendous professional unity towards getting some form of an agreement on the nuclear issue. And it shows the importance of finding this agreement because this truly is a matter of war and peace. And that, I think, casts the opponents in the Senate, or in Israel, or elsewhere, as even more isolated because, frankly, the entire P5+1 is united towards trying to get the same deal that the president of the United States is pursuing.
13. Goodman: Trita Parsi, right now, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has taken a delegation to meet with Netanyahu in Israel. In Lausanne, Josh Block, who is a former American Israel Public Affairs Committee AIPAC spokesperson, is — has the Israel Project. What pressure has Israel brought to bear here? Do you think Netanyahu is succeeding in scuttling the talks?
The Israelis have put on an enormous
amount of pressure from the very first minute that President Obama came into
office and declared that he wanted to pursue diplomacy, but I would,
frankly, say that the Israelis have less influence right now than they could
have had had they played their cards differently. The very, very aggressive
tone of Prime Minister Netanyahu, this very clear cut attempt to try to
sabotage the talks, has actually pushed Netanyahu further to the margins, and
has given him less opportunities to be able to sabotage it. But, make no
mistake, the Israelis are very much against the steel and are trying to do
everything they can do to stop it, but there is an air of inevitability, right
here in Lausanne, that something is going to come out of these talks.
15. Goodman: Trita Parsi, we want to thank you for being with us; Founder and President of the National Iranian American Council. His book is a “A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran.” He’s speaking to us from Lausanne, Switzerland, where the Iran negotiations are taking place. When we come back, we go to Florida where we will be joined by former Senator George Mitchell, who is the former envoy under President Obama to the Middle East. We will talk about Iran and Israel. Stay with us.
16. Maté: As historic talks over an Iran nuclear deal have reportedly closed ahead of the U.S. imposed deadline, the Israeli government continues to oppose a deal. Last week, it emerged that Israelis intelligence spied on the Iran talks, and then fed the information to congressional Republicans. Now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the deal’s proposed terms are even worse than he thought. Speaking on Sunday, Netanyahu appeared to invoke the “axis of evil” moniker used by president George W. Bush for Iran, Iraq and North Korea. But, Netanyahu But, Netanyahu offered a new variation on the axis members.
Netanyahu: [translated] I expressed out deep
concern towards this deal emerging with Iran nuclear talks. This deal, as it appears
to be merging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous to humanity,
and this must be stopped.
18. Maté: The Lausanne, in that axis, refers to the Swiss town where the nuclear talks are taking place. That apparently puts the U.S. inside of the axis that Netanyahu opposes, along with the five other world powers negotiating with Iran.
19. Goodman: Netanyahu’s comment was the latest in an escalating standoff with the White House over Mideast policy. President Obama and other top officials have vowed to re-evaluate their approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict following Netanyahu’s open rejection of a two-state solution. U.S. officials have suggested they might take steps including no longer vetoing U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israel. Some predict a major shift in U.S. policy. A headline in The Washington Post describes it as, “Obama’s Next Earthquake.” And the first test of the new U.S. approach might come in the next few weeks. France will put forward a U.N. Security Council measure aimed at encouraging peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The measure would include parameters for negotiations, presumably based on an Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state there. For more we go to a guest who has been deeply involved in U.S. efforts to seek a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. Senator George Mitchell served as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace under President Obama from 2009 to 2011. He previously served under President Bill Clinton, as the Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, where he helped broker the Belfast Peace Agreement of 1998. Before that, Senator Mitchell served as Democratic Senator from Maine for 15 years, including as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. Welcome to Democracy Now! Let us start on this issue of proposed measures President Obama and the administration is considering possibly against Israel, particularly what might happen in the United Nations.
20. Mitchell: Well, I don’t think it is possible to know. I doubt very much that any decision finally has been made within the White House. I think it’s all under review, as the president has said. It will depend, obviously, in part on the circumstances that exist at the time any such resolution is introduced in the United Nations, what the language of the resolution is, what the reaction both within the United States and among our allies. I do think think that the president is appropriately reviewing our policies given the developments of the past few weeks, particularly the various statements of Prime Minister Netanyahu. But, I don’t think anyone should draw any final conclusion from the discussions that are now underway, particularly since we do not yet know what is going to happen with the talks with Iran, which is obviously major factor.
21. Maté: Senator Mitchell, can we agree that this would be a major shift if the U.S. starts supporting or not blocking critical measures at the U.N.? I want to go first to a clip from U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power. Speaking about a year ago, she said the U.S. will continue to block Palestinian efforts in forums like the U.N.
22. Power: There are no shortcuts to statehood, and we have made that clear. Efforts that attempt to circumvent the peace process, the hard slog of the peace process, [by the Palestinian leadership] are only counterproductive to the peace process itself and to the ultimate objective of securing statehood, the objective that the Palestinian Authority, of course, has. So, we have contested every effort, even prior to the restart of negotiations spearheaded by Secretary Kerry. Every time the Palestinians have sought to make a move on a U.N. agency, a treaty, etc., we have opposed it.
23. Maté: Power went on to say that trying to deter Palestinian action is what we do all the time and what we will continue to do. Now, that was a year ago. Now things are different, Senator Mitchell. Can you talk about why the U.S. was previously blocking resolutions such as simply criticizing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories?
24. Mitchell: It has been, for many decades, under presidents of both parties, U.S. policy that the differences between the Israelis and Palestinians should be resolved in the direct negotiations between the parties with the support and assistance of the U.S. and other allies. And as a necessary corollary to that, U.S. policy has been that the issues should not be resolved outside of direct negotiations. And so, unilateral action by either side to bring about a change that would alter the circumstances on the ground, or that would resolve an issue unilaterally that should be resolved in negotiations were to be resisted. That is why the United States has consistently, publicly opposed Israel’s policies and actions regarding settlements, even as it has opposed, publicly, Palestinian efforts to resolve other issues outside of direct negotiations. So, American policy has been clearly consistent. What is different now, of course, is that is all premised on the basis that there will be a direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians to achieve the goals that each seeks; security for Israel and its people, and a state for the Palestinian people.
The reason that
circumstances have changed now, is that Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the day
before his election, said that there would not be a Palestinian state while he
was Prime Minister. That, effectively, undermined the principle of American
policy, of what our objectives would be. The next day, he appeared to walk back
from that, and so there is now some question about policy in that regard, and I
think that is what has led to the review that you described earlier.
25. Goodman: I want to turn to William Quandt, who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Carter and Nixon. At a recent event, he suggested the U.S. needs to impose a cost on Israel for maintaining the occupation.
Quandt: What doesn’t work is just saying you
know what needs to be done, but, there are no consequences if you don’t do it,
and that is what we have done in the past. We used language that, if I were to
try to translate it, I wouldn’t know what to say. We say, the illegitimacy of
continued settlement activity, but, we don’t say that the settlements are
27. Goodman: So, that’s a William Quandt, a former National Security Council official, saying the status quo simply doesn’t work. Your response to this, Senator George Mitchell, and also, if you could respond to the other controversy statement, to say the least, of what Netanyahu said on the day of the elections, concerned about the Arab of vote that was turning out.
Well, he has apologized for that,
and so, I think that is a separate issue from the first one that you described.
The fact is, of course, that both sides have, for a
very long time, urged that the United States impose consequences on the other
side. Both regard that as the way to resolve the issue. Palestinians
and many Arabs repeatedly told me in meetings that the way to get this issue
solved is for the United States to cut off all aid to Israel. They are dependent
on you, they said, and if you cut off all aid, they will do what you want. The Israelis,
on the other hand, make the exactly the same statement regarding aid to the
Palestinians. They’re dependent on you, they told me, and if you will just cut
off all aid to the Palestinians, they will do what you want. [Dulynoted.]
In my judgment, neither of those options is viable or would work. Israel is a
democracy — a vibrant democracy. They are a proud and sovereign people. And taking punitive action, I think, would be first,
inappropriate, because of our close relationship to them, and secondly, I think it would be counterproductive. I
do not think it would produce the desired result. It would further isolate the
relations — further separate the relations between the parties, and reduce
American influence there, and I don’t think that is helpful in what we want is
the objective of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians, and equally
important, normalization of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, most of
whom are also allies with the United States, and who, paradoxically, and
somewhat ironically, are aligned with Israel on the issue of Iran and nuclear
weapons. There is no stronger supporter of the
position that Prime Minister Netanyahu is taking on the Iran nuclear deal than
the government of Saudi Arabia, for example, which disagrees with Israel on
other issues. So , it’s complicated, it’s difficult. There is a
powerful temptation to resort to — well, if we just do this, they will do that,
and if we take this action, they will take that action. I don’t think that is
the case. I think, ultimately, there has to be
there has to be a discussion between the parties with the strong support to
achieve the mutually beneficial objectives. Israel has a state. They don’t
have security. They want it, and they deserve it. The Palestinians
don’t have a state. They want one, and they deserve one. Israel is not going to
get security until the Palestinians get a state, and the Palestinians are not going
to get a state until the people of Israel have a reasonable and sustainable
degree of security. It is in their mutually beneficial interest
to reach agreement, and I think over time, that is going to become clear to the
public on both sides, as well as important not to leave out of the discussion
of the following that, the normalization of relations between Israel and its
neighbors, it’s Gulf Arab neighbors in the region, which would be beneficial to
Maté: But, Senator, if we’re talking about
taking punitive measures, can we agree that the two parties are not equal? They’re
not occupying each other. It’s Israel that has been occupying the Palestinians
for nearly 50 years. They have nuclear weapons, they are a huge power. Even
during the so-called peace process, the settlements have expanded massively.
So, Palestinians can say, well, look, the status quo of 50 years simply has not
worked. Israel — the U.S., Israel’s largest supporter, has to change it’s
Well, it is true, that the parties
are not equal, of course, and one reason for having outside participation
in the process is to provide an independent interlocutor, someone who would assist the parties in reaching an
agreement, and despite the
criticism of the United States by many, there is, in fact, no other entity in
the world that can perform that task other than the United States government.
[MadeleineAlbright.] No other entity can create the circumstances, the
conditions, the follow up that is necessary for these agreements. And so, we do
have an important role to play. We can play it. [MadeleineAlbright.] We are, and will
continue to be close friends, allies, and supporters of the people of Israel.
[He doesn’t see the contradiction, because this fucking fart is fucking stupid.]
That does not mean that we agree with the government of
Israel on every issue, and surely, the disagreements between the U.S. and
Israel in recent weeks have been very well documented and displayed for all of
the world to see. At the same time, we support a Palestinian state. President George W. Bush set that out very persuasively and
comprehensively in several speeches, including one he made in Jerusalem in
January, 2009. So, I think that the United States can and must play a central
role in bringing about an agreement, and most importantly seeing that an
agreement is a adhered to over over time, and I think that is the role we are
going to play. [MadeleineAlbright.] I think they will come around to
it on both sides. I don’t think that we should say it is somehow our role to
take punitive action against Israel so as to try to equal the status between
them and the Palestinians. That would not work, and I do not think it would
achieve the desired objective.
31. Goodman: Ahead of a trip to Israel this week,
House Speaker John Boehner called President
Obama’s recent criticism of Netanyahu reprehensible. Speaking to CNN, the house
speaker also suggested it’s the fault of the Obama administration that Netanyahu
has rejected Palestinian statehood.
32. Boehner: I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible. And I think that the pressure that they have put on him over the last four or five years has, frankly, pushed him to the point where he had to speak up. I don’t blame him at all for speaking up.
33. Goodman: I would like you to respond to the house speaker, the Republican leadership siding with Netanyahu, a foreign Prime Minister, over President Obama.
Well, I don’t agree with Speaker
Boehner on either of the points that he made. Of course, there is a long
history, in the United States, which is an open, vibrant democracy, of people
disagreeing with the president. That is what is essential to democracy, that
the absence of support for government policies at any given time is not
evidence of a lack of patriotism. It’s essential to our free system. On the
particular issues that Speaker Boehner has just described, while I fully
respect his right to express his view, I respectfully, but strongly disagree
with the conclusions that he reached, that somehow it is President Obama’s
fault that Prime Minister Netanyahu has made differing statements with respect
to a Palestinian state.
Maté: And Senator, should peace talks ever
resume, what do you see as the major sticking points that might prove to be an
obstacle to talks, and do you have any ideas for what solutions could be
Well, all of the issues are
sticking points. There are no easy issues in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.
They are all important. Where the borders would be. The distribution and rights
with respect to water, which is a crucial issue in that region of the world,
and, of course, in other parts of the world. The status of the right of return
of the Palestinians. The issue of Jerusalem — whether it should be the capital
of both countries, or not. So, you have a whole range of very, very difficult
issues, but in my judgment, all of which can be resolved, if there is a
basis of trust between the two parties. This discussion has been
long and complicated, but it hasn’t mentioned what, in my judgment, is the
single most important issue, and it is the high
level of mistrust between both societies and both leaders. Having had
long experience in the region, having met many, many times with Prime Minister
Netanyahu and his predecessors, and President Abbas and his predecessor, I
think that is the single most difficult issue. Prime Minister Netanyahu, in my
opinion, does not believe that President Abbas has either the will or the
capacity, personal or political strength, to reach agreement, and push one
through to approval and implementation. President Abbass, on the other hand,
does not believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu is serious about getting an
agreement. When Prime Minister Netanyahu announced in June of 2009 that he
favored a two-state solution, no Palestinians believed that he was telling the
truth, and neither did any of the Arabs. They thought he was saying that just
to accommodate the pressure from the United States. As Speaker Boehner has
suggested, this is really the reverse side of that argument. So, when Prime
Minister Netanyahu, on the day before the recent election, said there wouldn’t
be a state, all of the Arabs reacted with, I told you so. We didn’t believe him
in the first place. And then, of course, when he appeared to walk back from
that on the following day, that just furthered the impression of mistrust on
the part of the Palestinians and the Arabs. So, at
the root cause of this, is that you have two leaders who do not believe that
the other has the intent, sincerity, or capability to reach an agreement, and
are therefore reluctant to take any steps that would impose a political cost on
them within their societies because both societies are divided. [Listen,
carefully, you fucking fuck, it’s the palestinianPeaceoffensive.] Prime
minister Netanyahu just got elected. So, he represents the democratic result of
a free and open election in Israel, and the strong sentiment among his party
and his supporters, not ever to be — for there not ever to be a Palestinian
state on the West Bank. On the other hand, there are many Israelis who favor a
two state solution. On the Palestinian side, it is
about 50/50. You have Fatah, the principal party of the Palestinian Authority
headed by the President Abbas, who favor a two state solution, and who favor
peaceful, nonviolent negotiation to get there. On the other hand, Hamas, about
half, and centered primarily in Gaza, who are opposed to an Israeli state, who
are opposed to — who want to retain the right to use violence to end the
occupation, as they say, and so both sides are divided. And if any leader takes
a — makes a concession, he gets domestic, political criticism. Well, if
you not think there’s ever going to be an agreement because the other guy is
not sincere, you’re not willing to take steps to move in that direction. That
is at the core of this problem, and I think that is what has to be overcome.
Maté: But, Senator, on the issue of Hamas,
first of all, they were elected in 2006, so they are a legitimate government in
Gaza, whether or not the U.S. or Israel like them or not, but Israel won’t deal
with them. But also, on the issue of even Israeli and Palestinian statehood,
hasn’t Hamas basically tacitly accepted Israel’s right to exist within its 67’
borders, because Hamas has said, we would accept a Palestinian state in the
occupied territories. In doing so, you are basically saying that we recognize
Israel, even if we don’t directly do it.
38. Mitchell: Well, first off, they won a parliamentary election. Their government is divided into an executive and a parliament. They didn’t win the presidency. What was at stake was the parliamentary election. President Abbas remained the democratically elected leader of the country. They, then, in a violent uprising defeated the forces of President Abbas and Fatah and evicted them from Gaza, and seized both executive and parliamentary control in Gaza, so let’s be clear about that. They didn’t win control of Gaza in an election. They won control of Gaza in a military action, which expelled the forces of the Palestinian Authority. Secondly, Hamas has prevented has prevented any election from occurring since then. [Research required.] They have the interesting political approach that they criticize Abbas as being illegitimate because he hasn’t been reelected since his term expired. The reason he hasn’t been reelected is that they won’t permit an election to occur in Gaza, and there are questions about whether an election could occur in Jerusalem as well. Secondly, on the issue of the Hamas and Israel — you say tacitly. Well, if you are an Israeli and someone says, well, look, I will do this tacitly, but I won’t explicitly, you’d be suspicious, and the Israelis rightly are. That they say — Hamas doesn’t say we tacitly recognize Israel, other people say it, as you have said it. Hamas says we’re against Israel. So, I think you have to be careful about implying a belief in someone who states the opposite, and rather, I think, you should rely on their actions. And so, I have always felt that if we could get real talk going between the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis that had a serious basis for proceeding, that is the best way to draw Hamas in and get them to reverse their positions that now represent the impediment to their participation.
39. Goodman: Senator Mitchell, I wanted to ask you a different question. We have been following the strange case of Rick Bourke, Frederick Bourke. It’s about a country that borders Iran, Azerbaijan. In the wake of the Soviet collapse, privatization of countries was happening at a record level, and it was believed Azerbaijan would privatize its oil supply. There were many who had invested in this — Columbia University, AIG, you did, Frederick Bourke did, who founded Dooney and Bourke, the handbag company. In the end, the money was stolen. As Rick Bourke’s attorney, Michael Tigar, said, “[Victor] Kozeny was a crook. He stole every bit of Rick Bourke’s money and all of the other investors’ money. He bribed Azeri officials. He lives today happily unextradited in the Bahamas.” Ultimately, the only person that went to jail was Rick Bourke. The Government Accountability Project called him a whistleblower, yet he has just come out of jail. Do you believe he is a whistleblower, and you believe that he should be exonerated.
40. Mitchell: Well, I believe that he should not have been convicted in the trial, in which conviction did occur. I think it was a very unfortunate circumstance, and as you describe it, regrettable from Rick Bourke’s standpoint.
41. Goodman: Do you believe he should now be exonerated, to be able to clear his name fully?
42. Mitchell: Well, yes, but I’m not sure what process would occur. He was tried, convicted. The conviction was upheld on appeal. But, as I said, I repeat, I do not believe he should have been convicted in the first place.
Goodman: Well, Senator George Mitchell, we
want to thank you very much for joining us. Senator Mitchell served as
the U.S. special envoy for Middle East Peace under President Obama from 2009 to
2011. He previously served under President Bill Clinton, as the Special Envoy
for Northern Ireland, where he helped broker the Belfast Peace Agreement of
1998. Before that, Senator Mitchell served as Democratic Senator from Maine for
15 years, including as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. This is democracy
now. When we come back, we’re talking about Indiana. Stay with us.