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Historic Deal Reached at Nuclear Talks; Interview with Senator Lindsey Graham. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 14, 2015 - 09:00   ET



[09:00:04] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A historic deal. The United States and other world powers reached an agreement with Iran, keeping the country from developing a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years. So what's in this deal and what does Congress have to say?

Let's talk. Live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. I'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

It may well be the biggest and most bitterly divisive diplomatic agreement in decades. After years of secret meetings and months of agonizing talks, Washington brokers a deal with its longtime enemy, Iran. And the stakes not been short of nuclear weapons in region that seems to grow more volatile by the day.

Here are the big takeaways of this historic deal. Its main goal, preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons for at least 10 years. It will also allow 24/7 inspections of Iran's known nuclear sites and those suspects of playing a role. And in exchange Iran will see the lifting of the international sanctions that have crippled its economy but not right away.

The deal faces blistering scrutiny on Capitol Hill. We'll talk live with one such critic, Republican senator and presidential candidate, Lindsey Graham. He's here in the studio with me.

But first, let's break down the details for you. Nic Robertson is in Vienna where the deal has been struck. And CNN's Michelle Kosinski is at the White House where the new challenge begins -- selling the plan to skeptics.

But let's begin with you, Nic Robertson. Good morning. Tell us more about this pact.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Well, one of the issues that Secretary Kerry is going to hope that sells this to skeptics is it was one of the hardest things to get agreed, this was the access to Iran sites by the nuclear inspectors. The 24/7 monitoring is -- involves the International Atomic Energy Agency increasing the number of weapons inspectors it has, and allowing them to request access to any site that they see fit in Iran. And there are strict and strong protocols to follow that up.

Managed access. If there is disagreement then any disagreement about access to a site will be quickly escalated. They will expect to be selling it on the fact that they've been able to reduce Iran's nuclear stockpiles from 98 percent from 12,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium to just 300. This will be maintained for 15 years. The ability to snap back sanctions, this is something that could happen, a process that could begin within a 30-day period if Iran doesn't comply with what it signed up to here.

So these are going to be some of the strong selling points. Of course, there is a huge amount of -- a huge amount of detail here. But it is perhaps that inspection system, the robust inspection system which will be -- which is designed to give the greatest confidence that Iran will be monitored very closely. We're also told that there will be monitoring from the uranium mines, through the uranium mills, all the way through the enrichment process.

So Iran cannot develop a completely covert path of nuclear enrichment to accumulate weapons grade material that could then help it build a bomb further down the line -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Nic Robertson, reporting live from Vienna this morning. Thank you so much.

The deal in broad terms has been years in the making. But the Obama administration has just about two months to sell to a skeptical Congress. That job is now underway.

CNN correspondent Michelle Kosinski, live at the White House with more on that.

Hi, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. Right. And that's already started. I mean. the president stood up before the world today to confidently state that this deal is going to do what it's supposed to do. Listen.


OBAMA: Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon. This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.


KOSINSKI: We also heard from the president something we've heard many times from the White House. This is not about trust. It's know the U.S. does not trust Iran. But that's why there will be to many layers of verification. But not everybody trust this deal. I mean, we're already hearing from a number of members of Congress. Some of whom are slamming it already, saying it's only going to embolden Iran.

But we're also hearing some skepticism even from Democrats, basically saying we want to look at this thing closely. But the question many have is, does it go far enough? The fact that it doesn't dismantle entirely Iran's nuclear capability because of course Iran says they want to use it for peaceful purposes. They'll still be able to produce, they'll still be able to research and development, which worries many people.

[09:05:12] And also what kind of access exactly will inspectors have? What about those military sites? That was a big sticking point. Iran for months was saying that's never going to happen. You know, inspectors aren't going to be allowed there. And today nobody is really saying anything about that. So that might be one of those areas where Iran got what it wanted.

But the U.S. is saying over and over again that the monitoring is going to be throughout the nuclear supply chain. Inspectors will have access to any location that they deem suspicious. So the White House is emphasizing this does what they said it would do -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Michelle Kosinski, reporting live from the White House. Thanks so much.

And while President Obama is hailing the deal, one key hurdle remains in Washington and that would be, as we've been saying, Congress. The president has a very clear message for lawmakers who might reject the proposal.


OBAMA: I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement. But I will remind Congress that you don't make deals like this with your friends. We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction. And those agreements ultimately made us safer.

I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interests of the United States and our allies. So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.


COSTELLO: All right. So let's talk about that. Republican senator and presidential candidate, Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina is here. He's also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Welcome, sir.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. COSTELLO: Thank you so much for being here. So you heard the

president's words. He'll veto any legislation that prevents the implementation of this deal. Your reaction?

GRAHAM: Get out your pen because you're going to have to. This is not going to sell to Congress or the American people. It won't sell to the Arabs, certainly not going to sell to the Israelis.

The goal of dismantling their nuclear program through negotiations was the right goal. What we've done is we've ensured they become a nuclear power. At the passage of time without behavior changes we've locked in an industrial strength nuclear program. By the mere passage of time they can have a bigger program. They don't want a power plant. They want a bomb. So every Arab nation is going to have to say the following. About 15 years from now they'll have a nuclear weapon. We better get started on ours.

COSTELLO: Well, you're saying the opposite of what the president says. And --

GRAHAM: Totally.

COSTELLO: I'll just run this by you.

GRAHAM: Totally.

COSTELLO: Because he also said in his speech earlier this morning that Iran currently has a stockpile that could produce up to 10 nuclear weapons. Under this deal, the president says, that stockpile would be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single weapon.

Isn't that a good thing?

GRAHAM: What you don't -- what I can't convey apparently well enough is that he's locked in a nuclear program. He hasn't dismantled one. The Arabs now know that by the mere passage of time the Iranians will become a nuclear nation. Israel's chief antagonist in the world --

COSTELLO: Isn't it already a nuclear nation?

GRAHAM: It doesn't have the capability at this point to make a bomb because the sanctions have been crippling. But they still destabilized the region under crippling sanctions. They topple four Arab capital under sanctions. They're going to get $18 billion under this deal. What do you think they're going to do with the money? They're going to put it in their war machine.

This is a death sentence for the state of Israel if this is not changed because you're ensuring the Ayatollah will get a nuclear weapons. He don't want a power plant. He wants a bomb. We've locked in a pathway for a bomb. That's exactly what we've done and every Arab nation is going to say --

COSTELLO: Well, let me run --

GRAHAM: -- we want a nuke of our own now.

COSTELLO: Let me run this by you, too.


COSTELLO: Because this is really -- it's really difficult for most people to understand because it is so complicated.



GRAHAM: Right.

COSTELLO: So the United States was negotiating with Iran back in 2005, walked away from the negotiations.

GRAHAM: Right. Right.

COSTELLO: And then those sanctions were put into place. During that time, the time that we walked away, and the sanctions were put into place, Iran had 164, 164 centrifuges. And once the sanctions were into place, they built 19,000 centrifuges and began enriching at 20 percent.

Doesn't that clearly show that sanctions did not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons?

GRAHAM: I can tell you this. This deal locks in over 5,000 centrifuges. And at the end of the deal they can do anything they want. You put the Arab world in a box. Every Arab nation has got a decision to make and to make soon. You have guaranteed that the Iranians in a 15-year period will have a nuclear program that will lead to a bomb.

If I were president of the United States I would tell the Iranians you could have a peaceful nuclear power program, but you're not going to have a large enrichment capability and if you want to war you will lose it.

We have now ensured a nuclear arms race in the Midwest. We've given capability to one of our worst enemies to spread more terror. And we put the state of Israel under an existential threat and every slice of political life in Israel will say this is unacceptable to the Israeli people because it creates a threat that they cannot manage.

[09:10:10] COSTELLO: I think that Secretary Kerry might say you've got to give something. You can't have everything you want.

GRAHAM: I would say to the world, you don't have to give the largest state sponsor of terrorism more money until they change their behavior. I would say to the Iranians, you don't deserve any more money because you're wreaking havoc throughout the region. You killed hundreds of Americans.

I would say to the Iranians, we don't trust you with a large nuclear program because you lie and cheat. You put every Arab state at risk. You put Israel at risk. You put our country at risk. You're taking religious Nazis and empowering this regime at a time when we should be neutering this regime.

This is a historically bad deal. It will (INAUDIBLE) the region into further chaos. He's taken a gasoline can and pouring it on the fire. The Mideast is raging in terms of conflict now. You have taken it to a new level.

I want to end their nuclear ambitions without firing a shot. You have now ensured they will become a nuclear nation. This is a bad deal. The worst possible outcome, as you created a nuclear arms race in the Mideast, you put Israel at risk and you put us at risk.

COSTELLO: The only other thing that I would add is that we don't know all the specifics to this plan.

GRAHAM: That's true.

COSTELLO: And you yourself haven't --

GRAHAM: But I know --

COSTELLO: You yourself haven't read anything, right?

GRAHAM: That's true. But here's what I do know.

COSTELLO: So you don't know.

GRAHAM: Here's what I do know. They get money without changing their behavior.

COSTELLO: And you're talking about the money that's frozen in bank accounts right now.

GRAHAM: Yes. They get $18 billion. After their behavior of toppling -- they've driven the pro-American government in the ground in Yemen. We don't have eyes and ears on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula because of Iran. They keep Assad in power because of Iran.

Who in their right mind would give this regime $18 billion given their behavior? Who in their right mind would allow them to have industrial sized nuclear power program that can expand over the mere passage of time given their behavior? If they would change their behavior, I would require certification that they're no longer a state sponsor of terrorism before they get a penny.

I would never allow their nuclear program to be locked in place without any certification they're no longer a state sponsor of terrorism. This is a -- this is a change in the Mideast that I've been fearing for all of my life. We have now set the Mideast on a course that if we don't change course, is going to lead to a nuclear armed Mideast.


COSTELLO: The president says exactly the opposite. By not implementing this deal that --

GRAHAM: Well, this is why we'll have a -- Mr. President, you want a robust debate, you're going to get one. You've been dangerously naive about the Mideast, you and John Kerry have. You've allowed the region to go into flames. Radical Islam and the Sunni side is running low. Now you're giving the largest state sponsor in terrorism and a fusion of cash, a large nuclear program that over time will turn into a bomb.

COSTELLO: Senator Lindsey Graham, thanks so much for being with me this morning.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

COSTELLO: I appreciate it.

And by the way Benjamin Netanyahu is going to be speaking at 9:30 Eastern, in just about 20 minutes. Of course we'll carry his remarks live.

And I'm sure you'll be interested to hear what he has to say. Thank you very much, Senator Graham.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a historic mistake for the world. That's how Israel is describing the Iranian nuclear deal. Up next what it means for U.S.-Israeli relations as Benjamin Netanyahu, as I said, is set to speak in just minutes. I'll be right back.



[09:17:34] JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Contrary to the assertions of some, this agreement has no sunset. It doesn't terminate. It will be implemented in phases, beginning within 90 days of the U.N. Security Council endorsing the deal. And some of the provisions are in place for 10 years, others for 15 years, others for 25 years.


COSTELLO: We are following breaking news this morning.

After nearly two years of intense negotiations, world powers have reached a nuclear deal with Iran. You just heard Secretary of State John Kerry praising the agreement. The U.S. says the deal moves the world one step away from conflict.

In the meantime, scathing words from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning. He's set to speak in just about 15 minutes. We'll bring it to you live when it happens. But he's already calling the agreement a historic mistake for the world. Listen.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): When you're ready to make a deal no matter what the cost, this is the result. From the first reports that are arriving, it is already possible to conclude that this agreement is a historic mistake for the world.


COSTELLO: The country's defense minister echoing that statement, saying the deal, quote, "rewards deceit, terror and warmongering. The mere thought of reaccepting the chief terrorist regime into the family of nations is beyond belief."

Here's Naftali Bennett. He's Israel's minister of education and a member of the inner security cabinet.


NAFTALI BENNETT, MEMBER OF ISRAELI'S INNER SECURITY CABINET: This is a new era, a new dark and sinister era for the world. We have to understand this. In 20 years down, if a nuclear bomb explodes in London or New York, we'll know we can trace it down to July 14th, 2015.

Israel always said that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And we will still do that. We stand behind these words. We're preparing for everything we need to do in order to defend ourselves.


COSTELLO: So, what does all of this mean for the Iranian people?

Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. I'm also joined by Trita Parsi. He's the president of the National Iranian American Council.

Thanks to both of you.

Fred, I want to start with you. You've spent a significant amount of time in Iran. When in what capacity will the Iranian people begin to feel the effects of this agreement? Of course, it has to be approved by Congress first. But tell us.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has to be approved by Congress. It has to be approved the Iranian parliament. It also has to be signed off by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

And, in fact, what we're hearing that most probably the president of the country, Hassan Rouhani, is going to meet later with Ayatollah Khamenei about the outline of all of this, and presumably we will know more.

[09:20:09] He is the one who in effect is going to have to sign off on all of this. But certainly, the Iranians that I've been speaking to the vast majority say they want sanctions relief as fast as possible. A lot of them say they have been suffering a lot over the past couple of years.

I was in a factory that made auto parts just a couple of weeks ago they said some of their machines were from the Soviet Union, so about 30 years old. But even for those, they couldn't get any replacement parts. So, clearly, they've been feeling the pinch of the sanctions. Most people want them to go away.

However, there is a core of hard liners that has wanted to remain very tough vis-a-vis not only the U.S., but Western powers in general.

Something interesting happened today when the agreement was announced, was that President Obama's speech was carried live on Iranian state TV. That certainly isn't something that happens very often. The other thing that happened is that Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, actually waited for Barack Obama to finish his speech before beginning his.

So, certainly, it seems as though at this point, there is some belief that the two countries are coming closer together, but, of course, we do know that they are very fragile. There's been talk but some Iranian hard liners, especially from the military, saying they also still see America as their enemy no matter what came out of these negotiations, Carol.

COSTELLO: Fascinating.

So, Trita, I want to pose a question to you. What is the reaction among the Iranian people to this deal?

TRITA PARSI, PRES., THE NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: It's overwhelmingly positive. People want the sense of normalcy. They want to be able to travel. They want to be able to not be viewed by others as a rogue nation. They want to essentially be normal.

It might prove the fact that the Iranian society is one of the most moderate societies in the Muslim Middle East. It is in stark contrast with the government in the sense that they way ahead of it, and when it comes to these things, they more than others will be benefitting from the fact they will now be able to have a more open ability to have contact with the outside world.

COSTELLO: And, Fred, one of the big concerns -- and I heard this from Senator Lindsey Graham -- if this deal is approved by Congress and the Iranian parliament, these bank accounts that have hundreds of millions of dollars in Iranian money in them that have been frozen, the money will be released and Iran will use that money to carry out some other kind of war on terror. Maybe they won't use it for nuclear weapons, but they'll use it for other kinds of weapons and terrorist activity.

PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, the Iranians have said they want this money unfrozen. And they also obviously are major players in many conflicts around the region. There's no doubt about it. If you look at Syria, if you look at Iraq as well, certainly very difficult to say that in all of these conflicts, they necessarily play a negative role. If you look at in Iraq, for instance, the Iraqi government did ask the Iranians for their help, at least in that conflict.

So, there is no telling whether or not the Iranians are going to become even more players in all of this. But I think the major thing that's going to happen is what Trita just said, is that many of Iran's companies are going to get fresh capital. They're going to be able to access international markets.

You know, it's one thing to have these assets unfrozen. It's another thing to be able to make electronic payments in Iran. It's very difficult to travel around there. You can't pay by credit card, you can't do international banking transactions. Those are the things that are going to help Iranian businesses.

Now, of course, there are these concerns that unfrozen money will be used for things that's contrary to what the U.S. wants in that region. That's just something where the world community is going to have to wait and see what exactly will happen. It's going to be interesting to see with the arms embargo also being lifted after five years what that is going to mean for the region as well, Carol.

COSTELLO: So, Trita, can you comment on that, too? What do you see in the future?

PARSI: Well, look, I think one of the reasons why we should be somewhat optimistic about this is the fact that the Iranian incentive structure is going to change now. The cost of engaging activities that we would view as problematic are actually going to be much higher now because the Iranians will have something to lose.

Prior to this deal, when Iranians were under complete sanctions, they had very little political and economic integration with the region or beyond. They really had little to lose from objecting to these policies by creating additional problems.

So, now, when the middle class will be able to enjoy the ability to have trade and interaction with the outside world, if the government were to go back to policies that would be problematic and the middle class would lose that access, I think they'd rise up and push back.

But so far, they'd not have any incentive to do so because they actually didn't have any of those interactions.

COSTELLO: Interesting.

Trita Parsi, Fred Pleitgen, thanks to you both. I appreciate it.

President Obama insisting a long-term deal with Iran makes the world a safer place.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change, change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure.

Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.

[09:25:04] Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.


COSTELLO: So, what exactly are the global implications of this agreement?

Let's ask CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

I think Americans often forget that the United States isn't the only one involved in this deal. There are other countries like Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The P5+1 as it's known, the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, and look at that list there, to have China, Russia and the U.S. on the same page on an agreement, it's a pretty remarkable thing considering the disputes the U.S. has now with those countries.

But that's one thing critics will say as well about this deal is that, listen, you've got this remarkable coalition of countries together to put pressure on Iran, to hold back its nuclear program, and now, you are overtime dismantling that sanctions regime. That's one of the key criticisms from the critics of course. The president's response to that is, you couldn't have kept that team together indefinitely. You know, it's the president's view they're getting the best deal they can now and put the best restrictions they can now on Iran's nuclear program.

COSTELLO: So, Jim, let's say that Congress rejects this deal. What message does that send to those other countries? You know, some of those countries are strong allies.

SCIUTTO: It is, yes. And that's something you'll hear from the administration. Listen, you'll undermine not just this president, but the presidency if Congress won't give the president the ability to negotiate treaties with other countries.

Now, if you look at the vote counting on the Hill, it would seem to be a heavy lift to get a veto-proof majority on the Hill to go against this deal. It seems like the president, particularly with Nancy Pelosi's endorsement today, will get enough votes, particularly in the House, to get this passed.

You know, we'll have to see because a lot of those folks, even Democrats they are reserving judgment until they see the details of this agreement. That's another issue, Carol, and I've seen this before at the various stages of the negotiation, is that you'll often have the two sides come out and describe two different deals, right? Iranians are saying, hey, sanctions are going to disappear on day one. The president and Kerry, et cetera, saying, no, these are conditional, it will happen over time.

And, you know, we're going to have to look at those details to see what the reality is going forward, because, you know, you listen to both sides now and it kind of sounds like two different agreements. COSTELLO: Exactly. Let's center on reality for a little bit longer.

So, Senator Lindsey Graham says this deal is the most dangerous thing that could ever happen in the Middle East. And he talked about it in apocalyptic terms. The president of the United States certainly did not do that.

So, what's the truth?

SCIUTTO: It's -- well, listen, you know, both of them have an ax to grind, Senator Graham as well. But the criticism is -- you have to give them the right to criticize. Is it apocalyptic? You know, hard to make that case, I suppose.

I mean, here's the question. You know, it essentially comes down to what you believe. And we can say this to folks back home -- do you believe it's better to have this sanctions regime for these countries around the world for as long as it lasts, with the possible option of military action if that falls apart for Iran pushes forward?

And, of course, the question about military action is, that would not destroy the program forever. It would set it back a few years. Plus, you have the prospect of war in the Middle East. That's on the one side.

Then, on the other side, you say, listen, you know, we could do our best to verify this. Iran may cheat again. But this is the best deal we can get now. We have the most inspections we've ever had.

You know, that's what you're balancing here -- the prospect possibly of war, trying to keep this international team together, which is difficult, against what the administration will say is, the best deal we can get -- it's not perfect, but it's a best deal we can get in the near term. Both have their dangers. Both have their consequences. It's hard to judge.

And, listen, I think what both side will grant is that neither option is perfect. So, the question is, what are you most comfortable with at home?

And what's interesting, Carol, if you look at the polls, most Americans support the deal rather than the prospect of no deal. So, you know, that's the thing. But over time that could change quickly. If Iran cheats again -- and, you know, there's precedent for that, right? I mean, the international community made a deal with North Korea, and North Korea, as we know, cheated.

So, it's something that's only going to be evaluated overtime.

COSTELLO: All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks for your insight, I appreciate it.

Still to come, as we wait for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak -- they're getting ready. They're testing the microphones.

I've got to take a break. I'll be back with much more in THE NEWSROOM.