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Iran's Chief of Parliament on Nuclear Deal; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 1, 2015 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: trying to calm the Iran nuclear deal jitters.


ALI LARIJANI, SPEAKER OF IRAN'S PARLIAMENT (through translator): We are in no way anti-Semitic. Actually, we respect Jews and Judaism.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): My exclusive interview with the speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Larijani, addressing fears in Israel and in the U.S.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Chancellor Angela Merkel, folk hero to the rising tide of refugees, we ask Germany's immigration commissioner how long

she can keep the welcome mat out.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

There are only weeks left for the hardliners in the United States and in Iran to derail the historic nuclear deal and it is getting ugly.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard today lashed out at the United States, insisting that it is still the Great

Satan; while some American opponents of the deal are also using offensive language, comparing supporters to Nazi collaborators.

Despite all of this momentum is in President Obama's favor as he seeks to shore up the necessary votes to keep the deal from dying. And

indications are that the deal will be approved in Iran, though the Supreme Leader has kept mum on his stance so far.


AMANPOUR: Tonight, an exclusive interview with one of Iran's most powerful people, the head of his parliament and the former chief nuclear

negotiator, Ali Larijani. He joined me earlier from New York.


AMANPOUR: Dr. Larijani, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining us from New York today.

ALI LARIJANI, SPEAKER OF IRAN'S PARLIAMENT (through translator): OK. It's good to be here. I'm ready to answer your questions.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Larijani, can you tell me, as speaker of the Iranian parliament and a former chief nuclear negotiator, do you support this deal

that has been reached with the United States and other world powers?

LARIJANI (through translator): In general, I think this is an acceptable agreement. There might be some shortcomings in it, but overall

I think it's a good deal.

AMANPOUR: The Supreme Leader has not yet said whether he fully backs it or not; he's praised the negotiators.

But will it be accepted by Iran and the institutions?

LARIJANI (through translator): I cannot tell you for sure now. We have to look into the positives and the negatives of the deal. But I can

tell you that the parliament will pass its judgment in a month.

AMANPOUR: Well, that time is around about the time that the U.S. parliament, the United States Congress, will also come to its judgment.

What is your view of the incredibly divisive debate inside the United States on this deal?

LARIJANI (through translator): Yes, I've heard about those hot debates going on in the U.S. Congress. And I believe that there are some

people over there who are exaggerating things and they are saying things like the deal is hugely in favor of Iran.

But anyway, I should tell you that the Americans continued to bully us even during the negotiations. But ultimately -- and thank God, the Islamic

Republic of Iran managed to fulfill some of its demands and to put several things in the deal which are in our favor.

And it is a beginning for a better understanding for other issues as well, I mean, the regional and international issues. And I think because

there was not such a proper understanding in the past, that there were some challenges between us.

AMANPOUR: You speak fairly positively. Yet the head of the Revolutionary Guard has today called the United States still the Great

Satan, despite this deal.

Do you believe that?

Is the United States still the Great Satan for Iran?

LARIJANI (through translator): You know, it was the U.S. -- I mean, the former president of the U.S., that started different wars in my region,

which resulted in huge damages.

So I just wanted to remind you that it is because of such actions --


LARIJANI (through translator): -- that people in Iran are using those terms or are pessimistic about the relationship between Iran and the U.S.

And as I said, if the U.S. chooses to adopt a more realistic approach and attitude towards Iran, then those habits and those terms will naturally


AMANPOUR: Many, many people say that if it wasn't for Iran's military support to the Assad regime, along with Hezbollah, that this war would have

been over a long time ago.

Iran now promises to deliver a peace plan to end the war.

When will we see it?

LARIJANI (through translator): If not for Iranian help in Syria, the terrorists would have advanced even further.

And you should have no doubt that Syria would end up in a situation that was much worse than the situation in Libya.

And you know, that we rushed to the help of Iraqis when they were attacked by ISIS.

I believe that Iran and Hezbollah acted very responsibly; we were the ones who helped the Iraqis.

And let me tell you about Syria, that, from the very beginning, we always said that the Syrian crisis needs a political solution.

Now we are ready to contribute to such a solution, a solution that is based on democracy and a national reconciliation government, in which even

the minorities have their rights. But I think we need to do more about this so that this mechanism will become operational in that country.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Larijani, how quickly do you expect sanctions to be lifted against Iran?

And can you understand the very serious concerns that people in the United States, legislators in the United States and governments around the

region in the Middle East, they are very worried that if so much more money pours into Iran it will be used to fund the kinds of operations that they

all find very, very threatening?

LARIJANI (through translator): I believe that there is a number of neighbors, Iran neighbors, that have their own internal problems and they

are trying to hide those problems behind a kind of Iranophobia.

Let me ask you a question; in the last 200 years, has Iran invaded another country?

Have we invaded or attacked an Arab country?

But actually, it was Iran that was attacked by an Arab country. I mean, by Iraq and by Saddam Hussein. And when it happened, many Arab

countries supported Saddam Hussein. But let me tell you that Iran does not have any intention to attack any other country.

I mean, if they really want to have a lasting security and political stability, they have to enter a kind of cooperation with Iran.

And let me tell you that this is Islamic Republic of Iran's strategy, to have cooperation, coordination and collaboration with its neighbors.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Israel and also to American Jews, because there is a very strong opposition in Israel and deep divisions inside the

United States amongst the Jewish community.

Even President Obama calls the Iranian government and the Iranian system "anti-Semitic" and committed to Israel's destruction.

Can you say anything that would reassure Israel that you are not committed to the destruction of that country?

LARIJANI (through translator): You see, what you said or what they say that Iran is anti-Semitic is all wrong. We don't have any problem with

Judaism. We believe that it is a heavenly religion. We have so much respect for the Jews, for the Prophet of God, Moses, peace be upon him, and

for his heavenly book, Torah. We believe that Moses was a great prophet.

And you know that there are Jews living in Iran like -- a small minority; 20,000 Jews. But they have their own representative --


LARIJANI (through translator): -- in the Iranian parliament. We do try to respect the rights of all religious minorities, like the Christians,

Zoroastrians and the Jews. And they are represented in the Iranian parliament.

We are in no way anti-Semitic. Actually, we respect Jews and Judaism.

But we have problems with Israel because we always ask ourselves questions, why should some people make other people displaced, drive them

out of their homes and these people, these Palestinians, these Muslims need to leave their motherland and go in camps, live in other countries, live in


And then why should we replace them with Jews from other places in the world?

Why so much violence against Muslims in Palestine?

This is a bitter truth of our time. They are forcing a nation out of their homes and replacing them with another one. This is wrong; this is an

oppression. And this is not something that we can tolerate.

AMANPOUR: Well, can I just get it straight?

Does Iran envision attacking Israel then?

LARIJANI (through translator): Several years ago, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, came up with a solution for this problem,

which I think is totally compatible with democratic principles.

He said that the solution actually lies in a referendum. There should be a referendum in occupied territories and people -- all people --

Muslims, Jews and Christians -- should participate in that referendum. And they should choose their own destiny.

Whatever they decide should be implemented. And this solution is the one that Iran will adhere to. This is our -- in our vision. And I think

this is something that is, as I said, compatible with democratic principles.

AMANPOUR: One last question: you have just struck a deal with the United States and other world powers and yet you hold several Americans in

prison or in captivity, including our colleague, the journalist, Jason Rezaian.

Your own brother is the head of the Iranian judiciary. And no doubt you will hear a lot about Jason Rezaian while you're in the United States.

Do you agree that, on humanitarian grounds, he should be released right now?

He is just a journalist.

LARIJANI (through translator): We don't want anybody to be kept in prison. On the other hand, I am the speaker of the Iranian parliament. I

cannot impose anything from the legislative branch on the judiciary branch.

But I can tell you that justice stands above all other institutions in Iran and just like in any other parts of the world. But I think more

diplomatic efforts are also needed.

AMANPOUR: We hope you do so.

Dr. Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

LARIJANI (through translator): All the best.


AMANPOUR: Now many inside Iran hope the deal will unleash reform at home.

But it seems to forget just how long people there have been lobbying and protesting for reform over the past few decades. Right here in London,

an exhibition is showing this often-forgotten chapter of history when 100,000 Iranian women, who had supported the Islamic revolution, took to

the streets in March 1979 to protest the compulsory hijab.

And after a break, protests in the street right now, refugees desperate for aid. I speak to Germany's commissioner for immigration and

refugees next as the chancellor becomes their folk hero.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).





AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, where we continue to track the growing refugee crisis and the paralyzing divisions in Europe.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Germany is welcoming with open arms trains packed with Syrian and Iraqi refugees today. And police are escorting them

to places of safety; while Hungary is doing the polar opposite. Confusion reigns at Budapest Station, where refugees are now stranded because

authorities won't let them travel any further.


AMANPOUR: I just spoke to Aydan Ozoguz, Germany's commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration. Speaking to me from Berlin, she

said that Europe had a duty to help and, moreover, it could help.


AMANPOUR: Commissioner Ozoguz, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Commissioner, we have all been watching the video and seeing how Chancellor Merkel is being viewed as something of a hero around

Europe and in the Middle East for agreeing to take so many refugees.

But how long can Germany continue to have such an open heart and a welcome mat down?

OZOGUZ (through translator): Germany cannot take in the refugees on its own. We need to find a European policy and we need to come up with a

common European asylum policy.

If we are able to manage that every European country can take in refugees, according to its abilities, then we can help very many people.

AMANPOUR: What, though, do you hope to be able to achieve to make that happen?

We're sitting here in Great Britain, which only takes 4 percent compared to Germany's 40 percent.

What is it going to take to get Europe to share the burden fairly?

Do you have any hope?

OZOGUZ (through translator): We are a bit sad that the United Kingdom is not sharing the same mood as in Germany when it comes to refugees.

Germans are horrified by these pictures about the refugee crisis and they say, we want to help the people who are really in need, who are running for

their lives from war zones.

We know that most of these refugees don't want to flee their countries but they are forced to do so. And many of the refugees have actually

stayed near their home countries. There are far more refugees in Jordan or Lebanon, for example, than here in Europe.

AMANPOUR: You say the Germans are horrified; you yourself and your family came over more than 50 years ago to Germany.

What must it be like for Germany to be watching these eerie scenes of these huge numbers of migrants, who are crawling under barbed wire, scenes

that we haven't seen of people actually fleeing your own country, Germany, during the Second World War?

OZOGUZ (through translator): In Germany, we are experiencing a great willingness to help people. The last time there were such high refugees'

numbers in Germany was at the beginning of the 1990s, when there war in the former Yugoslavia.

Since then, there were few refugees and we have actually decreased the number of asylum seekers' shelters. So we have to now build up these

shelters again. But many older German people tell me that they are reminded of the fact that they were once refugees themselves after World

War II.

And some of these refugees were even Germans, but they were not always welcome. And they can remember this. And this is why we see this high

level of solidarity in Germany.

AMANPOUR: Commissioner, isn't it --


AMANPOUR: -- true that, no matter what Europe decides, no matter how generous Germany is, these people are going to still keep coming as long

as, for instance, the Syria war is continuing?

And your leadership doesn't look to be at all willing to intervene to stop the Syria war.

Don't you also have a responsibility?

OZOGUZ (through translator): The only thing we can do to stop people coming is that there is peace in their countries. But that is not

something that we can achieve. And of course, this is difficult for Europe and even for the USA. So this is not a simple task to achieve.

But we need to see that the people who come to us for help do not have to put themselves in danger. Many countries have to say that we will help

you if you come to us. But of course, we are hoping that peace will return to these regions.

AMANPOUR: Commissioner, Germany is being generous.

What would you say to the British leaders who are not, who are deporting people?

What would you say to the Hungarian leaders, who are erecting barbed wire fences and watching people crawl under them like animals?

What would you say?

OZOGUZ (through translator): Europe's common values will not be strengthened if we build fences and walls within Europe or around Europe.

And it is absurd that a fence suddenly ends.

We ask ourselves, is this populism?

It is a fact that, in many countries, the governments have to see how much this influx of refugees strengthens the extreme Right. In many

countries, the extreme Right is on the streets and protesting.

So we have to hold to -- so we have to come together and we have to show that we will defend these core values and beliefs and that we will

help refugees and that we are not overwhelmed.

Yes, we are challenged. There is a lot to do. But we can overcome this. We are living in very rich countries here in Europe. You will be

surprised to see how many people are willing to help and to assist these refugees, to help these people from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq.

There is a very positive mood in this country. But we have to strengthen this. And we have to support this.

AMANPOUR: Aydan Ozoguz, the German immigration and refugee commissioner, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

OZOGUZ (through translator): Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, imagine the benefits of seeking asylum; what do Freddie Mercury, Albert Einstein and this Sudanese

supermodel have in common? Find out after a break.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world without refugees. It's a word with its bright lights dimmed, shutting out the transformative

brilliance of Albert Einstein or Sigmund Freud or the sultry seduction of the German actress Marlene Dietrich.

Without the beauty of the Sudanese model Alek Wek or the art of Anish Kapoor, a world without the music of Haiti's Wyclef Jean, Sri Lanka's MIA

or Zanzibar's Freddie Mercury.

Today we're seeing a world full of refugees in the biggest movement of people since World War II. Madeleine Albright sought refuge twice during

those dark days and to this day she remembers the warm reception that was offered to her and her family when they were most in need.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECY. OF STATE: I spent the war in England when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. They were very welcoming to

refugees. And then when the Communists took over in Czechoslovakia, we went to the United States.


AMANPOUR: And there, of course, she went on to make history and become America's first female secretary of state.

Now across Europe, many political leaders seem unwilling to tell the real story of what benefit this human tide could be. But their people are

leading from the front.

We've seen how the German government and its citizens are offering a warm welcome, including one of the country's biggest football clubs,

Borussia Dortmund, which invited more than 200 refugees to their match last week.

Meantime, across the water in Iceland, 12,000 nationals have begged their country to increase the refugee camp from its paltry 50. Many

Icelanders are offering rooms in their own homes.

After all, who knows who could be sleeping in your guest room? The next Bob Marley, Salvador Dali or Gloria Estefan.

That's it for our program tonight. And remember you can always see the whole show online at, and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.