"Even after the Shah (of Iran) was deposed," Carter told co-anchor Harry Smith, "I quickly restored diplomatic relations with Iran. As a matter of fact, that's been proven by the fact I had about 60 diplomats in Iran, and they had an equal number in Washington, so we were continuing to try to communicate with them and work with them. And I think that, now, with increasing evidence that Iran is a dangerous and unpredictable country, the best thing to do is to have a maximum diplomatic relationship.
"They're potentially dangerous and they're certainly unpredictable. But I think that if we could find some way to communicate directly with them, to reassure their fears that we might attack them, which is constantly a drumbeat out of Washington, maybe deliberately from the administration or inadvertent -- Sy Hirsh has written three or four articles in the New Yorker, though I haven't read the latest one, but he's always maintaining that the United States is preparing to attack Iran. They read those articles and they see all the other news, and if they feel that they're going to be attacked, then I think that's one incentive for them to be more militant. So, I think, to assuage their fears, and to tell them the truth about our intentions, would be more helpful."
Still, Smith noted, "It seems to me we've done a pretty clear job of letting our intentions be known, yet they remain recalcitrant, at best. Is a military strike an option?"
"I don't think so," Carter said. "Not at this early stage, and I don't think that anybody in the administration has maintained openly that that is a present option. Every indication I've heard from Condoleezza Rice or President Bush has been, 'We want to resort to diplomatic means to -- as thoroughly as we possibly can before we would consider a military strike.'
"So, I think a military strike against Iran at this time would be completely unnecessary and counterproductive. Iran is a different proposition from what Iraq was when we attacked Iraq. It wouldn't be an easy thing to invade Iran. And where would we get the troops? We don't even have enough troops for Iraq. Where would we get them from? And I don't think we would have any other nation in the world that would join us in any sort of military adventure against Iran. So, diplomacy is the best approach."
Carter's latest book, "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope," covers the work he's done around the world since leaving office -- and continues to do.
He discussed it, and much more on The Early Show Tuesday, including his recent criticism of Sudan for the violence and humanitarian crisis in its Darfur region, his thoughts on the Clinton administration's handling of Sudan, and the big apartheid/Israel controversy he sparked.
A previous book of his, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," and subsequent remarks about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, prompted an uproar from Jewish groups and the resignation of 14 people from an advisory board of the Carter Center, the 25-year-old Atlanta-based humanitarian organization.
Asked Tuesday by Smith if he has any regrets over the book or the remarks, Carter replied, "No, not at all. The book is absolutely correct, and I think it was necessary and has played a good role and was overwhelmingly approved, although there were some that objected to it. The book was written about Palestine, not Israel. And the second word in the title, as you just mentioned, was 'peace,' not apartheid. And I think a lot of people adopted the word 'apartheid' as the No. 1 thrust of the book and it's not even mentioned in the book, as a matter of fact.
"But, I think the peace effort that's belatedly gonna be attempted in November is a very good development. As you know, for seven years, since Bill Clinton left office, we've had not a single day of good-faith negotiations between Israel and its neighbors, and it's highly overdue. And my hope is that we'll see some constructive efforts being made on the Palestinian side and the Israeli side when they convene in the United States in November."
To read an excerpt of, "Beyond the White House," click here.
To see the entire interview with Cater,
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