Very sobering conversation, both on the Hillary email scandal front as well as what options we have with Iran.
HH: I’m joined by senior fellow, Larry Diamond, whose work is familiar with any of you who have followed foreign affairs for the last 20 plus years. Larry, welcome, it’s great to talk to you.
LD: Thank you, Hugh.
HH: What’s your reaction to the Hillary Clinton emails story?
LD: I find it troubling. Until we know more, I don’t want to render a stronger opinion, but it’s troubling in two obvious respects. Number one, it doesn’t sound like it was the most secure way to conduct business as secretary of State, and number two it sounds like the complete and total failure to use a State Department email address at all sounds like it may have been a deliberate strategy for evading ultimate accountability or transparency in her conduct of the role.
HH: Now looking abroad at foreign intelligence services, both hostile and friendly, they’re pretty good at this, right? They can find unencrypted emails, and they can follow them, and they would never tell us, right? I mean, even our allies who might have known that she was using unencrypted email wouldn’t necessarily tell us, would they?
LD: No, you can be sure of that. And one thing I can say is that the development of intercept technology for electronic communications in general, and that means not only phone and cell phone, but obviously email, the development of this capacity has been very impressive. And nobody’s better at it than the Russians and the Chinese.
HH: Oh, interesting…
LD: Except the United States, by the way, and so you know, you can take it from there.
HH: Well, where I take it is on a political level. If I’m a Democrat operative, all of a sudden, my candidate has got 50,000 emails out there, any number of which could be in the hands of foreign governments or hostile political forces and could then be dropped at any time.
LD: Yeah. I mean, I’m not worried about that. Let me say two things that modify what you said. I’m worried about the possibility that the Russians and the Chinese, and God knows who else, could have been intercepting these in real time, number one.
HH: Does al Qaeda and ISIS have this kind of capability?
LD: No, no.
HH: They don’t.
LD: And by the way…
HH: Iran would, though, right?
LD: Gmail is a pretty secure technology, so I’m not an internet security expert, but a lot of people use Gmail, because it is much more secure than many other email systems. But the best can probably crack even that. But the second thing that I’d worry about if I were a Democratic operative is not that there’s stuff out there that somebody’s holding and might issue out during a campaign, it’s that my candidate, the only candidate for the Democratic Party in 2016, who seems at all viable at the moment, you know, has a major issue raised about her responsibility and credibility that wasn’t there a few days ago.
HH: Larry, I don’t think you’re old enough to remember Alexander Butterfield testifying before the Senate.
LD: Oh, yeah.
HH: Oh, you do? And how jaws dropped? That’s this kind of a day, isn’t it, when people’s jaws drop and say 50,000 emails?
LD: It’s, Hugh, it is a major development. It’s a major development in the revelation about the recent conduct of foreign policy, and frankly, without passing too much of a final judgment on it, yet, because I think there’s a lot more to be revealed, my gut is telling me it’s a major development in the 2016 presidential race.
HH: Now let me ask you about, and I’ve been interviewing people for two years about Hillary and what she accomplished at State since she left. Inevitably, her defenders say she got a lot done in Burma. You are yourself, you say you’re not an expert on Burma, but you know a lot more about Burma than most people. What did she get done in Burma? And is it an accomplishment that is a feather in her cap?
LD: Well, it wasn’t only her. It was Barack Obama himself. But the Obama administration and Hillary as secretary of State did help to achieve a political opening in Burma. This is a country that was a very hard, very repressive, simply brutal authoritarian regime, a military regime, one of the purest military regimes in the world for more than half a century. And you know, the regime was wanting to break out of its isolation. And she helped the United States and Burma to achieve a rapprochement, and encouraged a political opening that is going to lead this November to the first multi-party, open, competitive elections since the military cancelled the last ones in 1990. And that, in my opinion, is not going to lead to democracy. I don’t think the military is going to allow that. And I think Burma is going to wind up looking a lot more at the end of this, say, at the end of this year, like Cambodia, which is kind of semi-one party state.
HH: Then the question becomes is Burma better off today than it was six years ago?
LD: I think it unambiguously is, and I don’t know a single Burmese democrat, not one, who would say that it is not.
HH: So it’s a legitimate accomplishment, even if it’s not sufficient to freedom?
LD: Yes, yes, it is. It’s an opening. My fear is that if we don’t keep the heat on, then it could slip back in ways that don’t need to happen. But that’s now a matter for the remaining less than two years of Barack Obama’s second term, and not for Hillary Clinton to be held accountable for.
HH: Now on sanctions, generally, the Prime Minister of Israel gave a big speech yesterday. Ambassador Dermer began the show today. The New York Times has a story that he’s nudged towards allowing enrichment capability in Tehran. What did you make of the speech? What do you make of where we are with Iran right now?
LD: So I come out a little bit differently than I think you and your listeners predominantly may, and I would come out this way by posing this question. We have four options now. One is to simply close everything down, give up, and let Iran become probably within two or three years a nuclear weapon state. The second is to ratchet up, to accept that this is not a good deal, ratchet up the sanctions, and hope that that will bring them to reason. I don’t see a huge chance of that happening.
LD: One reason why is because the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and a lot of the hardest liners in the regime, yeah, it’s hurting the regime, these sanctions, but in some ways, the certain elites in the regime are actually benefiting from the sanctions.
LD: The third option is that we bomb, and fourth is that we get a deal. And you know, basically…
HH: One minute.
LD: …the hard liners who are saying scratch this deal, it’s not good enough, I think, you know, have to be prepared to say the only option then that’s probably going to work is that we are going to launch, and if you’re serious about it, come on, let’s get real, it’s not going to look like what Israel did against Iraq with the Osirak reactor or against Syria more recently. We’re talking about days of massive, preemptive bombing to level every visible nuclear site in Iran. We’re talking about massive collateral damage to civilian populations, because like Hamas, they’ve been cynical enough to bury a lot of what they do in that, we’re talking about permanent destruction of a lot of precious Islamic sites in places like Isfahan. So you know, maybe in the end we have no choice. But let’s not be unrealistic.
End of interview.