Madeline Albright on Obama and Iran

Madeline Albright on Obama and Iran

By Rachel Maddow Show - June 23, 2009

MADDOW: Joining us now is someone who knows a thing or two about diplomatic specificity. She is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Madam Secretary, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER PRES. CLINTON: Good to be with you, Rachel. Very nice to see you again.

MADDOW: Thank you.

So the president has been criticized on the right in American politics for not doing enough with respect to Iran. I wonder if it's worth starting to ask now if it's possible that he's doing too much, if these statements that he's made about Iran have been used against the interest of the opposition forces.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think he's taken absolutely the right tact and I'm very interested in the way that you have really codified to show that he's been saying the same thing, and very appropriately. And I think being very concerned about not being used as a football. I think he's made that point also a number of times.

I think that it is bound to happen as the Iranian regime feels increasingly under pressure, that they are looking for outside excuses. They had already blamed the British. They had blamed us for a number of things before.

But I think the president's taken absolutely the right tact in sympathizing with the crowds and understanding the complications of the situation and making clear what the international community stands for.

MADDOW: In terms of specific decisions that the president and the

administration as a whole have to make about what to do about Iran, there's

a very interesting question today from Nico Pitney at the "Huffington Post"

and I think it's received more attention for the fact that the president called on Mr. Pitney than what the question was itself. But he asked, essentially, what the U.S. government is going to do when it comes time to decide whether or not we are going to call him, "President Ahmadinejad"; whether we're actually going to recognize that government when Ahmadinejad, if and when, he is sworn in.

Does the U.S. really have a decision to make there? Do we have to call him president and recognize him as president because that regime will say that he is?

ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we have no diplomatic relations with Iran, and we have been dealing through a European group of ministers and through various other intermediaries, so I don't think the question will come up.

I think the issue is, ultimately: what are U.S. national interests? And I believe that the president said, we are very concerned about the direction Iran is going in on the nuclear program. And ultimately, I think we have to figure out how to deal with that.

But we don't have diplomatic relations with them, which is one of the issues that we don't have to decide what we're going to call him.

But I have to say this, Rachel, we have dealt with a lot of odious people in order to deal with issues that are larger. For instance, we dealt with Stalin; we dealt with Mao Tse-tung. We have dealt with other people that we don't like when we have to deal with America's national interests. And the truth is, that the nuclear proliferation is one of the biggest problems that we have.

MADDOW: In terms of what is going to happen in Iran, what sort of the end game is here, with all of the national and international transformations that you've seen and that you've been part of as secretary of state and in your other diplomatic roles-what do you see as the range of possible outcomes here? Is it possible that Mousavi will end up being president? Is it possible that Iran ends up with a new structure of government because of this uprising?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think anything's possible. But I do think, what is fascinating, Rachel, is that while something might not happen immediately, from everything that I have studied about Iran, this is a sea change.

All these hundreds of thousands of people out there-and fascinatingly enough-as you've said, calling for, you know, "God is great," they are not trying to show that they are not religious. They want to see their country respected. And so, there are those that are really Iranian experts who say that nothing will ever be the same.

I do think that the ayatollahs and the regime have a great deal of strength, and the courage of the crowds are amazing, but it's very hard to tell where this is going except to say that nothing will ever be the same in Iran.

MADDOW: One thing that I think has been surprising and interesting, as an American watching this, is how engaged Americans are with this story, how much hunger there is for information about this, how emotionally engaged we are with the struggle that's played out in Iran's streets.

Is there anything that the American people-not our government-but American citizens should do or could do to sort of, I guess, have an act of furtherance to sort of events what-how we have been moved by what we've seen happening there?

ALBRIGHT: Well, it's kind of a two-level thing and it's interesting you asked it that way, because I think, the government-the U.S. government has to be very careful not to become the football, as we have been saying, and not to be the story.

On the other hand, dissidents and those who protest around the world are always very encouraged when they know that Americans care. And through all this modern technology, it is so evident that we are always on the side of those who want freedom.

And for me, Rachel, what this shows is democracy is alive and well. You know, people question whether people want to make decisions about their own lives, and what you're seeing out there on the streets is people want to be in control of their own lives. And democracy from below is something that is a very, very powerful movement.

MADDOW: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright-it's always a real honor to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us tonight.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Rachel.


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