BROWNBACK: Thank you all for joining us today. I want to note before I go to my opening statement that we have a memorial service going on for the two slain officers that took place at the Capitol, and so our thoughts and prayers are with them and with their families, and that may have some impact as well on others -- other members that attend this session perhaps a little bit later. I'd like to welcome our panelists and everyone else here today to discuss the recent events in Iran and the implications for Iran's future and for the future of U.S. policy towards Iran. This hearing was postponed twice. We were originally planning to explore the progress President Khatami has made in moving Iran towards democracy and the rule of law. In the meantime, the Iranian students have answered this question and have sent a very clear signal that progress has been disappointing to say the least.
And yesterday, commanders of the revolutionary guards reportedly warned President Khatami that they are running out of patience on his moves towards political and social reform, and blamed him for encouraging the sentiments that exploded in last week's pro-democracy demonstrations. The short-term outlook for more democracy in Iran appears bleak at the moment.
The administration had originally agreed to testify at this hearing, but since the events of the last two weeks, the State Department's position is that a policy of public silence is the most prudent way to react. The theory is that any statement will be read as confirmation of the hardliners' assertion that the United States provoked the demonstrations. We all know this is not the case. The recent uprisings were the results of oppressive internal policies and dashed hopes for more freedom which President Khatami had promised.
The administration's decision to avoid this issue can only achieve the very opposite of its weak intent. I cannot think of a policy that is more likely to cause the Iranian public to believe that the U.S. is a guilty partner in the recent uprisings. Rather than silence, the Iranian students need a reaffirmation of the principles that this nation believes in: democracy, rule of law, and freedom of expression for all. The United States should not be hesitant to speak up for the principle of freedom of expression.
It's very disappointing that the administration could even hesitate on such an important matter. In fact, if one looks at the rhetoric of the hardliners in Iran, there is very little the United States is not accused of doing repeatedly, even absent statements by the administration. Hiding their heads in the sand and pretending that if we lay low it will not happen is not keeping faith with those very ideals that this nation stands for. Timidity does not suit our ideals well.
Also, even if one accept the administration's argument, which I don't, why are they suddenly worried about coming forward to speak about Iran's foreign policy stance and U.S. policy in response to that? The fact is that there is little change in Iran's foreign policy and it is clear that Khatami's moderate agenda does not extend beyond Iran.
BROWNBACK: Under Khatami, Iran has continued its arms delivery to radical groups around the world such as Hizbollah in Lebanon, Iran continues to seek to undermine the Middle East peace process, arrest innocent Jews and charges them with spurious accusation of espionage, and Iran has accelerated its missile program and will in a few short years at the latest have an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Despite Mr. Khatami's much publicized message to the West calling for a dialogue between our two peoples, one cannot help but note that the Iranian government allows only a very small, select group of Americans to visit Iran.
What with Khatami's disappointing message to the students that, quote, "deviations will be repressed with force and determination," end of quote, and the ongoing arrest and threats of execution on charges of which these students are clearly innocent, it appears that the so-called moderation of Iran's policy is but wishful thinking on the part of the West.
I look forward to hearing our panel's views on this and on U.S. policy towards Iran in general. Our witnesses today, we have three witnesses and one panel. The Honorable Bruce Laingen, president, American Academy of Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. Dr. Azar Nafisi -- and I think I probably mispronounced that.
Would -- could -- give me the correct pronunciation.
NAFISI: Yes, sir.
BROWNBACK: Is a visiting senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. And Dr. Jerrold Green, director of Center for Middle East Public Policy, the Rand Corporation, out of Santa Monica, California.
I want to thank the panelists for being here with us today on this very important and timely topic and one that we need to have a good discussion about, about what's just -- just what is taking place in Iran and what the U.S. policy towards Iran should be in light of these circumstances and what we've seen in recent and what we've seen of elections and failed promises from those elections in Iran.
With that, I'd like to turn to Mr. Laingen for his statement to put forward to us in front of the committee.
Thank you for being here.
LAINGEN: Thank you, Senator. Thank you for asking us. I applaud the fact that you're holding this meeting.
For the record, let me state -- and I want to make a general statement and then I'm quite prepared to respond to questions later about the events most recently in Iran.
HONORABLE BRUCE LAINGEN
President, American Academy of Diplomacy
LAINGEN: For the record, I have served twice in Iran in my 40- year career in the Foreign Service. I don't -- I am not now in government. I don't pretend to be that informed, if you will. And I haven't been back to Tehran since I left, and that was 18-19 years ago. But I have not lost interest in the place.
I would make my position very clear up front about policy. I favor the earliest possible dialogue with that government in Tehran. And in fact I deeply regret that fact that we have not had contact, official contact with that government, with that people for more than -- for soon 20 years, a country of immense consequence for us in that region.
Indeed, if it were possible I would favor immediate resumption of diplomatic relations, granted the difficulty of doing that. I have felt that way since January 20, 1981, from the time I boarded that Algerian aircraft on the tarmac in Tehran, not because I like that regime, I don't particularly like it, then I didn't and I don't today, but because the absence of contact, in my view, does not serve American interests. I proceed from that point.
Indeed it complicates our strategic interests throughout the region, including those interests in the emerging Central Asian states and their oil future. Our current policy denies us involvement with one of the largest emerging markets in the Middle East. It simply postpones the time when we need to deal directly with the Iranians about security issues in the Persian Gulf and that policy has left us with inadequate contact over these years with the future of Iran, that is with young people.
I simply cannot see that in -- our sanctions-driven containment has worked. A poor word in any event, "containment," Iran is not easily contained. Our capacity to change its behavior is limited.
What may be beginning under Khatami, in my view, is a product of the internal contradictions of that regime and not primarily or even largely outside effects.
And to reiterate, I am no admirer of that regime, I didn't -- don't like it now, I didn't then. I don't like theocracies, I've seen them up close in Tehran. I returned indeed with a deep appreciation, a profound appreciation of my great good fortune as an American to be living in a country with its traditions of separation of church and state. But it is reality, what is there today.
And I certainly don't appreciate its record in human rights. You, sir, and others probably have read a recent report of Amnesty International on a compilation of their record in human rights in recent months and years and it is not attractive by any means.
But, to reiterate, it is reality. I believe it is a revolution here to stay in some fashion. Although I am convinced it must and will change with time into something more compatible with Iran's own national traditions and Shi'a Islam.
I concede, Senator, I'm a diplomat by training and experience and an optimist by nature so I am prejudiced for those reasons toward dialogue. But in all reality I see no other way to deal with the concerns to which you referred and they are real that we have vis-a- vis Iran. Except somehow finding a way to sit down talking to them directly -- or indirectly if necessary, through a third party if that were possible. Their concerns are real, our concerns are real.
I say a third party, I often in my wilder moments wish that some Iranians and Americans could go off somewhere like the Israelis and the Palestinians did to Oslo and come up quietly with some way to begin, in the first instance simply to begin talking.
How are we going to talk about these issues? It is long since past time to be talking at each other, which we have been doing, or past each other. But I'm also a realist. It is clear that we've got a problem in talking and the other side isn't open at the moment to talking. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is rigid on that point, and Khatami is on record as he was in the CNN interview of a year and a half ago as saying that Iran does need a relationship with the United States. I believe in his mind he knows that they do.
But given that state of affairs, what to do? Well, to review where we've been, we've lowered our rhetoric. Both sides to some degree have done that. And in any effort to dialogue one has to at least begin with that.
And we've taken some, as you know, Senator, steps in the area of sanctions in dealing with food imports and medical supplies. There is some -- been some easing on visas on our part, although I think that is still very minimal, and certainly there hasn't been much on their part. We've removed Iran on our list of countries that facilitate the transfer, the transiting of illegal narcotics across their borders.
We have responded favorably, at least in rhetoric, and I think the president has to Khatami's calls for people-to-people contact. And there was the time about eight months ago, a year ago, I think, when we got into a kind of pin-down diplomacy reminiscent of ping-pong diplomacy with China when our wrestlers went to Tehran and returned, and I was proud of have been joining -- joined the president in the Oval Office to welcome them back. These things are a start.
Beyond that, yes, we need to be realistic. We are not likely to see much risk taking there in the period leading up to elections next February or March. I concede full well that there is some danger in an embrace by us, a public evident embrace by us of Khatami and any of the reformers at this point. President Clinton expressed that concern very eloquently I thought yesterday, very well yesterday. And I -- but I think I would like to read into the record what he went on to say.
I think that people everywhere, particularly younger people, hope that they will be able to continue their religious convictions and their personal opinions and dreams in an atmosphere of greater freedom that would allow them to be deeply loyal to their nation. I think the Iranian people obviously love their country and are proud of its history and have enormous potential. The president has not failed to be on the record in recent months in that sense.
Beyond all of that, I believe myself that the charges the risk of embrace, granted that it is there, can be overstated and we need to be a little more -- not quite that reticent. We are going to continue to hear the charges no matter what we say or do from the hardliners about involvement by the Great Satan. But I believe that much, if not most of informed public opinion in Tehran and Iran is weary of that and has set it aside.
Too much reticence, in my view, doesn't help us, because I think it is a given, I view it as a given that our interests would be better served if the more moderate forces under Khatami were to continue to progress.
So I believe we should never fail to affirm our readiness for dialogue. Secretary Albright has made that clear. I would at least like to see us -- and again I have to reiterate I am not in government, I cannot be that well informed obviously -- I would like to see us take a little more seriously what she said about looking for parallel steps that we can both take leading to what she called a road map that might lead to a better relationship.
I think we need to keep in mind that the president has authority, as I see it, to make further steps in the area of sanctions that would ease on that field and be a signal. There is the possibility, as I understand it, and I'm not that well informed in the area of spares for Boeing aircraft in Iran, for example, that there might be something that we can do to move things along.
There's always, all of us know, one of the places we do have official contact with the Iranians and have had for 20 years is the Hague tribunal in Tehran, one of the more useful products of the Hague -- of the Algiers accord that brought us hostages back to freedom. There we have had official contact with Iranian legal representatives dealing with past claims that have been very large, but more progress has been made, and I would hope that we might be able to find some way to expedite that continuing process.
And I do not underestimate the fact that your hearings today, the fact that you're holding them, make an important statement back in Tehran. I would welcome more interest on the part of the Congress. I think there has been much too little expression of interest by the Congress, by representatives of the American people, about Iran and our problems there because our interests are so large in that region and are so impacted upon by the fact of Iran, problems with that country.
The bottom line, Senator, on the public record should be always be clear -- and we have Radio Free Europe, Radio Iran, to help make that clear to the people of Iran -- that the American people look forward to the day when our two peoples can again have a productive, reasonably cordial relationship with each other; that we applaud President Khatami's call for a dialogue of civilizations and are ready to respond; that as a nation with one and a half million roughly, more of less, Iranian-Americans among us now who have chosen to make America their home, we welcome any and all movement toward greater freedoms in that society under a rule of law and a civil society within that Islamic revolution.
Thank you, Senator.
BROWNBACK: Thank you.
Dr. Nafisi, please. Thank you for joining us today.
NAFISI: I would like to thank you for asking me to testify today. It's a great privilege.
BROWNBACK: If you could, that microphone is three directional. So you need to get right...
NAFISI: Should I push it back or...
BROWNBACK: No, pull it forward towards you.
Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins University
School of Advanced International Studies
NAFISI: Forward? Usually I have to push it back.
I would like to thank you for the privilege of being here today to testify. I just also want to go on the record about my own background. Sometimes I'm mistakenly called an Iran expert.
I am Iranian. I'm not an Iran expert. Actually my field of expertise, which I think my experiences in the past 18 years in Iran, has shown to be one of the most subverse in relation to an authoritarian regime is English literature.
And that is what I do, not just for a living, but for being alive. I have been spending, after I finished my degree, I went back to Iran in 1979 and in that capacity I have been teaching, writing and working as a woman for human rights of the Iranian women as well as working very closely with the Iranian students.
In 1980, when the government made the veil mandatory in Iranian universities, I and three of my colleagues at the faculty of English literature and languages -- Persian literature and languages refused to wear the veil, refused to go to university and were expelled.
And this system of sort of guerrilla warfare with the government has continued until today when I'm sitting here. I have the privilege to testify about my people. I would like to concentrate what I want to say today about the relation -- about the situation in Iran today and what has happened during the past two weeks.
I would also like to take the student protests of the past two weeks. And the role various factions in Iran has played in these protests as a microcosm of what is happening in Iran.
So what I will do -- I would pose certain questions and then try to answer those questions and at the end -- at the conclusion I will talk about a little bit about what I think at least as an Iranian, as a woman and as an academic, but most important as person who does believe in certain universal values and in democracy what U.S. could do which would be helpful to the struggle of the Iranian people.
So the first question that I have been asked during the past two weeks is, who are these students? How representative are they of the rest of the society? Sir, I would like to tell you that these students are what the government, a long time ago, 20 years ago, called children of revolution.
It is now the children of revolution that are questioning the basic tenants of that revolution. A few months ago, one of these students, Manouchehr Mohammadi, who later on -- actually about two or three days ago -- was seen on the Iranian TV, under torture he was brought to the Iranian TV to testify that he came to United States as a spy and that he had meetings with different Zionist and Imperialist agents in order to work against his country.
Now Manouchehr Mohammadi and other student rebel leader Taba Zahdi (ph), these are representative of what the student body in Iran is today. And like what certain papers and authors have been saying, they do not come from the more comfortable section of the Iranian society.
Seventy percent of the student body in Iran is the government's share. They come from the families of the Islamic revolution, the guard, the Islamic militia and families of the martyrs of the war with Iran.
So the body of the students, as represented by Manouchehr Mohammadi and Taba Zadhi (ph), one of whom -- both of whom are in jail now -- are people who either come from families who belonged to the revolution, who are faithful to the revolution.
Taba Zadhi's (ph) two brothers were killed in the Iran/Iraq war or they come from families who -- or they themselves as young people like Mohammadi when he was 13, participated in the 1979 revolution against the Shah.
These students today have changed the name of their organization from the Islamic Students Association to the Democratic Students Association. I will go into more detail into what they're all about.
These are the people who at 20 years ago demonstrated so that I would be wearing the veil. And now when they come to Washington, I would be one of the people they want to talk to.
These are the people who not only said death to the Shah, but said death to the nationalists to the prime minister Mosadier (ph). So that now the Iranian government is asking you to apologize for the 1953 coup.
In fact the Iranian government has always been anti-Mosadier (ph), anti-nationalist. And one of the reasons for the torture of these students in jails right now as they said to the radio here in Los Angeles is the fact that they have been using the slogans that are pro-nationalist and pro-Mosadier (ph).
Now, what I want to say is that the change within the last 20 years has been very significant within the Iranian society and these changes come from within that society because when this revolution began, my people went into the streets not wanting to take away their rights, but wanting more rights.
The didn't know what an Islamic republic meant, but their main slogans were for more political participation and more -- for more social participation.
And the contradictions we are confronted with now and the contradictions that the students here represent today comes from using a religion and using it as an ideology and imposing it upon a very vibrant and dynamic society. So this is the problem that Iran is facing today.
Now, who are the allies of these students? How representative are they? As I said, since they come from the families of people who were supportive of the revolution and since the demonstrations that started in Tehran spread to 17 others cities in Iran, you will see that how all embracing these demonstrations were.
Not only that, but the way the Iranian citizens acted in the streets in support of the students was very reminiscent of the 1979 revolution. People were passing students ice water and they were reprimanding the revolutionary guards and the militia telling them why are you killing your own brothers? You should be ashamed of what you're doing.
Senator, if you know anything about a country like Iran, you would know that 25,000 people coming into the streets to oppose the policies of the government are putting their lives on line. So it's very difficult to bring those people into the street.
But 100,000 people coming to the call of the government is nothing. Even during the Shah's time there would be bus loads of people from government, from the schools. This time Elaine Shelina (ph) in a report from Tehran also talked about the fact the militia were told to wear civilian clothes and to participate in these demonstrations.
So 100,000, when before they could bring a million people into the streets, is nothing. And it shows how disappointed and disenchanted the Iranian people with the state of the affairs. The students, their demands and their slogans -- and I will come to their slogans in a few minutes -- reflect what the majority of Iran's nascent civil society have been asking, especially in the past two years.
They were protesting very peacefully against the banning of the moderate paper "Salam," which by the way has been published for the past 10 years, you know, without being banned. They were also protesting against a very repressive press law that was passed by the Iranian parliament.
They were also asking for the murderers of the nationalist and secular leaders, Darlush (ph) and Parguanif Ahad (ph), and three others to be brought to justice. This is what their demands were. And these demands, they were supported not just by secular and nationalist forces, they were in fact support from peoples within the ranks of the clerics.
The Grand Ayatollah Homan Khazari (ph), who was the highest ranking cleric in Iran, wrote a two page virulant attack on how the government acted in this matters. Ayatollah Heriyokas Bajan (ph) did the same thing. There is a great deal of unrest within the younger clerics in Qom (ph).
During the past two years, those who have been victims of this government, thanks to Mr. Khatami, have been in fact people who were from within the wombs of the Islamic revolution. I will bring you two examples: Moseni Khativar (ph), a young, very popular cleric, who is no in jail and for whom -- and on whose behalf the students have also been protesting and demonstrating and Hojapolis Sumsidozig (ph) who protested against the repressive laws against women -- you know that the laws against women -- the rule of law that Mr. Khatami is talking back is no magna carta, sir.
This is the law which has changed the age of consent for girls from 18 to eight and a half lunar years. So a girl of eight and a half will be married, but a woman who is 50 years old cannot be married for the first time without the consent of her father.
This is the law that stones men and women for the crime of adultery. This is the law that does not consider women as whole human being. Women cannot witness as they're considered as half a man. So two women witnesses will take part, you know, will take the place of one man.
So these are the laws that we are talking about when we are talking about the rule of law. And above all this the law that has the supreme leader -- religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the sole person who can say yea or nay to anything that goes on in that country today.
Now, what I want to say then is that the important thing is not that people like me who were never enchanted by the revolution are now today disenchanted. Today people who came from the heart of the revolution, who were in fact the instruments in creating this revolution are now disenchanted and that is why the government feels such a threat.
Who are the people who attacked the students? I would not go into that, sir. You yourself in your statement talked about the people -- the vigilantes -- who with the aid of the police ransacked and threw the students from the rooftops of their dormitories.
But I would also like to bring to your attention that in the reports from the demonstrations one person who as badly wounded -- and that's why he was discovered -- belonged to the Hizbollah in Lebanon. So it is not just the vigilantes in Iran that are sort of participating in these demonstrations.
The main -- the last -- the missed point and then I will try to come to my conclusion that I would like to make, is what do these people want? I would like to pay -- to draw your attention to the slogans that these students have used.
At the beginning of the revolution, the slogans were: "Death to America," "Death to Zionism." Now their slogans are "Death to Despotism, long live liberty." They have specific targets as despots. Nobody in Iran, in their right or wrong mind, would dare come into the streets and say we don't want the Islamic Republic.
They didn't say that, sir. But let us see what they did say. Their slogans were mainly targeting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the supreme leader, the judicial system, the Iranian parliament, the Iranian revolutionary guards and the Iranian militia.
So who is left? You do away with these. You still want the Islamic Republic. Were there any specific Islamic slogans the way there used to be before? No. There was not, as far as I can tell -- I can't be sure about that -- there was not one mention of even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Who were the main, favorable targets of these slogan? The nationalist leaders and Prime Minister Mosadier (ph).
Plus, the press. Did they ask just for the freedom of Islamic prisoners? No. They ask for the freedom of all political prisoners, the freedom of all expression.
NAFISI: Those who say that the Iranian people do not want democracy, we only want Islamic democracy, should define for us what does Islamic democracy mean. Do you have Christian and Judaic and Zoroastian (ph) democracy? Do you want democracy and then stone men and women on charges of prostitution?
The slogans of the Iranian students today, which has been supported by the various progressive forces within Iran, tells you exactly what kind of democracy Iranian people want, and it is neither Western nor Islamic; it is democracy.
The last part is the rule of the regime. I think the Homini (ph) group and what is now called the hardliners, their position is much simpler, and actually I think it's much more understandable. Mr. Homini (ph) knows that any -- any radical reform in Iran would lead to his ouster, and he has nowhere to go. So he will use violence and he will consistently call the Jewish prisoners the bahaese (ph), the women the progressive crilics (ph) and now the students as ashan (ph) provocateurs of Zionists and American agents.
Those who talk about the policy of silence should know that if America -- if international organizations keep silent, that would not mean that you would not now be implicated. What it would mean is that you are now complicit in the guilt that these people are trying to attach to the students.
I would like to bring your attention to the fact that each point in the case of Farajisat (ph), a leading Iranian journalist, in the case of Seyed Sujohni (ph), in most cases in Iran where somebody's life was under threat, only the international organizations, only because of the pressure from abroad, did the regime do anything about it.
The students today have a web site. They have e-mail. They are asking for help from all strata and sector of American or any other democratic society. So this silence is not to anybody's advantage.
Mr. Khatami's position is more problematic. He is a paradox. On one hand, in order to be elected, he has to believe in the basic tenets of the Islamic regime and he has shown it, especially in the recent events. On the other hand, his agenda is an agenda that would be shaking the very foundations of that regime. He should be judged according to what he does. As one of my students says, he has created an Islamic republic of words, which are democratic in words but in Islamic republic of action, we haven't seen any change.
So we should support Khatami whenever he's doing right by the Iranian people, and we should not support him and condemn him whenever he does not do. So the good guy/bad guy formula does not apply.
The last point -- and this is the last point that I would like to make -- what you can do. This is the best, the golden opportunity for you to create a people-to-people dialogue. Up to now, the people-to- people dialogue has been mainly the Iranian people -- members of the Iranian regime or members of Iranian civil society come here, and they're the monitorship of the Iranian regime.
You should reach out your voice. After all, Mr. Khatami correctly reached out to the American people. Why don't you?
If you want stability in Iran, if you want the three conditions fulfilled, then you have to create a base, and the base should be democratic. Iranian people are in the streets today and telling you what they want. I think you should support them. This dialogue with the government is fine. It is not the American government who doesn't want dialogue, it is the Iranian government who is not in a position to have dialogue.
So I would like to ask you, the lives of Mr. Mohammadi, Mr. Tabar Zadid (ph) and 1,400 people who have been arrested are in jeopardy. I would like to ask your support and I would like to end this by a message that the Iranian students -- and this is the legitimate council that supports Mr. Khatami -- said to Mr. Khatami, I'm quoting them in their message. They told him "the courageous Iranian people will judge your actions and will discover whether your declarations concerning civil society and so on are merely political or sincere." I think this is the way the Iranian people will judge who their friends and who their enemies are.
Thank you, sir.
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Dr. Nafisi. That was an excellent and very passionate statement, and I hope we can get from you the names of these freedom fighters that are imprisoned and whose lives are in peril so that we could put their names forward for the rest of the world to see.
NAFISI: I have already given their web site and also the names that I got from the web site this morning, sir. I would appreciate that.
BROWNBACK: Thank you.
Dr. Green, thank you very much for joining us. The floor is yours.
GREEN: Let me begin by saying I've written a statement which I hope will be entered into the record.
BROWNBACK: Yes, it will.
DR. JERROLD GREEN
Director, Rand Center for Middle East Public Policy
GREEN: And I don't want to go over what's in there but raise a few other issues.
And second of all, I would like to thank you for devoting so much of your precious time to discussing Iran, which is enormously important, and I'm privileged and delighted to be here to share my limited insights with you.
I'm a political scientist. I began my study of Iran in the 1970s. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the Iranian revolution. I did my field work in Tehran during the revolution and I've been back to Tehran twice since then. I've been involved in assorted track two meetings with various Iranian officials who are indeed officials who are monitored by Tehran and who are limited in terms of their ability to influence change both domestically and internationally.
And one thing which I am particularly interested in and have been since 1978 is U.S. policy towards Iran. Having witnessed a rather shameful episode in our own history in terms of our ability to deal effectively with events in Iran in '78, '79, I'm keenly committed to trying to think as systematically as I can about U.S.-Iran policy, which again is something that it seems rather evident but is not always the case.
I think it can be synthesized to five points. The first is what do we want in Iran? There are certainly three areas in which we have had significant disagreements with the government in Tehran. The first is the use of terrorism. Second is rejection of the Arab- Israeli peace process, and the third is Iran's attempt to develop a WMD capability and specifically a nuclear capability, specifically with assistance from Moscow and others.
Although there's been some progress on some of these, there's been backsliding. And it's quite clear that by any standard, the progress has been insufficient, although we tend to be somewhat charitable in our view of this insufficiency largely because of President Khatami, the speech he made to the American people on CNN, and a sense, a rather inchoate sense that he's a good guy with good values with whom we can make a deal, although none of this has been articulated or has been fleshed out to my satisfaction.
The other issues which are more recent is the arrest of 13 Jews in Shiraz on charges of espionage for Israel, which have not been documented and are in my view highly unpersuasive, and then events that are occurring in Tehran, and not only in Tehran but in Tabriz and elsewhere throughout Iran as described by my colleague, Dr. Nafisi.
So within this context we need to figure out what is our policy, what are our strategic interests, what is it we would like to see happen in Iran, what outcome would we like to see occur, and this has not been articulated to my satisfaction.
The second is a question which we've not talked about today, but how does our Iran policy affect our broader regional interests? One of the forces that led to a rapprochement, very limited as it may be with Iran, was in fact a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement. It's interesting to look at Iranian diplomacy. It's interesting to look at Iranian foreign relations. Foreign Minister Kharrazi recently visited Amman in Jordan. There has been an improvement in ties between Iran and Lebanon, not only Hizbollah but the government of Lebanon in Beirut.
There was a very successful state visit to Italy and a failed state visit to Rome, to Italy, because President Khatami was unwilling to have himself photographed at a dinner table littered with wine bottles, and the French being as devoted as they are to wine, were unwilling to remove the bottles, and therefore the visit was canceled.
Germany canceled a state visit because of the arrest of the Shiraz -- the Jewish prisoners in Shiraz. So, again...
BROWNBACK: I thought you were going to say there were beer bottles on the table in Germany and so they wouldn't...
GREEN: Well, it's, I -- when I was writing, I was being, feeling very eloquent talking about a conflict between Islamic fundamentalism and French onophilia.
But, in any case, it's quite clear that there's a lot of uncertainty, and I think for us to conceptualize Iran in isolation from our other regional and global interests is a serious mistake.
Israel is frequently invoked as in a way that portrays the Israelis as being somewhat more monolithic on the Iran issue than they are. In fact, in Israel now, there is an interesting debate going on about what Israel's posture should be vis-a-vis Iran. There was an important piece written in Har Aritz (ph), which is one of the main Israeli newspapers, by a professor in Jerusalem (OFF-MIKE).
So the Israelis themselves are trying to grapple with this Iran issue, and the forces that led to these hearings have been outstripped in my view by the arrest of the people in Shiraz and thee events in Iran so that the question of rapprochement which was dicey to begin with may appear to be even more dicey now because of these recent events.
Other regional issues which I think are important to talk about are Afghanistan, which the United States and Iran for somewhat different reasons have problems with the Taliban.
Pakistan. Its nuclear tests. The foreign minister of Iran was in Islamabad within a week talking about the Islamic bomb, which put differently was, you have one, we don't, what are the implications for us in Iran?
Iraq, another area in which I think we need to be attentive.
So, again, I'm not arguing about U.S. policy coordination with Iran on a lot of these issues, but more sufficient attention to how our position and policies towards Iran affect our regional interests, and even in fact our global interests. And a lot of time has been spent trying to persuade the Russians to back down from their provision of WMD components to the Iranians without a great deal of success.
My next question is can't -- and this one sounds far more impotent than I would like, but I think it's a real, it's important: Can we in fact have any impact on Iran or on events in Iran either through engagement or through containment? I mean, these are, in a sense, the two, these are the bookend positions. One is that we engage the Iranians in the way in which the Europeans did. The other is that we contain them as was the case with what used to be called dual containment.
Do either one of these really make a difference? Can we really have an impact on Iran either domestically or regionally? And again, we could have -- and there are people that would have very vigorous debates about precisely this issue. But the reality is, I am not certain at the degree to which we can in fact have an effect on Iran. And second of all, I am not certain the degree to which we want to have an effect on Iran, given our important strategic relations with a number of other partners. Saudi Arabia is one example. Our NATO allies are others and so forth.
So it's really difficult to talk about Iran in isolation from all of these factors.
The next point, do we have partners in Iran with whom we can work? In other words, let us assume that we articulate a policy towards Iran. Our policy towards Iran needs an Iranian component. We need people with whom we can collaborate, people with whom we can talk, people with whom we need to run past our ideas, our expectations and so forth.
GREEN: And again, I'm not certain that there are people over the long haul with whom we can collaborate in Iran. Certainly not Khatami, for reasons of his own.
There are countless opposition groups living in "Irangeles." I'm exposed to all of them. L.A. is the second largest Persian-speaking city in the world after Tehran. So that we talk about doing Ph.D. field work in L.A. as sort of the functional equivalent of going to Iran.
I'm exposed to innumerable fractions and factions and types of Iranian emigre, politics -- I mean, some of the same restaurants that I used to eat at in Tehran exist in L.A. with the same names, and I think some of the same waiters.
And it's one of the things about which I'm deeply concerned, is that we can't have an Iran policy without an Iran in it, and the question is, with whom do we deal, vis-a-vis this Iran policy.
I've been countless track-two meetings with the Iranian government (OFF-MIKE) I always find them very beneficial, but I always wonder, a, why did the meetings happen in Europe; and, b, how representative are the people with whom I'm meeting. I find them fascinating, I find them important, but at the end of the day I'm not certain that these people are as representative or have the ability to forge the kind of deal that we would like to have.
So I would expand that even more broadly to -- to an assortment of groups and others in Iran.
Let me conclude -- I'm probably being too brief, but I don't think that's a sin. I think that these issues all need to be brought back to the question of what is the U.S. interest in Iran, what are our strategic objectives, how do we hope to accomplish them. As simplistic as that formulation sounds, it has been bedeviling us for 20 years.
I saw it on the streets of Tehran, I saw it in the American embassy in Tehran during and after the revolution. I've seen it elsewhere in the Middle East, and I think until we get that right, the rest of our discussion is just that: It's interesting, it's informative, but I'm not certain it's taking us down the road that we wish to be taken.
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Dr. Green. I particularly appreciate your comment about the importance of Iran relative to the rest of the region where we have such involvement, strategic interest. And you can look at Iraq and what's taking place there. You can look at Central Asia and Iran's impact and influence that they're trying to build and grow in that region. You can look at the Middle East peace process where in the next 15 months maybe a very critical time for it, and Iran continues to fight with us in that area, and then expansion and support that Iran is expressing even in some places in Africa.
They are a key component of our foreign policy concerns.
I would welcome Senator Torricelli to the committee. Thank you for joining us. I'd had an opening statement earlier, if you care to make a statement now, or we can go to questions.
TORRICELLI: I prefer to ask some questions, Mr. Chairman.
BROWNBACK: OK. If we -- if we could, I'd like to look at the student -- the protesters first, because that's the item that's first and foremost on the news.
Are you in some regular contact with students, Dr. Nafisi?
NAFISI: Yes, sir, through...
BROWNBACK: Get that microphone down, if you will, so they...
NAFISI: Yes, I am in regular contact with them through e-mail and faxes and phone calls. I had just a fax from them last night.
BROWNBACK: What's the key plea that you get from the students that you're in touch with during this protest?
NAFISI: Right now, because of the extreme repression and because the lives of so many are at stake, this is the main thing: to create some sort of international support for them.
BROWNBACK: Of those who have been arrested and are being threatened.
NAFISI: Because there have been a numbered arrested, a number are mission. Then the bodies of those who were killed have not been given back to their families. So nobody knows exactly what is happening.
In one report, which I think I have given to you in my statement, they said that the bodies of those who were wounded some of them were stolen from the hospitals, and they cannot -- they do not where the missing are.
BROWNBACK: Is the students -- do they give you any estimate on the number that have been killed already?
NAFISI: They are not very sure because the government has not given back any of the bodies. We know that one girl -- whose name is also on the list that I gave you -- has been definitely killed. They have been able to identify her. And one member of the militia. These two they are sure of.
At the very beginning they gave the number as to five, but that was in the first two days when they entered the hostels. We do not know as yet how many.
BROWNBACK: Do they talk to you about how many are missing?
NAFISI: They said that ...
BROWNBACK: Or any estimate of that?
NAFISI: The last number was 1,400 who have been arrested or missing. They also said that they have started arresting the members of their families. Ahmeda (ph) -- Mr. Ahmeda Intazam (ph), who was the speaker for Barzagun (ph) government, who has been in jail now for 17 years, he was let out during the Khatami (ph) era and taken back again, his wife has also been arrested.
Four members of Darlusha Fuyulhar (ph) and his wife who were murdered, their party, four members of their party, have also been arrested and their names are all given. So...
They are trying to create this conspiracy theory where the student leaders and the nationalists have contact with U.S. and Israel.
BROWNBACK: And the students seek for outside international pressure to state these are students who are being held for political reasons and their lives are in danger.
NAFISI: Yes. It's mainly a plea for -- the pleas they have made, of course, to the government has been -- who, first of all, the resignation and punishment of the chief of police, who is mainly responsible for these events. The bringing to justice the vigilantes who have been inciting these riots, release of those arrested, release of the bodies of those murdered, and identification of the whereabouts of those who are missing, plus the most urgent thing is the guy whom they brought to television and (OFF-MIKE) his -- the student leaders because of their lives being in danger.
BROWNBACK: Well, as you pointed out in your testimony, these students are being heroic in putting their lives on the line for simple principles of democracy, and we should support them any way that we can. I would hope that as you get us names, or as we can put them forward, that we can post those names and write to the -- contact the government in Tehran and ask what is taking place to these students, and try to build that international pressure for their liberation.
NAFISI: Sir, also, since then one other press has been shut down and the editor, Mr. Hijoryun (ph) has been arrested. So there are number of people I will give you all the names.
The journalists -- they gave out the communique saying that the time when the Iranian press could please the enemies of the Islamic Republic by publishing falsehoods has past, that anyone who publishes anything against the government will be treated according to ....
There is almost a martial law right now in Tehran.
BROWNBACK: And they fear that it will spread even further.
NAFISI: I had a call from one of my students -- I actually have talked closer to my family -- they said that it is very much -- they are curfews in the streets. Of course, you know that the government has given out orders to the Iranian people to spy out -- to tell them of the whereabouts of anyone who has participated in the riots. At nights there's curfew in the streets of Tehran. The phones are most probably bugged, but these students did put a phone number to be contacted. They have also an e-mail. This indicates that they feel the only way they can be saved would be through international pressure.
The government is also concerned about this image and its relations with the West (ph). So it will hear your message.
BROWNBACK: That's something that many of us here maybe find a little bit of a stretch is that the Iranian government is concerned about its international image. It hasn't appeared to be...
NAFISI: A faction of the government.
BROWNBACK: Well, OK.
BROWNBACK: Maybe all...
NAFISI: You know, you be damned if you do, you would be damned if you don't. One of the papers in Tehran, Neshod (ph), recently said that the government has accused those who were murdered by the Iranian security as agents of Zionism and U.S. imperialism.
It has also accused the murderer of those people as agents of U.S. imperialism and Zionism. This is the first case where both the victims and the murderers are agents of the same forces.
We can't help (ph) how powerful you guys are, you know. It's a shame you abdicated your title of "the Great Satan."
BROWNBACK: Yes, I guess so.
Let's get those names out and published and pushed for...
You look back in hindsight on some of the great protests that have taken place for freedom and liberty and whether it was in Tiananmen Square or here. Clearly we as a nation stand for liberty, and we'll stand for it everywhere around the world, and we want to stand for it as well with these students and stand with them.
Dr. Green, there was an editorial yesterday in the Boston Globe calling -- or asking is President Khatami Iran's Gorbachev. I don't know if you had a chance to look at that editorial. I guess this sort of notion has floated around in some circles. Do you have a thought about that?
GREEN: Well, it seems to me that -- let's take the case of Jews in Shariz, in which it's being argued by Khatami supporters that they were arrested by his opponents in order to embarrass him. Even if this is the case, his inability to do anything about it raises significant questions about his ability to rule, which is one of the concerns of the students that Dr. Nafisi has been talking about.
That in a sense his good intentions -- you know, if we take him at his word are only as significant as his ability to implement them. And I think that it's quite clear that being Gorbachev is not -- it's a compliment and an insult simultaneously. And there are elements of both of those qualities which I think can be attributed to Khatami. He has not shown himself as forceful, dynamic or as effective as even those who are his most fervent supporters in the West and U.S. and Iran would like. So he's only as good as his authority, and his authority is extremely limited.
BROWNBACK: Senator Torricelli.
TORRICELLI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me ask these questions to anyone on the panel who would like to respond.
First, the degree to which you believe that these student actions are entirely of their own volition. Is there any evidence that exile organizations, either in concert with them or -- provided any inspiration to them or worked in concert with them?
NAFISI: Well, sir, definitely there would be different exile organizations who would have claims. I would like to say that -- especially Mujaheddin-akal (ph) who have been making claims are not a popular organization at the time being in Iran. They do not have popular support. So that is one thing that I would like to mention.
The ferment (ph) what has been happening in Iran basically comes from within Iran. Now obviously different groups outside Iran will use it to their own advantage.
TORRICELLI: Well, that's a different question. But the actual stimulation of this was from the students themselves.
NAFISI: From within the students. This Mr. Mohammadi who came abroad and came when the dialogue between people-to-people was being talked about, he talked openly to all the newspapers and he met with different groups, but it was not incitement. Already within Iran a lot of things were happening before he...
TORRICELLI: Do any of you believe that, if you were to project out -- which I recognize how difficult this is to do -- that this either leads to an increase in student activism and larger demonstrations that are difficult to control, or given the reaction of the government to these forces and underground political operation either way threatening the regime.
GREEN: I think that this activity to date has not been restricted exclusively to Tehran. It's been -- it's been happening elsewhere in the country.
I certainly could see this growing in a way that would if not threatened the regime, it would certainly undermine its already extremely limited ability to accomplish much of anything.
TORRICELLI: And I know I'm asking you to -- this very difficult to provide some fair amount of guesswork, but more likely that this becomes in public demonstration an open organization despite the risks, or given the regime's reaction, forcing this underground either an armed insurgency or an organization.
GREEN: I would say being driven underground, but it's unclear what that's likely to bring.
LAINGEN: Senator, may I comment on that point?
LAINGEN: Let me just say at the outset, Senator, that I salute you.
LAINGEN: As a former participant in Presidential Classroom for Young Americans, as a former board member and former chairman of the board, I take every opportunity that I have to commend what you have done then and what you do today...
TORRICELLI: Thank you very much.
LAINGEN: ... to support the work of the Presidential Classroom for Young Americans.
I don't believe this affair is a threat to the regime, depends on what you mean by that. Regime can cope in the short term, as it is -- you've seen on the streets with the security they've got and the help they've got from the vigilantes and the (OFF-MIKE) Hizbollah and the Reziji (ph). Yes, it can cope. So in that sense I don't think it's a threat.
Others have pointed out that this is the beginning, beginning salvo, as someone reported the other day, in the contest leading up to the elections in February 19 -- in 2000, the parliamentary elections, when both sides are going to be -- the hardliners and the softliners (OFF-MIKE) reduce it to that are going to be very active out there.
I think in response to another question either you or Senator Brownback raised, is there evidence of outside involvement in these demonstrations? No, not the origin. But when it went on to the streets briefly then I think there is evidence that outside elements, from hooligans to possibly the mujaheddin (OFF-MIKE), took advantage of that to stir things up a little further.
TORRICELLI: And on the government side, does it appear that the government succeeded in infiltrating the organizations, the student organizations much to compromise their ability to continue to organize and operate?
LAINGEN: I think the government has that capacity. I don't -- I can't speak to whether it has or not.
NAFISI: Well, you know, the situation in Iran right now is very different from before. The activities have been mainly very open. I think the government does have an estimate of who the leaders are.
This is very different from the 1979 revolution in that underground activity the way the guerrilla organizations could effectively do then is not effective now. Almost the whole citizenry is involved.
You should remember that this is a government that has made -- my students were expelled because one of them was charged with giggling, with laughter of the giggling kind. Another one was charged with running up the stairs for her class because she was late.
Now, when you do that then you involve the whole citizenry, the nonpolitical people like myself become involved. So what the government is dealing with right now is these people on the streets. The way the young people do, they don't go into the streets and demonstrate, they let a little bit of hair out.
TORRICELLI: I understand.
NAFISI: There are patrols in the streets with guns for me showing my hair. So this is how the situation is.
I don't think -- and the fact that they have the web site right now and the fact that they are trying to appeal the government openly shows that as long as they can they will make it open.
TORRICELLI: And let me ask finally before my time expires, I had read that it actually had been acknowledged that many of the 13 people of the Jewish faith who had been arrested in Iran acknowledged that they were not in fact spies. Has that actually been said by people of authority?
NAFISI: By who?
TORRICELLI: By people in authority.
TORRICELLI: There's been no -- there's been no presentment of charges and no acknowledgements of innocence or guilt?
GREEN: Well, it's not clear what they're being charged with other than sort of vague suggestions that they -- that they were involved with the defense ministry and somehow were sending information to Israel. But charges have not been formally laid, you know...
TORRICELLI: Let me just say finally too, my hope would be the administration would recognize that given events in the streets of Teheran, any easing of relations, in my judgment, any attempt at dialogue at this point would be greatly misinterpreted and misunderstood.
And I know there are some in the Congress who may be attempting to lift American trade sanctions to allow the exportation, importation of different items. I hope people recognize how damaging this would be, how it would be misused and misinterpreted by the government in Tehran, and how very much these students might feel abandoned if this appeared to be an embrace of the regime at a time when they are this repressive.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr....
LAINGEN: Senator, I think -- I think I can speak for my colleagues on the panel that we all recognize that danger and that that is very clear in the context of the immediate events, not least given the sentiment that we've heard for so long about the activity of the Great Satan behind the scenes.
TORRICELLI: And I'm not talking about the long-term development of a relationship as the regime changed...
LAINGEN: I know.
TORRICELLI: ... or reformed. I'm talking about at the moment I would urge the administration and the Congress not to engage in any miscalculation. The potential for being misunderstood and abandoning these students is enormous.
LAINGEN: I read into the record -- I read into the record, Senator, before you came in the statement by the president yesterday, President Clinton, in his press conference that alluded to that same point, but that went on to say that as an American obviously looking at those students we share their concern for freedom. To me that is what we ought to be saying now.
GREEN: And I also think that we're analyzing events which have only manifested themselves in the last two weeks, at least in a vivid public fashion. And I think to expect that the government is going to fall, that the government is going to...
TORRICELLI: I understand that. It is always difficult to reach any conclusions on potentially great moments in history from the perspective of a few days.
TORRICELLI: But this could -- this could become a footnote in the history of the Iranian revolution or events could now be set in motion that are going to change the course of Iranian history. It's impossible to know. We simply have the responsibility not to interfere against the possibility that this is a great event. It's not for us to control, but we do have the responsibility not to become a problem.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LAINGEN: I wanted to add to that, if I may, Senator.
LAINGEN: All of these events involving the last few days are reminiscent to me, of course, of the events of 1979, 20 years ago, when students then in a new revolution took to the streets, particularly with the seizure of the embassy in November 1979, to redirect the course of that revolution into more even more radical direction that it has been on ever since.
And as I say in an article in the Christian Science Monitor today, these students are again a kind of engine of change. They are not challenging the revolution directly, but they do want to redirect it, if you will, calling on Khatami to be responsive, to be showing that he means what he says about greater freedoms within the rule of law.
I don't think that these students are a challenge to the regime at all. I think they are a challenge to the hardliners, yes, but they are calling on Khatami. And they are -- they are, as I think Dr. Khatami said -- or Dr., excuse me, Nafasi said, these are children of the revolution. they are indeed. And they are not challenging it directly.
NAFISI: So perhaps the safest -- and I don't mean not risk taking -- but the most principled way to go about it would be not to support individuals merely but to support the principles and ideas they stand for.
BROWNBACK: Indeed they are our ideas and principles that were slogans that you've put forward.
NAFISI: And when Mr. Khatami does act according to those he should be supported, when not he shouldn't, just depends.
BROWNBACK: The slogans you put forward -- death to despotism, long live liberty -- that's the lead slogan.
I curious, what do you think led to the arrest of the 13 Jews that were arrested and how would you assess the administration's response.
GREEN: My impression is the fact that it was in Shiraz, outside -- not in Tehran is significant, in large part because I do think there was an attempt by extremists to embarrass Khatami. Why they chose this particular cause celebre as opposed to others is unclear to me, but there was a demonic wisdom in making this particular selection, largely because it really did paralyze certain foreign policy initiatives vis-a-vis the Europeans and others and particularly Germany.
But one thing I would also say, which is to go back to an issue we were talking about, about external involvement, everything that happens in Iran is a product of I don't want to say global forces, that sounds too dramatic, but it's not contained -- this is not Albania in the old days or North Korea. Iran is an electronically wide open country with telephones and the Internet and so forth.
The Iranian revolution in '78-'79 was an information revolution revolution. Khomeini was very effective in using the tools of modern communication. This is magnified even further with tools that didn't even exist then, like the fax machine and the Internet and so forth.
So that it is clear there is some external involvement, but the question is is it institutional or is it individual? Students at Stanford University with web sites and home pages and Khatami had a web site in the U.S. during the election, even though Iranians in Iran weren't really able to access it.
So there's clearly an international dimension to this. It's not at all certain what it means.
The second is my view is that the regime's existence is not in threat, but its already very limited ability to do anything is in threat and is under threat. And if it is paralyzed, which in fact it may well be, this could have dire consequences for Iran, because it's just this paralysis that led to students out in the street in the first place. Broken promises, things that Khatami was sympathetic to that he couldn't deliver.
So I think the issue is not is the government going to go a la 1978, '79, but rather how efficacious is it going to be given its limited efficacy to date. And there I think there really is a risk of paralysis and inactivity.
BROWNBACK: It seems as if Khatami's words and deeds just don't match up, I mean that he's able to put forth and articulate a softer line, but we continue to see support of Hizbollah, we continue to see a lack of freedoms for the people within Iran, that there's just a mismatch.
And I would wonder if you would agree that or if you think that one of the losers in this recent crisis in Iran is President Khatami.
NAFISI: Sir, and also in terms of the Jewish prisoners I just wanted to add to what Dr. Green and Ambassador Laingen was saying. Iranian government in the past when it gets into crisis, especially on the international level, does this sort of thing. They in -- they in response to Germans they arrested a German businessman on the charge of adultery with an Iranian woman and they charged him and they were going to execute him. Then they negotiated behind the scenes with the German government for about a year and a half before they finally retried him.
The best case in case of the Jews, as in case of the Germans, is to be firm. Baharis (ph) would tell you about that, that it was only international pressure on the regime which has saved the lives of the few Baharis (ph) that have been saved.
BROWNBACK: Yes, Mr. Laingen.
LAINGEN: Dr. Nafisi has referred to Khatami as a paradox. He is indeed that. She also referred to the way in which he has constructed a democracy of words, alluding to what you have said, it's not clear what he's saying, what he means. I think it's very unclear what he is in terms of the context of Iran where he thinks he can take that.
BROWNBACK: You think he's very unclear of where...
LAINGEN: Unclear just what he's talking about when he speaks of a rule of law in a civil society. What does he mean by that? To read his speeches, particularly those he has made in the West, that is in Italy in that state visit he made, they're beautiful words. Freedom. Pluralism. Rule of law. Democracy. The rest of us should be given the respect and to ask what'd he mean by that? Is that compatible within the kind of theocracy that he so represents.
He is, after all, a member of the revolution, of the Khomeini (ph) origins. He is a cleric, he is of that regime. Khomeimi, in my view, is not the future, but he is -- he does symbolize, he is the symbol of a demand, a sentiment broadly in that society.
That society is weary of the revolution, at least weary of its strictures and its limitations and its denials (ph) of what we -- they see. And this is a complex, once quite western oriented society, a lot of them who are troubled by that kind of stricture.
He doesn't -- he isn't the future, but he does symbolize a different direction that that revolution must take if it is to continue. If it is to maintain -- not to maintain -- is to gain the support of the emerging young people of that society, evident in these students.
They are -- the young people in Iran are no different really. Dr. Green referred to the way in which they have access to, generally speaking, there are some limitations on what they can do in terms of satellite dishes and that kind of thing, but they hear a lot and they see a lot and they want to be part of the world out there.
And Khatami, I think, recognizes more, certainly more than Khamenei does that somehow that revolution has got to change in the direction of ensuring that he -- that it wins the allegiance, keeps the allegiance of young people.
And it risks failing that, I think it risks failing that under Khatami, although he may -- he much more of a democrat, quote and unquote, than I conclude now. He sounds good, but he remains, as Dr. Nafisi said, a -- he speaks of a democracy of workd, and I don't know where that's going. And I'm not sure he does.
BROWNBACK: Let me ask you, Dr. Green, how would you interpret Iran's efforts to build better relationships externally -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the -- some of the gulf states, some other places have been noted. What -- how do you interpret that?
GREEN: I am much impressed by Iranian diplomacy. I think Iran realized that it couldn't remain isolated. It was being contained by the United States, it needed to find strategic alternatives. And I think that the opening up to Saudi Arabia was a brilliant piece of diplomacy on their part. I was very impressed by their ability to ignore a lot of their own ideological concerns, which they do regularly, and to make a deal with Saudi Arabia. Indeed Saudi and the UAE have been in conflict, disagreement over Saudi's Iran policy which the UAE feels is a little bit too out there.
The trip to Italy was a brilliant triumph, to have the dialogue of civilizations with the pope doesn't get much better than that. But the failure of the trip to France was unbelievably foolish and difficult to understand, showing, in fact, the limitations on Khatami, just as my colleagues are saying. That that trip didn't happen really is something which shows with great eloquence how limited he is.
But the establishing a relationship with Lebanon as opposed to groups in Lebanon, Egypt, which was a poisonous relationship between Egypt and Iran. The Iranians have been very effective in their international diplomacy and very successful and at times at our expense, given that U.S. policy to Iran has been unlike the policy of any other state towards Iran. We've been very, very isolated in our views of Iran, which has made our international diplomatic situation somewhat more -- somewhat more difficult.
GREEN: And when the United Kingdom reestablished diplomatic ties with Iran at the highest levels, even though the Rushdie -- the Iranians were able to have it both ways with Rushdie -- which is on one hand the bounty was increased; on the other hand the government of Iran said we're not going to act on this because it's not really us.
When Britain said OK, in a sense that was the last straw for us because we were the last guy on the block to sort of strive for, you know, Iranian containment and we were left very much by ourselves.
BROWBACK: Dr. Green, would you agree, though, that even though they've had some excellent diplomatic triumphs, that their actions internationally have not changed appreciably over the last five years?
GREEN: I think that, again, they would like to have it both ways. So one could argue both sides of it. They told Yasser Arafat at the OIC meetings in Tehran if you make it -- any deal you make with Israel is fine with us, while at the same time issuing exactly the kind of rhetoric that my colleagues have been referring to. So they would like to have it both ways. Khatami is trying to appeal to multiple constituencies simultaneously. What we may see happening now is his failure to attract any of them to a significant degree.
The WMD issue is the one that I'm most concerned about. I mean, that's the biggie.
BROWNBACK: And they continue to pursue that with...
GREEN: Absolutely, absolutely.
BROWNBACK: ... aggressiveness?
GREEN: Oh, I think so. I think so.
BROWNBACK: Well, I mean that's all the reports that I see.
GREEN: Me, too.
BROWNBACK: They continue to support Hizbollah.
GREEN: Hizbollah I regard as less -- a less significant issue in part because they've been trying to diversify with their relationship with the Lebanese government. And ultimately, I think Hizbollah in Lebanon is only as good as its ability to make mischief. I'm hoping that the Barak election and a lot of the movement that you referred to earlier is going to make Hizbollah -- is going to give Hizbollah fewer opportunities to exercise itself.
Interestingly, Iranians are to Hizbollah the way a lot of other foreign forces are perceived by other groups in Lebanon. The Iranian experience in Lebanon has been as frustrating for them as our experience has been to us; the Israelis has been to the Israelis; the French experience has been to the French.
At the end of the day, the Hizbollah won't play. They don't want to turn Lebanon into, you know, (OFF-MIKE) the Islamic Republic of Lebanon. They're not all out studying Persian. They're Lebanese trying to forge a Lebanese solution. And Hizbollah within Lebanon has dual qualities as well. The way the Lebanese regard it is somewhat different than the way in which we regard it.
So I think it's less of an issue. But what I say in the paper, and I believe, the terrorism issue and the Israel issue could change tomorrow. The Iranians, I think, have taken significant steps to clean up their act on those two issues -- not to complete satisfaction. There has been improvement. It may not be enough, but it's somewhat better. But I also think that that could be very ephemeral depending upon other contextual political conditions, the way Dr. Nafisi was talking about, with the German businessman -- I mean, they could go back into the terrorism game big time if they wanted, or the aversion to Israel issue if they wanted.
The WMD issue, however, that has not abated. The problem there is that's not only a bilateral U.S.-Iran issue. It's a bilateral U.S.-Russia issue. And that brings in NATO and a whole variety of other things, so that it makes it a particularly contentious and difficult issue. And then gas (ph) and other things.
BROWNBACK: It strikes me that Iran's objectives have not particularly changed. Their sophistication has. Their external objectives have not changed, but their sophistication at moving so, and perhaps they take some of the edges off of some places in their foreign policy efforts, and in their efforts to spread the revolution. But it's merely grown much more sophisticated.
GREEN: I think I would disagree with you, only in that I think that they have become more realistic about their ability to export the revolution, and they have become more accustomed to failure. And when I -- no place have they succeeded in creating significant long-term mini-Iran-type revolutionary scenarios. I mean, Bahrain they failed. Oman, there were little hints, but not really. I mean no one has really emulated the Iranian revolution.
So what your hypothesizing, and I think it's worth considering, their tactics have failed. Their goals remain the same. They may be trying different tactics, which is what you're suggesting and it's possible.
BROWNBACK: And on a slower road. It may not be -- happen in five years, but we'll get there in 15.
GREEN: See, I think that -- and both of my colleagues mentioned it in a different context. The revolution is now 20 years old. A lot of the enthusiasm, a lot of the naivete, a lot of the excitement, a lot of the freshness has paled. And indeed, when they got out of the exporting the revolution business and they diminished their support for terrorism -- they didn't completely eliminate it, but they diminished it -- suddenly they took off.
What you're suggesting -- and it's quite possibly accurate -- is they're using different techniques to accomplish the same things. I think that the revolution fatigue has also limited their expectations about their ability to transplant what was in fact a uniquely Iranian event, despite the Islamic character of it elsewhere. And that the Islamic world is as diverse as is other portions of the world. It's not Lebanese -- Lebanese muslims are not simply Shi'a muslims. They're also Lebanese. And it's the Iranian part of this that doesn't travel well simply because there are differences. But you may well be right. I mean, I think it's an important issue.
BROWNBACK: Anything else?
LAINGEN: Yes, sir.
BROWNBACK: Mr. Laingen.
LAINGEN: It is a question, I think, as you say of appreciation.
BROWNBACK: Could you get up closer to that mike? I'm having a little trouble hearing you.
LAINGEN: It's a question of appreciable change or something else. There is no question. There is interpretation and perception on the one side, and there is reality on the other. There is no question today that, in my view, that Iran's leadership, particularly Khatami, is concerned about their image, from a variety of reasons, not to -- including economic -- problems of their economy. We haven't talked about that -- which underlie much -- undergird or underline and affect much of the actions of the government today.
Their change of image and their concern about image is not least in the context of Saudi Arabia. Khomeini on his death issued a last will and testament in which he warned his revolutionary colleagues and the people of Iran about the evils, the dangers of dealing with Saudi Arabia -- that nation to the north.
Today, what Iran is doing in terms of reaching out, changing its image, is exemplified particularly vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia. And of course there's an economic factor there. The oil pricing issue and the low cost of oil -- low price on oil recently has been buoyed not least by the degree to which Iran and Saudi Arabia have been able to cooperate in that context.
In the area of perception, I think it is clear that the Iranians have cleaned up their act a little bit -- cleaned up their act a little bit on the field of terrorism broadly. The Arab-Israeli peace process -- that critical factor, I think, in the degree to which the American public sees any change in that regime, it hasn't changed all that much.
Dr. Green has referred to what supposedly assurance that Arafat got at one point. Since then, of course, Khatami himself -- that symbol of supposed change -- when he was in Damascus recently received and talked with some of the more -- most hardline leaders of the anti- Israeli position in the Middle East there.
On weapons of mass destruction, there I think we shouldn't forget that the Iranians regard themselves as a major power in that region; that the regime there today looks around and sees its neighbors engaged in what we call weapons of mass destruction, or the pursuit of some of them -- Pakistan; and the former Soviet Union, Russia, to the north; Iraq and its activities in the past; Israel of course.
The regime there today in terms of weapons of mass destruction, in terms of military prowess is no different essentially from the viewpoint of the Shah of Iran, who wanted to see Iran respected and recognized as the dominant, in-time, regional power and that that should be accompanied by the kind of military prowess that, in his view and in the view of some of the leaders of the revolution today feel must accompany that claim.
BROWNBACK: Well, thank you all very much. It's been a wonderful panel and a good discussion on an important topic that we haven't discussed near enough. And will come -- and will continue to be with us as the U.S. government.
The record will remain open for three days if you would care to add additional comments or writings that you've had into that record. I appreciate greatly your traveling and coming here and sharing of your expertise.
LAINGEN: Senator, I want to put on the record before we disperse the concern that Dr. Nafisi registered about the arrest of the wife of Emir Emfazon (ph) in Tehran that is apparently happening in this context. Emir Emfazon (ph) has suffered for almost 20 years because of his involvement with the United States in the past. He was an acting -- he was a deputy prime minister when I was there after the revolution -- a man whom I continued to respect enormously who has suffered for now 20 years in and out of prison, and I regret deeply and I hope it is not true that his wife has now been arrested as well.
BROWNBACK: Well, I think we have to do much to publicize these people who are in prison there, and advocate for their freedom -- internationally and push for that. So that's why I hope we can continue to get these names in and pursue those and pursue that publicly.
Thank you very much. The hearing is adjourned.