Martin Indyk joined Andrea Mitchell to discuss the inauguration of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to a second term as president of Iran. Indyk and Mitchell also spoke about former President Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea, in which he secured a pardon for two U.S. journalists being held by the government.
Andrea Mitchell: Martin Indyk joins us know, Martin thanks so much. What have we learned in the last couple of days — or weeks — about Iran and the direction it is taking? Given the fact that the protests do not seem to have prevented the inauguration of Ahmadinejad, we now have to deal with him?
Martin Indyk: In one way or another that’s very true Andrea. But the fact is we are dealing with a leadership, not just Ahmadinejad but also the Supreme Leader Khamenei, whose legitimacy is now being challenged almost on a daily basis by people in the streets of Iran and by people within the regime, including some of the former mainstays of the regime.
That makes it clear that Iran is not ten feet tall, in the way that it looked up until this election to many, especially in the Middle East region. It means that the leadership is inevitably going to be preoccupied. And overall its status and legitimacy internationally is going to be questioned.
And so, in some ways that makes it perhaps easier to deal with the kind of challenges this regime has been putting forward. But on the other hand, it becomes entirely unpredictable as to how they will proceed. Will they, in response to this domestic challenge, take a tougher stand internationally? Or will they try to seek to engage with the Obama administration as a way of legitimizing themselves at home?
It’s a very fluid situation, and we are going to have to be very agile with the way that we deal with it.
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[The exchange of threats and military posturing between the United States and North Korea] raises the stakes. With the United States and others talking far too loosely about the prospects of a pre-emptive strike, that’s what would trigger retaliatory actions by North Korea.
[With the current level of tensions over North Korea,] [w]e could stumble needlessly into what would be the biggest crisis in East Asia since the United States intervened in the Korean War in 1950