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Zakaria: Oil prices make it hard for U.S. to pressure Iran

  • Story Highlights
  • Zakaria says high price of oil makes Iran less vulnerable to economic pressure
  • Potentially more moderate opponent to Ahmadinejad elected Parliament speaker
  • Israeli attack on Iran would delay, not destroy, Iran's nuclear program, Zakaria says
  • He also says Israeli attack could give Iran's current regime new life
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Fareed Zakaria is a preeminent foreign affairs analyst He spoke to CNN about the status of U.S. and Mideast relations with Iran and interviews Iran's foreign minister on "Fareed Zakaria: GPS" Sunday at 1pm ET

Fareed Zakaria say it's going to be hard for the U.S. and Europe to pressure Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

Fareed Zakaria say it's going to be hard for the U.S. and Europe to pressure Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Amid allegations of Iranian aid to Iraqi insurgents, Iran's effort to build a nuclear bomb and a report on an increase in U.S. covert operations in Iran, analyst Fareed Zakaria takes a look at possible changes in the country's leadership and assesses the threat Iran could pose to Mideast stability.

CNN: Is the situation with regard to Iran getting more serious?

Zakaria: Well, the efforts of the United States and Europe to put Iran in a box, because of its refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment, are facing two problems. First, it will be very difficult to get a new round of even stiffer sanctions through the United Nations. Second, with oil at $140 a barrel, the Iranian regime is likely to be impervious to economic pressure.

CNN: Is there any sign of a shift in Iran?

Zakaria: One can read tea leaves. It is interesting Iran hasn't rejected the new offers from the United States and Europe. It is also interesting to see the return and rise of Ali Larijani. He is the senior Iranian political figure who was sacked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as national security adviser.

He has returned and was elected speaker of the Parliament with a huge majority. There is speculation that he might run for president against Ahmadinejad. But this is all just reading tea leaves.

CNN: If he were to gain power, would that be good for the United States?

Zakaria: Larijani is not a warm, cuddly pro-Western Iranian who wants to give up the country's nuclear program. He is somebody who is an integral part of Iran's theocracy. He comes from a distinguished clerical family himself.

But compared with Ahmadinejad, he is clearly a moderate and a pragmatist. The crucial question with Iran going forward: Is it a regime we can deal with, bargain with and deter in a rational manner?

CNN: What do you make of Israel's recent military maneuvers?

Zakaria: I think we have to broaden our horizons and look at this carefully. Israel has opened negotiations in various ways with Egypt, Syria and more quietly with Jordan. Then it flew 100 of its F-16s and F-15s more than 900 miles, roughly the distance between Israel and Iran's main Natanz nuclear-enrichment facility. It is conceivable that Israel is making diplomatic overtures to its Arab neighbors while preparing for a military strike against Iran. Video Watch CNN's Fareed Zakaria interview Iran's foreign minister »

CNN: What would be the effects of that?

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Zakaria: It's difficult to say in advance. Many Arab states would be secretly pleased (remember Shia, Persian Iran has always been seen as a rival to the Arab Sunni states in the region) but would publicly condemn it.

But the great danger is that such an attack would only delay the Iranian program by a few years but not destroy it. Also, an Israeli attack would serve to rally the whole Iranian nation around the regime and give it a new lease on life.

All About IranMahmoud AhmadinejadIsrael

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