Return to Transcripts main page


Four Americans Released Have Left Iran; President of Iran: "Today is a Historic Day". Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 17, 2016 - 07:30   ET


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: "The Washington Post" is having a celebration at the end of this month in D.C. They are opening their new newsroom. It's going to be a whole week of events.

[07:30:02] I'm sure they'd love to see him there at that time of the end of the month, but it's unclear how long he'll be in recovery, how long he'll be in Germany. We have heard about a plan to go to Switzerland and then to Germany as the other men will as well.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: They need their time to heal. There's no doubt about that and certainly respect that and are sensitive to it.

Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's go to international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson who is in Vienna, as we watched these live pictures of Tehran, awaiting for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to step up to the podium and deliver remarks.

And, Nic, as I come to you, do you expect that the president will discuss this prisoner and hostage swap or will this be another day of celebration of the implementation of this deal?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: He's going to want to cast this as a success for Iran, that Iran hasn't given ground, that essentially that Iran has won this situation, this negotiation, that he will talk about the positive for Iran. We have also heard him tweet, you know, read his tweet earlier in the day where talked and speaking of earlier where it's talked there will be hardliners in the United States. We have heard criticism coming from him in recent days of the United States.

So, I think we can examine robust language, essentially, you know, allowing Iranians to understand they have succeeded, that this is a good time for their economy, that the deal is a good one for them going forward. But, at the same time, setting the scene that if potentially there are issues down the road over implementing this nuclear deal, there could come a time where the relationship between the United States and Iran over this issue becomes frosty again and, therefore, we will hear him talk very likely about the hardliners in the United States.

Now, when it comes to discussing the details of the prisoner exchange, potentially, this is something that he may not get into a lot of detail here about, because he's going to want to play the positives, the obviously positives for Iran, rather than the fact that there are dual national Iranian-American citizens released from jail in the United States, yet some of them choosing to remain in the United States.

So, it's not like for, you know, the United States, these five citizens are being released and they are coming back home to the United States. The part of the prisoner deal doesn't play out that way in Iran. So, I think potentially he may stay away from that.

But, of course, we really will have to wait and see and listen to what he says very closely, very carefully. But he will certainly play this as a success and point out the benefits for Iran.

PAUL: And, Nic, real quickly, do we know anything about a meeting between the prisoners that are heading your way there to -- I'm sorry, they are heading to Switzerland. Will Secretary of State John Kerry be meeting them?

ROBERTSON: It's very interesting this morning and last night being here in Vienna. Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif both here in Vienna until late last night, radio silence since from both of them. We know the Iranian foreign minister is back in Tehran now.

And we understand that Secretary Kerry has left here and his whereabouts is unknown. One would expect him to try to be there, to greet these five Americans as they return to European soil and if that's Geneva, certainly Secretary Kerry has a strong and long relationship with the authorities and officials there and helped him over recent years in Geneva.

PAUL: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you. Really appreciate the update.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go now to CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, joining us by phone.

And we understand you have new information, Christiane?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I do. To that very question, I've just been told by officials in Washington, D.C. that Secretary of State Kerry is back in the United States and will not be meeting the released U.S. prisoners in Europe. We don't know what will happen by the time they reach the U.S., but there is no plan to meet with the secretary of state in Europe because he is no longer in Europe but back Stateside. So, that is on that logistical issue and that was confirmed to me by a very high level U.S. official.

Following -- obviously, we are waiting to hear what the Iranian President Rouhani has to say during his address and I assume questions will be asked. And I think as we have been saying pretty much all morning that this is going to be an address that points out and highlights the success of diplomacy, the success of implementing his pledge as president to the Iranian people, that he would conduct diplomacy, that he would improve Iran's relations with the rest of the world and he would improve Iran's economy.

[07:35:12] And in order to do that, they have to have the sanctions lifted. So, this weekend, the moment that it was -- the implementation day was announced yesterday triggers the relief of a large thrash of sanctions that were nuclear-related, particularly the thrash that applies to Iran's ability to trade in its oil again and also to connect to the global banking system.

So, these are very, very important thing that the Iranian president will highlight and will talk about as a success for his administration, given how much trouble he had from within the hard line of the Iranian establishment. Of course, these negotiations were signed off on, approved, and eventually supported and backed by the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

And let's not forget that this from both the U.S. side and the Iranian side is just about the nuclear negotiation. There are no diplomatic relations with Iran. They have not, you know, repaired their diplomatic breach but, on this key issue, they have this deal between Iran and the United States and the rest of the world powers. So, this does mark a brand-new chapter in the history of Iran and the rest of the world, most particularly over its nuclear program.

BLACKWELL: And we are moments away from hearing from the Iranian President Rouhani. Again, a live picture from this room in Tehran where official and media have flooded in and are waiting for the president to speak. We will bring you those comments live as soon as they happen.

But again, the latest we have is that the Americans who have been freed are now on a plane, a Swiss plane on the way to Geneva. They will be there for a few days and then head to Landstuhl Air Base where they will get some medical treatment. Then that is where they will be reunited with their families.

Quick break. We'll bring you the comments from President Rouhani in a moment.


PAUL: All right. We want to show you live pictures out of Tehran. You can see some smiling faces --


PAUL: -- on the folks as we wait that empty podium.

[07:40:00] The president, President Rouhani, will be stepping up in a couple of minutes, we anticipate, to address all that has happened in the last 24/48 hours here.

Christiane Amanpour is on the phone with us now.

Christiane, we had this news this morning from the attorney of some of -- three of the Iranians who are being held here in the U.S. who have now been released, and he said, he told us that it wasn't until Iran received their funds from this IAEA and this deal that was worked out in July, it wasn't until they received their funds that they would release the four American prisoners. We do know those prisoners are on a plane now out of Iranian airspace and on their way to Switzerland.

But, I'm wondering -- when we talk about those funds, how do you propose those funds will change day-to-day life for Iranians? Will it trickle down to the factory workers, to the students?

AMANPOUR: Well, look -- I don't know the exact number, the dollar value of those funds, but, obviously, what Iran wanted was to get back its funds that had been blocked in the United States and elsewhere, but also to be able to make money on the international market. It's main economy is oil, so now it will be able to reestablish its oil economy although that is going to take time and to, you know, to make these commercial links again after years of sanctions, and also to be hooked back to the global economy.

That is also really important for Iran. Not just in terms of -- not just in terms of the people of Iran but also business people to be able to do business with the international community. That is the fundamental bread and butter of most economies, beyond natural resources is to have access to the global banking and economic system.

So, that is going to happen. And it will probably take time and he is probably likely to warn them that just because today is -- well, it was actually in the last 24 hours, as implementation day, they are not necessarily going to see an immediate trickle down. This will take time but he will probably say they are on the right road.

And as we reported, he will highlight and, you know, make clear that as far as his administration, as far as Iran is concerned, this is a great diplomatic victory and that they are now entering a new chapter in relations with the rest of the world. Something the Iranian people who elected him want. They don't want to be trapped behind an iron curtain of Islamic extremism, of hard line extremist policy. They want to be a part of the world.

So that is basically what he will likely say to the people. Now, regarding the prisoner swap, it is not surprising that Iran, being a stickler for absolute symmetry in these issues, waited apparently, according to the lawyer for the Iranians in an American jail, that the funds be transferred. At least some of that was apparently launched before the Americans, Iranians released from America, and the Americans could get on a plane to leave Iran.

We know the Americans are on a plane out. We know, and I just reported a few moments ago, that Secretary Kerry is back stateside and will not be meeting with the American prisoners in Europe. So that is not going to happen, according to the high level official who I spoke to.

But beyond that, we are going to hear the Iranian president's description of what this day, this negotiation and the future holds for Iran.

BLACKWELL: And we are expecting those remarks in a few minutes. Christiane, stay with us.

But we are following other stories that are developing this morning.

PAUL: We want to let you know that rescuers have expanded the search off the coast of Hawaii for 12 Marines who are missing, since their two helicopters apparently collided during a training mission on Thursday. Now, the Coast Guard says this search will stretch farther along the north shore on the island of Oahu and eight miles out to sea, which is much more expansive than it was prior.

BLACKWELL: The CDC is advising pregnant women to avoid traveling to parts of South and Central America, after a baby was born in Hawaii with damage to its brain, possibly caused by the Zika virus. It's the first case in the U.S. The mother was likely infected while she was in Brazil. Now, the virus is carried by mosquitoes and may have caused thousands of babies in Brazil to be born with undersized brains.

PAUL: More help is on the way to Flint, Michigan, it seems. City residents protest what they say is a slow state response to lead in their drinking water. Well, President Obama has now declared a state of emergency, freeing up $5 million in federal aid, so that money will be used or can be used on bottled water and filters for all of those folks. The city's water has been contaminated with lead ever since the city switched to what they thought would be a cheaper water source and that was nearly two years ago.

BLACKWELL: Again, we are watching that room in Tehran, waiting for comments from President Rouhani of Iran after the beginning of the implementation of this nuclear deal, and the release of those dual citizens, both by the U.S. and by Iran.

[07:45:09] We'll bring those to you live as they happen.


PAUL: You're looking at live pictures here as the president of Iran, President Hassan Rouhani, is sitting in his seat in front of microphones. A very captive audience.

And here he is. Let's listen to what he has to say.

PRES. HASSAN ROUHANI, IRAN (through translator): In the name of God, the compassionate, thank God and greetings to his prophet and to his pious men.

Today is a historic day and exceptional day as well in the political and economic history of the nation of Iran. After 12 years of perseverance and resistance, combined with patience and sacrifice, including martyrdom for our nuclear scientists and the unstoppable and continued effort of our nuclear scientists, diplomats, legal authorities, and economic authorities of the country, Iran has reached, arrived -- at a point of juncture, we have arrived at a point of juncture, historic juncture at which, rather than allowing the nuclear issue to serve as an excuse for ill wishers to place sanctions on us, to divide us and pressure us, the nuclear program will be used for the expansion of scientific, technological, economic activities rather than until this day, legally speaking.

[07:50:14] Given that the Islamic Republic of Iran was under the pressure of six U.N. Security Council resolutions, and 12 resolutions by the board of the governors of the IAEA, we now stand with a legal framework, a resolution that endorses JCPOA through the U.N. Security Council -- and this is an international, global endorsement.

As of today, the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear agreement cannot be a delusional excuse for ill-wishers to say that the country is dividing, but rather, it is a tool for the progress both and development of the country as well as the security and stability of the region. As of today, our businessmen and women, our entrepreneurs and traders can resort to the legal norms of banking to expand trade and exports with greater facilities.

As of today, the banks of the country will interact with banks around the world, over financial and monetary issues and will receive and give the required services, including the rendering service of the dear people of our country. As of today, the restrictions are on all exports in our country, it's lifted.

And we -- whatever is designated in the policy plans of the country, with the national interests in mind and national legislations in mind, oil and oil products, including metro chemicals, will be exported.

As of today, the modern aircraft and fleet will be available to companies that wish to be of service to the people. That is to say as of today, air safety will enhance to our dear passengers --

BLACKWELL: All right. You've been listening to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani here speaking about what he's lauding as a historic day in the political and economic history of Iran. The now implementation of this JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that as he rightfully highlights will now lift restrictions on oil exports, normalized banking in the country, and a return to legal norms of banking, and expand trade and exports and greater facilities among other things, including regulating inspections of the nuclear resources there in Iran and limiting many of the facets of that nuclear program.

PAUL: We're going to continue to monitor this behind the scenes here.

We're taking a break. We're going to take a quick break here. We'll be right back.


[07:57:34] PAUL: So, we were just listening to the president of Iran, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, of course, as he was talking about, as he called it, a historic and exceptional day in the political and economic landscape of Iran, talking about the sanctions that have been lifted, how it's going to change them and their country economically when it comes to banking, when it comes to exports, and trade.

We to want go to Richard Quest now.

Because, Richard, I understand, I mean, you've got a real understanding of $100 billion that will now be available to them will be actually doing in that country, yes?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Christi, you can take the developments, implementation there yesterday and things moving forward, you can take it as all different levels. And each level is exceptionally significant for Iran and the future direction of the country and its economy.

So, on the most basic level, the unfreezing of the non-U.S. assets. In other words, those in the European Union and the rest of the world, that has an immediate effect because of the Iranian companies, the Iranian government, the Iranian people will in short order get access to the assets, which have been frozen, as Rouhani said, for the last 12 years, since the U.N. sanction first came into play.

But then you go one level further and you start looking at how non- U.S. people and companies can now do business with Iran. Seldom spare parts for their decrepit oil industry, regenerate their automotive industry, agriculture, the list goes on and on. Every facet of that economy, which has been hit by sanctions, will now be available for inward investment.

The big question, of course, is who gets their first? The one thing we know, guys, is it won't be the Americans primary sanctions are still in place.

BLACKWELL: All right, Richard Quest for us there in Davos, Switzerland, helping us understand the economic elements of this plan that now has been implemented.

Richard, thank you so much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PAUL: So glad to have you with us as always. Eight o'clock hour here. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is going to be with us in just a moment.

But here is what is happening this morning as it was cast by Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, a historic day.

His characterization was speaking specifically about the implementation of his JCPOA.