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Iran's Chief Negotiator on Nuclear Program; Chief U.S. Nuclear Negotiator on Iranian Sanctions; Imagine a World

Aired July 25, 2014 - 14:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, will there ever be a deal on Iran's nuclear program? I speak to Iran's foreign minister and to

the chief U.S. negotiator.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Could vital talks on Iran's nuclear program be at risk, victim of the poisoned relations between Russia and the West over Ukraine and the downing

of MH Flight 17? Some have suggested the Kremlin, which is part of the negotiations, may try to scupper a deal in retaliation for the sanctions

and the pressure that it's now under.

Negotiations on Iran's program broke up last week with agreement to keep talking. The deadline for reaching a permanent and comprehensive final

deal has now been pushed back to November.

Before all the key players flew back for consultations in their various capitals, they had been hunkered down for weeks at the Palais Coburg in

Vienna and that is where I met them. And tonight, my interviews on the way forward with the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and the lead U.S.

negotiator, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.


AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Zarif, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: You, the negotiators here, whether it's yourself, the Iranian foreign minister, the European leaders, the U.S. Secretary of State John

Kerry, do you feel that you have made enough progress to tell your political leaders that it's worth continuing and what kind of progress?

ZARIF: It's a historic opportunity for all of us to end a rather prolonged chapter, where we tried not to resolve issues. And now if people look at a

resolution of this program and moving into a different horizon for international relations. And I think it's possible.

But we're not there yet. The point is whether it is possible to make a deal, we're not talking about a bad deal or a good deal but a doable deal,

a lasting deal. And what we need is to have the agreement among important elements of this big puzzle so that it would make a deal that will last and

will ensure an objective that we all share. And that objective is to ensure that Iran's nuclear program will always remain peaceful.

I think that is scientifically possible. It doesn't require arbitrary red lines, arbitrary numbers. You just need to find scientific ways of making

sure that Iran's nuclear program addresses a practical need. And that is what we have put on the table.

AMANPOUR: You make it sound awfully easy. But clearly this is what has held up an agreement for the last several months and for the last many

years and it's what brought you to be the victim of draconian sanctions.

How do you guarantee that your program will be peaceful? You say no arbitrary red lines. But there are many who saw your Supreme Leader's

speech over the last week and felt that he actually put red lines down.

ZARIF: No, he didn't. He actually -- I think if you listen to what the leader said, it makes it clear that our program has a peaceful logic. And

that's extremely important to listen. We're not talking about numbers to fool people. We're talking about numbers that are required in order to

fuel a power plant.

Our entire nuclear program, be it where we convert yellow cake into gas and we convert gas into enriched uranium, all of this are designed specifically

in order to address the requirements of a power plant.

That should give you the assurance that this is not for bombmaking. If we didn't have an objective, a clearly defined goal, practical need, then you

should be worried.

Why is Iran insisting on 10,000 centrifuges or 5,000 centrifuges or 50 centrifuges?

Or when we say 190,000 SWUs, that means what is required to produce 37 tons of plates, of fuel rods, for a power plant.

AMANPOUR: All right.

ZARIF: That gives you a clearly defined purpose.

AMANPOUR: And that's your technical, as you say, clearly defined purpose.

But what should people have been listening to, then?

Where is their room for maneuver?

Can you assure our audience that you will agree to intrusive inspections for a long period of time?

What are you planning to deliver?

ZARIF: Well, actually, as I said, if the program is geared towards a very specific objective and then if you convert this uranium that you produce

into oxide and into fuel, rather than keep it in a form that can be reenriched to weapons grade, and then as you pointed out, if you have the

necessary international inspections, which is provided.

The ultimate inspection in the international system right now is the additional protocol.

And Iran has indicated its readiness, provided that our parliament approves it and we will do everything in our power, if we have a good agreement, to

get the parliament to ratify the additional protocol, to put in place the most serious international inspection regime that is available legally, in

place for the international community to be confident, indefinitely.

Because once we take an obligation like that, this is an indefinite obligation. We will put in place an international mechanism in order to

make sure that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.

Now there are other measures that we will take for specific periods of time, including the fact that the big difference (ph) has said we won't

need to reach that 190,000 level within one year or two years --


AMANPOUR: Let's be clear. That's a unit of enriched uranium?

ZARIF: Yes, that's a unit of enriched uranium, which in other --


AMANPOUR: In centrifuge-speak, it's --

ZARIF: No, no, it can be -- I mean, it depends on the force of each centrifuge. It can be 10,000 centrifuges. It can be 100,000 centrifuges.

It depends on the advancement of the -- of each centrifuges. But it's something that produces 37 tons of uranium for that power plant.

AMANPOUR: All right. Is it the intention of everybody and the Supreme Leader in Iran, in other words, can you reach a final deal?

You haven't been able to for the six months of negotiations so far.

Why should be able to when the talks are extended?

ZARIF: Well, this is always the possibility. There are serious gaps and the gaps are on both sides. The gaps are on the measures that are needed

to be taken by the other side as well. We have -- they have not yet presented the package of measures that would be satisfactory to us and they

need to come up with more serious ways of addressing our concerns --

AMANPOUR: The sanctions, we're talking about?

ZARIF: -- not just the sanctions, but the joint program of action that we adopted in Geneva, JPOA, has a number of elements that require cooperation,

cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, cooperation to provide Iran access to international markets energy, all sorts of measures that are

included in this.

This needs to be a balanced deal in order to be a lasting deal. This cannot be an imposition. People have tried to impose on Iran; they have

failed. You know that very well.

AMANPOUR: I do. But I also know how difficult it is in the United States because it's not President Obama who can unilaterally lift sanctions --


ZARIF: And you know it's not that easy in Iran because there is nobody in Iran who can make that unilateral decision.

AMANPOUR: Right --

ZARIF: We both have pluralistic societies.

AMANPOUR: -- right. The legislature in the United States is a totally separate entity than the executive.

And the Congress is key to this, not just Republican opponents of the president, but Democrats, people in his own party.

Have the American negotiators honestly walked you through the complexity of dismantling this draconian and complex sanctions regime that's been


ZARIF: Well, we --more or less, no. The complexities of the U.S. system - - I think what is less known is the complexity of the Iranian system, where we also have a pluralistic society with various views and various degrees

of confidence in this process altogether, because Iranian people have every reason to have no confidence in the way they have treated us.

What is necessary for me -- and I think this is very important, particularly for our American audience to understand, is that the sanctions

have not achieved anything. This infatuation with sanctions, obsession with sanctions, what has it achieved? In the past 10 years, you had these

draconian sanctions, particularly in the last 3-4 years.

What has the United States achieved? A lot of resentment of the Iranian people, who cannot buy medicine with their own money. But at the same

time, instead of 200 centrifuges that were spinning in the beginning of these crippling sanctions, we now have 20,000.

So this is the net -- if you do an accounting, this is the net outcome of sanctions. So we've got to think about a different paradigm. I think a

paradigm shift is necessary in the U.S. Congress, in the United States, so that they would look at the situation in the world differently, so that we

can change this world. This world in the old paradigm doesn't work anymore.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

ZARIF: Thank you for the opportunity.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): After a break, we'll hear from the undersecretary of state, Wendy Sherman, who's leading the U.S. side.


AMANPOUR: Wendy Sherman, welcome to the program.

WENDY SHERMAN, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you. Always good to be with you, Christiane.

As President Obama has said, he believes that there's a credible basis for continuing these discussions.

You know, I think in the midst of all of the negotiating that gets reported on, people miss what we're trying to do here and that is to address the

concern the international community has about Iran's nuclear program. Make sure they don't get a nuclear weapon and that their program's exclusively

peaceful. Those stakes are pretty high and we need to do everything we can diplomatically to try to get the assurance that the international community

is looking for and for Iran to be able to match its words with concrete and verifiable actions. That's what this is about and I must say all of the

negotiating partners here, including Iran, have been very serious and very focused.

AMANPOUR: I just interviewed Foreign Minister Zarif and he said to me over and over that they don't want to bomb -- and not only that, are prepared to

make it absolutely transparently clear that that's the case, signing onto the additional protocol, hoping that that will be ratified, expecting it to

be ratified by their parliament, which gives, as you know, anytime, anywhere intrusive inspections indefinitely.

Is that good news for you?

SHERMAN: Well, certainly. Iran signing onto the additional protocol, having it ratified by the modulus (ph) is an important step and

transparency and verification will obviously be key. But this is the most complex negotiation I've ever seen. The number of elements that have to be

addressed from an enrichment capacity to facilities, to research and development, to possible military dimensions, existing U.N. Security

Council sanctions, I could go and on.

It is very complicated, very technical, many pages of annexes ultimately in any final agreement.

So this takes a lot of work.

AMANPOUR: Do you think you can come to a final agreement?

SHERMAN: I don't know. I think what I would say is that everyone is committed to trying everything we can to do so. We've made some tangible

progress here; Secretary Kerry said when he was here in Vienna, but we're not there yet. And there are still some very wide gaps on key issues.

Minister Zarif has spoken publicly about enrichment capacity, as has Secretary Kerry. And this is very core to this agreement. So we've got to

keep working at it.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you precisely about the enrichment size and capacity. There was a recent speech by Iran's Supreme Leader, who holds

the final cards and will make the final decision, despite what they say are the consensus system.

Do you see what he said as restricting the ability to negotiate or freeing the ability to negotiate?

Mr. Zarif said what he actually said was that actually we don't want to increase right now -- we're talking about faith. We're talking about


How do you read it?

SHERMAN: I think what will matter is what happens in the negotiating room and what the final agreement looks like and whether, in fact, Iran has

taken steps to limit from their current program their enrichment capacity to help give the international community assurance that we're all looking


So I'm going to let Iran speak for the Supreme Leader. I'm not going to attempt to do that. But there is no doubt that they may have aspirations

into the future, but for the duration of this agreement, there must be a limited enrichment program because most of the world believes they don't

need to be enriching domestically at all.

So this will have to be very limited during this period of time. And we're working out exactly how that might be doable.

AMANPOUR: And what that period of time is?

SHERMAN: And what that period of time is.

AMANPOUR: What about politics? We've talked about politics in Iran. What about politics in the United States? There is a fear by Iranians -- and

actually by some Americans as well -- that these sanctions are so complex and that they are imposed and legislated by Congress that that in itself is

going to be incredibly difficult to lift. And that right now, as you know, there's a letter being circulated by senior members of the Senate,

basically not wanting to do that and wanting to impose more.

How difficult will it be for the U.S. to meet its end of a bargain, which means lifting sanctions?

SHERMAN: In the first instance, what we have said to Iran and what we've said publicly is that we would suspend sanctions, not lift them, because we

need to see Iran implement whatever it gets agreed to and comply with those agreements over a period of time.

The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also plays a very important role here in that they will verify the actions that Iran takes

and on the additional protocol, they will ultimately say that there are no undeclared facilities, what are called the broader conclusion in IAEA-


And all of those steps need to be taken before we would turn to the Congress and ask them to lift the sanctions. So I think we've got some

time and you know, Christiane, if people look back to what's called the interim agreement ,the first step, the six-month agreement, Iran has

complied with every commitment it made to stop doing 20 percent enrichment, to roll back some of their stocks, to deal with their facilities, not allow

them to advance further.

And that compliance has added some confidence -- not yet enough -- so we are hoping if there's agreement, if there's compliance, that will add

enough confidence that the Congress will feel it can lift.

So what I said to my Iranian interlocutors is the quality of the agreement will make everything possible.

AMANPOUR: If a reasonable deal is reached, apparently Europeans have said to Congress that they may not stick with the sanctions, if they believe a

reasonable deal is reached.

Do you fear that if Congress takes it too far that the unity of the international community might start to fragment?

SHERMAN: Well, Congress has played a very critical role and a very helpful role in this process. There would not be the really extensive sanctions we

have without the leadership provided by the Congress. We've maintained close consultation with them in these negotiations as President Obama said.

We didn't want sanctions during these negotiations; we won't want additional sanctions during an extension, if that gets agreed to, because

we think we need to preserve this negotiating space in good faith.

But the Congress has an important role; clearly, any lifting of sanctions will have to be done by the Congress and our sanctions and the European

Union sanctions and the U.N. Security Council sanctions are interlinked. So if the United States extends and does not lift, then it will not be

possible for Europe to do everything that it wants to do because our banking and financial system, our oil sanctions have a profound effect.

But suspension will indeed start down a road that will give Iran the benefits that it is looking for.

AMANPOUR: Also the West has suffered a lot in terms of exports, in terms of business deals. Certainly Europe has suffered a lot itself from these

sanctions. And so has the United States. A recent study has shown that conservatively perhaps in the last 10 or so years, the United States has

lost hundreds of billions of dollars in exports and business to the United States plus tens of thousands of potential jobs that that would have


How painful is it for the U.S. as well?

SHERMAN: I think it's painful for the U.S., though I think everyone needs to remember the U.S. has a trade embargo that goes back 30 years to the

time that U.S. hostages were taken in Tehran. So it really precedes the concerns about the nuclear program.

But yes, it's costly to America; it's costly to Europe. It's costly to China, to Russia, to Asia, to Africa, to everybody. But at the end of the

day, I think it says a lot about the international community that they want to ensure peace and security by ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear

weapon. I think everybody is focused these days on everything that's happening across the Middle East, how difficult things are right now, how

complicated they are.

And Iran with a nuclear weapon would make that even more complicated, more combustible and more dangerous.

AMANPOUR: We'll be back with a final thought in a moment.

SHERMAN: Thank you.



AMANPOUR: Finally, Foreign Minister, in all these weeks and months that you've been negotiating on what some have said are the most complex

negotiations ever undertaken in recent memory, what have you learned about your opposite numbers, whether Americans, Europeans, all the people around

the table?

Were there preconceived notions that fell apart as you actually talked together?

ZARIF: I'm sure that all human beings, through interaction, learn more about one another, learn more about anxieties of one another, learn more

about concerns of one another.

And I hope that this process has made all of us understand better, because that's the purpose of dialogue. The purpose of dialogue is to gain better

understanding, to learn at the same time as trying to convey your opinion.

AMANPOUR: You feel that you did?

ZARIF: I hope I did.



AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, you've been cooped up here for the last two weeks in these intense negotiations. And you've had many sessions over the

last several months, trying to reach a deal.

What has this told you? What have you learned about your opposite numbers, most particularly the Iranians? Because you've known the Europeans for


SHERMAN: Well, remember, it's the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians and there are many people outside of the room that want to

have a say in what happens here, not only the United States Congress, but other partners, other countries around the world, because this is very

consequential for everyone. And we represent the United Nations Security Council which is where this original mandate came from.

So it's really the world we represent. I think everybody feels the burden and the responsibility that that imposes on all of us. My Iranian

counterparts have been focused; they have been serious. They have been professional. We are all trying to find the space that assures the

international community that Iran's program is exclusively peaceful and that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon. We are all trying to make that


AMANPOUR: Personally, have you understood a little bit the story of the other, so to speak?

SHERMAN: I think certainly when you spend that much time with other people, you become to know them, their families, what happens in their

lives. But first and foremost, I think we have all stayed in a very professional space. We each have the interests of our countries in mind.

Those of us who are part of the P5+1 or E3+3 ,whatever you want to call us, have the responsibility of the world in mind as well. And we take it very


AMANPOUR: Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, thank you very much for joining me.

SHERMAN: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And that's it for the special weekend edition of our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,,

and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from Vienna.