RICHARDSON: There are three main reasons why we should be concerned about Iran. One, obviously, is their claim that they want to have nuclear weapons. We can't allow that to happen. Two, I believe a stronger Iran threatens our main ally in the region, which is Israel. Three, they obviously are disrupting the situation in Iraq with their support for radical terrorist elements. What I do, David, in a negotiation—and I'm sure all of you do—is to ask what the other side has that I need, and what do I have that we can give. What are our common areas where we can reach agreement? With Iran, it would be very difficult to negotiate with Ahmadi-Nejad. He just seems an ideologue. But there are other elements there in the Foreign Ministry. If you look at Iran, 40 percent of the Iranian people seem to vote for moderate, progressive candidates in presidential elections. I would be talking to them more directly—student exchanges, business exchanges, efforts to reach out that somehow we don't exploit because they, quote, engage in bad behavior. What else does Iran want that we have? Well, Iran doesn't want sanctions, especially on energy, since that's their highest source of revenue. They don't want UN Security Council sanctions, as much as they defy them. I think that's a card that we have. What do we want Iran not to have? We don't want them to have nuclear weapons. But maybe they can have civilian nuclear power that Russia seems willing to produce and control for them. Maybe that's a common interest. I don't know all the answers, David, but I do know that any nation wants stability on their borders. Look at the Iran-Iraq war. I think for many years Iran wanted stability on their borders, and they weren't getting it. They're fomenting instability in Iraq now, but I believe in the context of a broader Persian Gulf strategic balance, Iran may be interested in a stable Iraq that isn't causing problems on their border.
REMNICK: Under what circumstances, if any, would you use the military against Iran?
RICHARDSON: Well, I think you have to have the military option on the table if they start developing nuclear weapons. You can't take that off the table. But my approach is not to take the military option or preemption first. There should be diplomacy first.
REMNICK: Do you think that's been the Bush strategy?
RICHARDSON: [LAUGHS] Yes. I think so.
RICHARDSON: I'm not saying military all the time. But there's hostility, there's preemption, there's “Axis of Evil. ” I'd be talking directly to them and using diplomacy. We have some of the world's best diplomats. I'd send Holbrooke over there, because I'm mad at him for not showing up. [LAUGHTER]
REMNICK: He's in Kazakhstan. I'm going to ask one more question and then we'll open it up. You mentioned that every once in a while in post-war history, something disastrous takes place, and someone proposes a Marshall Plan for it. You're now talking about a Marshall Plan for Iraq, the Middle East and so on. What exactly does that mean?