Cole Interview on CNN Monday
YOUR WORLD TODAY Aired January 29, 2007 – 12:00 ET
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Now, from the raging battle outside Iraq, to the political posturing by Washington and Tehran, what’s really at stake? Earlier, we spoke with Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan, first asking him about that cult that was allegedly aiming to reshape religious and political history.
JUAN COLE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: The Iranians are coming into Iraq for development aid. They’ve pledged a billion dollars, there are going to be joint refineries. And the U.S. announcement that it would kill or capture anyone that it thought was an intelligence agent has the potential for roiling relationships between the two.
CLANCY: Now, the U.S., Washington, clearly upset with Iran’s nuclear program, but it’s important to remember here there’s a complete difference between Iran and other countries in the Middle East, and that’s say it’s not only because it’s Shia, and these are Iranians and the other countries are Arabs. It’s because if you go to the street in Iran, you will find people that are very supportive of Americans, want good relationships, while leadership is very anti- American.
This is the opposite what you find in other Arab countries. How important is it for Washington to take that into account as they go ahead with what appears to be confrontational policy?
COLE: Well, the Iranian public is very pro-American, and it’s one of the few publics in the Middle East, I think, that would reform, if it could, in a way that was friendly to U.S. interests. If the United States goes into a frontal confrontation with Iran, however, it will push the Iranian public away. The Iranians are very nationalistic and they don’t want to be dominated by the U.S.
CLANCY: Let’s go back and focus though on the situation in Iraq. This short-term troop increase appears to be a last-ditch effort to improve security in the country.
What chance does this mission have and the overall mission in Iraq?
COLE: Well, I think it’s very difficult for the United States to establish security in Iraq now. We simply don’t have enough troops to do proper counterinsurgency. And the country really is now mobilized politically.
As we have just seen, you know, the Shiite south was considered to be relatively calm. Then out of nowhere you get this millenarian movement that thinks the promised one of Islam is about to come, and invades Najaf, so the country is really in a great deal of chaos. And securing a few neighbors in Baghdad just isn’t going to do it.
CLANCY: What would do it? Will anything do it? Does anyone have an answer?
COLE: Well, I think the big Iraqi political leaders, who are usually communal leaders as well, need craft a national pact, a compromise that they can all live with and convince each other to put away their arms. This is the kind of thing that ended the Lebanese civil war in 1989. That’s the only thing really that would work in Iraq.
CLANCY: We don’t see much leadership there in Baghdad. Often the elected leaders wait until someone form outside the country comes in with these ideas.
Does Iraq have a leadership problem?
COLE: Well, there are big communal leaders — Abdul Aziz al- Hakim of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Kurdish leaders. The problem is that they’re not willing to compromise with one other.
They’re pushing for their maximum goals. And I think the U.S. could do the most good by just knocking some heads together and getting them to compromise.
CLANCY: Some advice there for Washington coming from Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan.