Iran and six world powers have clinched a deal to temporarily limit and roll back the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions. The United States and Iran described the agreement as a first step toward a comprehensive deal. The deal was announced after five days of negotiations in Geneva, but it followed months of previously undisclosed secret talks between American and Iranian officials. We speak to Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council, just back from Geneva where he attended the Iran nuclear talks.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
Amy Goodman: Iran and six world powers have clinched a deal to temporarily limit and roll back the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions. The United States and Iran described the agreement as a first step toward a comprehensive deal. The deal was announced after five days of negotiations in Geneva, but had followed months of previously undisclosed secret talks between American and Iranian officials. On Sunday, president Obama outlined key parts of the deal.
President Obama: For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program. And key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to holding certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges, which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or startup new centrifuges and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s bigger facilities and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.
These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb. Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.
Amy Goodman: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the agreement indicates the world has recognized Iran’s nuclear rights. [For more on] the deal, we’re joined by Reza Marashi, the Research Director at the National Iranian American Council. He returned Sunday from Geneva after attending the talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Welcome to _Democracy Now! Can you talk about the significance of this agreement, Reza?
Reza Marashi: What we witnessed over the past few days in Geneva is really nothing short of historic. You only really have to juxtapose what we’ve seen over the past few days with three or four months ago, what a difference an Iranian president can make and what a difference diplomacy can make when political leaders are willing to take risks for peace and invest in the process. As a result of that willingness, we have seen not only roll backs on Iran’s nuclear program, but we’ve also seen a willingness on the part of Western countries to limit the amount of sanctions that they’re putting on Iran, adding no new sanctions. Provide sanctions relief. And I would argue most importantly, finesse the language surrounding this issue of Iran’s right to enrich uranium. The language that was used in the agreement allows both sides to walk away with a win/win scenario where the West can say, we are not acknowledging Iran’s right to enrich, Iran can say they have acknowledge to our right to enrich, and that is what diplomacy is about at the end of the day, creating win/win outcomes. So this is nothing short of positive.
Amy Goodman: Can you talk about the six countries, world powers, involved and why they in particular were involved in this agreement with Iran?
Reza Marashi: That is a great question, let’s unpack that. When the P5+1, as it’s called, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, put this process together, it dates back to the Bush administration. The Bush administration refused to engage Iran seriously in diplomacy, so they used our allies in Europe as a political cover of sorts. To create a process that could engage Iran diplomatically without the U.S. leading the process or being seen as driving it. The Obama administration inherited this and has used it in different ways. In an attempt to maintain unity within the international community, vis-à-vis Iran. But, actually, what we saw in Geneva was more negotiations between the P5+1 themselves than their diplomacy directly with Iran because they themselves had to get on the same page in terms of what they’re going to offer Iran in terms of compromises. So, the more cooks you have in the kitchen, the harder it becomes to find a spoon. Fortunately, everybody was able to get on the same page and a historic first up deal was reached.
Amy Goodman: Can you explain why it’s Iran that the world is focusing around, around this whole issue of nuclear power and weapons?
Reza Marashi: Another great question. I would say there are two reasons why so much focus displaced on Iran. One, we are talking about the Middle East, which is a region where if you have international rules of the game as it pertains to foreign policy and national security, those rules of the game clearly change once you enter this part of the world because of the oil and gas resources they have there, because Israel is there, and because the United States has more or less run the security of this part of the world since the end of World War II. But, I think more specifically than that, the reason why it is critical is because are talking about the world’s most dangerous weapons at the end of the day. And there’s little to no trust between the U.S. and Iran. Fortunately, diplomacy at the outset does not require trust. Through the diplomatic process, you build trust that is necessary to reach a final agreement and hopefully, in six months time from now, we will be able to reach that point.
Amy Goodman: I want to turn to the words of Iranian President Rouhani.
Hassan Rouhani: The outcome of these negotiations is that the five plus one, or in other words, the world powers, have recognized Iran’s nuclear rights. The Islamic Republic of Iran [Unintelligible] enjoys this right. And this right has been granted to all the signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. For this reason, more than 40 countries in the world carry out enrichment programs withNPT. On this basis, the International Atomic Energy Agency monitors the performance of most countries who produce nuclear fuel.