CBS: Former CIA Agent Calls For U.S. Appeasement of Iran

Kimberly Dozier, CBS On CBS’s Sunday Morning, correspondent Kimberly Dozier interviewed former C.I.A. agent Robert Baer, who argued that Iran: "...is empire by proxy. You get people -- it's like Communism. You get people to go along with you and your vision of the world. And they're saying, you know, ‘we can finally drive the United States out of the Middle East.’" Dozier added: "Unless, Baer says, we give President Ahmadinejad and his religious backers what they want."

Baer explained what Iran wants: "First of all, they want to be recognized as a major power in the Gulf...By the United States, by the Europeans. They want to be deferred to on big issues like Iraq and Afghanistan, issues that directly affect them." Dozier asked: "But in a sense, wouldn't the U.S., wouldn't Europe be rewarding them for bad behavior?" Baer replied: "Well, we would be. But does it matter? We have to be pragmatic about this."

Dozier went on to explain: "If we don't negotiate, Baer worries, the United States may find itself in yet another war we can't afford to fight." Baer exclaimed: "And do we really want to take down the most powerful country in the Middle East? I mean, we've just taken down Iraq, the second most powerful country, and it hasn't done a bit of good for anybody in the region." Dozier interjected: "It's a mess." Baer agreed: "It's a mess and it's going to remain a mess. Let's talk them back into the game of nations."

In addition to calling for appeasement toward Iran, Baer also blamed the recent strengthening of Iran on the war in Iraq: "It's been totally a gift to Iran because Saddam and his regime were a dam against Iranian influence. And it was a very effective dam...And we destroyed that old system and we opened it up to Iranian influence and they're going to infiltrate." Dozier concluded: "And Iran is poised and eager, he says, to spread that influence from Iraq throughout the Middle East."

Throughout the segment, Dozier suggested that it was important for the Obama administration to listen to Baer: "...he decided to put lessons learned into a new book, 'The Devil We Know.' Lessons he hopes the new American president will heed...As he revealed in his press conference last Monday, President Obama seems to be considering his options." Sunday Morning host, Charles Osgood, introduced Dozier’s report by declaring: "...with all the straws in the wind now about a new U.S. approach toward Iran, a former spy’s experiences in that country may be just what our new administration needs to hear." Dozier ended the segment by declaring: "It's a provocative idea from a man who's led a provocative life. One who knows how dangerous the world can be from the inside out and is still trying to change it."

Here are the relevant portions of the segment:

9:00AM TEASE

CHARLES OSGOOD: Not all the problems facing the new administration revolve around our domestic economy. Foreign policy issues face the White House too. Including the challenge posed by one particular country in the Middle East. And who better to say, 'I know what to do,' than someone who used to be able to say, 'I spy.' Kimberly Dozier will be reporting our cover story.

KIMBERLY DOZIER: Though he might not look the part, Robert Baer is a spy. At least, he used to be. Is it like 'I Spy'? Is it like James Bond?

DANA BAER: It can be.

ROBERT BAER: It can be, there are days when you feel like James Bond, yeah.

DOZIER: Really?

DANA BAER: Oh yes.

BAER: Yeah.

DOZIER: For two decades he was a top agent with the C.I.A., and now he's speaking out because an old nemesis has him worried.

BAER: My social contacts are all in the Middle East and they told me they're terrified of Iran. They see a new Iranian empire.

DOZIER: A real-life spy story later on Sunday Morning.

9:08AM SEGMENT:

OSGOOD: 'I Spy' is the name of an old TV series you may remember, with all the straws in the wind now about a new U.S. approach toward Iran, a former spy's experiences in that country may be just what our new administration needs to hear. Our cover story is reported now by Kimberly Dozier.

KIMBERLY DOZIER: Where do old spies go to retire? This one came to Berkeley, California. For 21 years, Robert Baer was one of the C.I.A.'s top undercover agents. In fact, so was his wife Dana. I'm having trouble picturing, you both were spies?

ROBERT BAER: We were. We met in Sarajevo. We were doing counter-terrorism.

DOZIER: While Bob did the spying, Dana was his shooter, watching over him with a loaded gun in case of trouble.

DANA BAER: I supported some of the things that he was doing.

DOZIER: Now what does that mean? He says you were a shooter.

BAER: I probably can't say.

DOZIER: They left the C.I.A. more than a decade ago, trading the car chases and shootouts for domestic bliss, California style. Last year, they adopted a little girl from their old stomping grounds in Pakistan. They named her Kyber. Should be enough, right? Not quite yet. Bob Baer is still a man on a mission. He spent much of his time as a spy in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Iran. And he decided to put lessons learned into a new book, 'The Devil We Know.' Lessons he hopes the new American president will heed.

BAER: Iran is the third rail of international relations. You know, it helped Carter lose his presidency and almost took Reagan down. It took me 15 years to begin to decode the Middle East, and that's living there constantly. And only then did I start to figure things out.

DOZIER: What he's figured out is the time has come for a radical shift in policy. Iran is too smart and dangerous an adversary, he says, to remain our enemy. Iran took American hostages. Iran has backed terrorist attacks on American targets. You're saying see them as a constructive force?

BAER: Look, I liken this paradigm shift to China in the 60's -- end of the '60s, China was going through the cultural revolution. Mao Tse Tung was our -- one of our worst enemies. Yet, Kissinger and Nixon saw the opportunity to change this power around. We sat down and we talked to them and we made a deal, which has worked.

DOZIER: Baer believes Iran is not what it seems on TV. An unpredictable, extremist country driven by religious frenzy. He sees a smart, calculating leadership that presents one face to the world while working through powerful proxies behind the scenes.

...

BAER: When I was last here more than 25 years ago, Iran was one of the United States' greatest allies in the region. Now it is one of our greatest enemies.

DOZIER: It was while filming the documentary that Baer realized something big was happening.

BAER: My social contacts are all in the Middle East and they told me they're terrified of Iran. Not the Iran we see, but the Iran they see. They see a new Iranian empire.

DOZIER: Baer believes that while removing Saddam Hussein from power was necessary, the Iraq war was bungled. You're saying the way the U.S. invaded Iraq has been a gift to Iran?

BAER: It's been totally a gift to Iran because Saddam and his regime were a dam against Iranian influence. And it was a very effective dam. They fought a war for eight years and they stopped the Iranians. And the Iranians were terrified of setting foot in Iraq under the old system.

DOZIER: And now?

BAER: And we destroyed that old system and we opened it up to Iranian influence and they're going to infiltrate.

DOZIER: And Iran is poised and eager, he says, to spread that influence from Iraq throughout the Middle East.

BAER: Iran uses proxies. This is empire by proxy. You get people -- it's like Communism. You get people to go along with you and your vision of the world. And they're saying, you know, ‘we can finally drive the United States out of the Middle East.’

DOZIER: Unless, Baer says, we give President Ahmadinejad and his religious backers what they want.

BAER: First of all, they want to be recognized as a major power in the Gulf.

DOZIER: By the United States?

BAER: By the United States, by the Europeans. They want to be deferred to on big issues like Iraq and Afghanistan, issues that directly affect them.

DOZIER: But in a sense, wouldn't the U.S., wouldn't Europe be rewarding them for bad behavior?

BAER: Well, we would be. But does it matter? We have to be pragmatic about this.

DOZIER: As he revealed in his press conference last Monday, President Obama seems to be considering his options.

BARACK OBAMA: My national security team is currently reviewing our existing Iran policy, looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue, where we can directly engage with them.

DOZIER: If we don't negotiate, Baer worries, the United States may find itself in yet another war we can't afford to fight.

BAER: And do we really want to take down the most powerful country in the Middle East? I mean, we've just taken down Iraq, the second most powerful country, and it hasn't done a bit of good for anybody in the region.

DOZIER: It's a mess.

BAER: It's a mess and it's going to remain a mess. Let's talk them back into the game of nations.

DOZIER: It's a provocative idea from a man who's led a provocative life. One who knows how dangerous the world can be from the inside out and is still trying to change it.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC