HAASS: I don't think so. I think there is, though, a concern about bringing this to a head in a way that would spook the international oil markets, that oil prices two or three times where they are, which could be the external shock that would cause the double dip.
But I do think the administration policy is still to try to use sanctions, use clandestine methods to try to slow down the Iranian nuclear program. They want to avoid the choice, Christiane. They want to avoid that choice between either accepting or acquiescing an Iranian nuclear weapons program, or launching a preventative military strike against it.
AMANPOUR: And actually, they're actually trying to, I think, condition against a military strike, because every time you hear somebody talking about it, you hear, oh, my goodness, but look at the unintended consequences. It would be so bad. But sanctions haven't worked. They're still doing it. What are the options now, if you really want to prevent a nuclear Iran?
WRIGHT: Look, there are a couple of things that haven't been done in terms of sanctions. One is dealing with a central bank.
AMANPOUR: But they still don't want to do that.
WRIGHT: No. Well, the Congress has just voted, you know, recently, 100 to nothing, to impose sanctions on countries, companies, et cetera, that do business through the central bank. But there's also the issue of oil, and this is one where, whether it's the European Union taking the lead, or the United States, that's one that's down the road.
I don't think that even though Iran is likely to be the dominant or the new big issue of 2012, that we're likely to see any kind of military strike by the United States or Israel during that period. I think no one believes that we're at that point, that action really needs to be taken. And that's true, even among Israeli intelligence analysts.
AMANPOUR: But so what does it mean? Does one go back to a containment of Iran? Does one try to live with a nuclear Iran? What does this all mean?
WRIGHT: Well, and the problem is also you can't bomb knowledge, and the Iranians have reached a certain point that what do you bomb and what can you damage, and how much would you set back the program, and how much do you actually rally Iranians around the idea of at -- we need a nuclear weapon now because we are being attacked by the outside world.
So it changes the political dynamics and -- on that issue as well...
AMANPOUR: But how troubling is Iran going to be for the United States in the next 12 months?
HAASS: Well, it's going to be extraordinarily troubling. Iran was the great beneficiary of the Iraq war. It's dramatically improved Iran's strategic position. High oil prices improved Iran's strategic position. Some of the events in the Arab world, with one important exception -- Syria -- have in many ways helped Iran. So Iran has emerged as a major regional actor.
You mentioned Turkey before, along with Turkey, obviously, with Israel, we'll see what Egypt becomes. So this is now part of the mix. And what this also means is U.S. influence is probably down.
We're at a situation right now where our interests in this troubled part of the world, our interests are far greater than our influence. It's never a comfortable point for a policymaker. But I think that's the truth, that in some ways we're as much bystander to events as we are influencer.