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Albright: Iran nuclear shift shows Obama's policy is working

An interview with the former US secretary of State, in which she discusses Iran, Afghanistan, and the political statements her choice of jewelry makes.

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Gardels: If you were going to meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, what pin would you wear?

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Albright: I have a pin that former US Defense Secretary William Cohen's wife designed of a dove and eagle together. What is going on between the US and Iran involves some incentives and disincentives, some opportunities if they come clean with inspectors or challenges if they face tougher sanctions. I would also wear a green dress suit to honor those fighting for democracy and popular sovereignty in Iran.

Gardels: Speaking of Iran, it is now going to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the enrichment facility near Qom on Oct. 25 and are discussing sending enriched uranium for reprocessing for medical use in Russia. Do you think this means Obama's "smart power" strategy of engaging instead of just confronting Iran is beginning to gain traction?

Albright: I do. As Obama himself has said, of course, so far it is only words from Iran. We'll see if they follow through.

I think any progress has to be attributed to Obama's overall strategy. The speech he gave recently to the General Assembly at the UN established an important context. He called for global cooperation on a variety of issues – including Iran – and said if you don't like American unilateralism you have to help. Then, when he chaired the Security Council, he gathered a consensus on nonproliferation and for a push back against Iran.

Gardels: The Obama administration's sudden shift of the missile defense project in Eastern Europe caused some consternation in Poland and the Czech Republic. Some seem to doubt the US commitment to shielding them from the Russian sphere of influence. Do you agree with the new missile-defense plan?

Albright: I am a strong supporter of NATO and understand Poland and the Czech Republic well. I thought the missile defense plan proposed by the Bush administration, which Obama has just now reviewed and changed, was a mistake in the first place. We didn't know whether those systems worked; the treaties were very badly negotiated: They were bilateral agreements between those countries and the US, and not through NATO. And I know enough about the politics of Poland and the Czech Republic to know how hard it was for them to swallow. The Czech government put itself out for the original plan, and fell from power as a result. It was therefore the right thing for Obama to change the policy with a closer and tighter targeting of missiles against Iran. I do think, though, that NATO must become more involved here.

Gardels: Are those Poles and Czechs who believe Obama's shift signals less commitment to the security of Eastern Europe wrong?