TRANSCRIPT AVAILABLE: Iran Nuclear Talks - What Can Be Achieved in 2013?
Toward a Diplomatic Solution of the Iranian Nuclear Crisis:
What Can Be Achieved in 2013?
Featuring Amb. Thomas Pickering, Amb. Hossein Mousavian, and Alireza Nader
Monday, February 25, 2013
2:00pm to 3:30pm
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,1779 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC
After an eight-month hiatus, the resumption of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group on February 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan offers a critical opportunity to move toward a diplomatic solution to the long-running standoff over Tehran's sensitive nuclear activities.
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said: "...Iran must recognize that now's the time for a diplomatic solution because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon."
On the eve of the next round of talks, the Arms Control Association (ACA) will host an expert briefing and discussion to explore the options and diplomatic pathways for reaching a deal that limits Iran's nuclear potential in the coming months.
The panel included:
- Career U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering;
- Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Associate Research Scholar at Princeton University and former Iranian nuclear negotiator (2003-2005);
- Alireza Nader, Senior Policy Analyst at the Rand Corporation; and
- Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, ACA (moderator)
Copies of ACA's new briefing book, "Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle," a comprehensive, entry-level guide to Iran's nuclear program and its capabilities, and the risks, benefits, and limitations of policy options also will be available at the event.
You can see video coverage of the event here at CSPAN.
Federal News Service
DARYL KIMBALL: All right. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Daryl Kimball. I’m executive director of the Arms Control Association. We’re an independent nongovernmental organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy ideas to address the world’s most dangerous weapons, including nuclear weapons
We welcome you to today’s briefing on finding a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis and to discuss what might be achieved in 2013 through diplomacy. It’s been nearly 10 years since the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran, a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, had secretly built a uranium enrichment facility in violation of its commitments under the treaty to comply with safeguards designed to detect diversion of nuclear materials for military purposes. Since then, the IAEA’s reports have documented a steady but slow progress of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and other sensitive aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. And there is information that suggests that Iran may have engaged in activities with potential military dimensions.
After an initial round of international talks between 2003 and 2005 led to a pause in Iran’s uranium nuclear program, the talks stalled, and Iran resumed and expanded its enrichment activities and continued other fuel-cycle projects. Since 2006 Iran and the P5+1 group, which is China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States and the United Kingdom, have fumbled fleeting diplomatic opportunities to reach a deal that reduces the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran, in exchange for a rollback of the nonproliferation, or the proliferation-related sanctions that have been imposed on Iran.
Now, eight months since the last round of talks between the P5+1 group, talks will resume tomorrow, February 26, in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The meeting offers a critical opportunity, in our view, to finally begin to move forward toward a diplomatic solution to the long-running standoff over Tehran’s nuclear activities. And as our new Arms Control Association briefing book illustrates, we think that a deal that ties Iran’s enrichment activities and its stockpiles to its actual nuclear power needs, combined with more extensive IAEA safeguards, could sufficiently guard against a nuclear-armed Iran.
And as we’ll hear today, however, after the three rounds of nuclear talks in 2009 and some private meetings, we see a number of areas of agreement between the two sides, and we also see some substantial differences. Back in May of 2012, the two sides laid down a series of proposals that set the stage for the talks that will resume tomorrow in Kazakhstan. Iran put forward what they called a five-step proposal, and at the core of that proposal were a couple of key ideas, which is – which was to have Iran continue what they called broad cooperation with the IAEA and will transparently cooperate with IAEA on the potential military dimensions issue. And in exchange, Iran proposed the P5+1 will end unilateral and multilateral sanctions against Iran outside U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Another key component of the Iranian plan was confidence-building steps, as they call them, continuous monitoring of enrichment activities. Iran proposed that there would be a termination of U.N. sanctions and a removal of Iran’s nuclear file from the U.N. Security Council agenda in return for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), which uses the higher-percentage uranium.
On the other hand, the P5+1 group called for several different Iranian actions and a different sequence of steps. They proposed that Iran halt all 20 percent enrichment activities, that it transfers all 20 percent-enriched uranium to a third country under IAEA custody and shuts down the Fordow enrichment facility, which is Iran’s second and underground enrichment facility.
In response, the P5+1 said they would provide fuel assemblies for the TRR, the Tehran Research Reactor, would support technical cooperation for other Iranian nuclear activities, and that the United States would be prepared to permit safety-related inspection and repair for commercial aircraft and spare parts, as well as some other measures.
So as you can see, there are some similarities between the two sets of proposals that were put forward last year, but there are differences about the sequencing of the steps, whether Iran’s actions come before sanctions relief or whether sanctions relief comes before concrete actions.
But I think as you’ll hear today, if – this is from the speakers we have for you – if both sides approach the talks with greater flexibility and some creativity, an initial confidence-building deal that works through some of these differences could still be within reach. And this could significantly reduce the proliferation risks that currently exist and buy time for a more permanent resolution to the crisis.
So today we have with us three very experienced and very well-informed panelists to provide their perspectives on the options and the diplomatic pathways for reaching a deal that limits Iran’s nuclear potential in the coming months. First we’re going to hear from career U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who served as undersecretary of state for political affairs, ambassador to the United Nations, ambassador to El Salvador, Jordan, India, Israel, Nigeria and Russia and a few other things.
We’ll also hear from Hossein Mousavian, who is currently associate research scholar at Princeton University and a former Iranian nuclear negotiator himself from 2003 to 2005. Hossein is also the author of this 2012 opus, “The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir,” which is published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where we are today.
We’ll also hear from Alireza Nader, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. And he is the co-author of “Coping with a Nuclearizing Iran” and “Israel and Iran: A Dangerous Rivalry.”
So I think we’ve got a very good group for you today. We’re going to hear from each of them, and then we’re going to turn to your questions, and we’ll have some discussion.
So Ambassador Pickering, you are up first, and the floor is yours. Thanks for being here.
THOMAS PICKERING: Thank you, Daryl, very much. It’s an honor and pleasure to be here. Hossein and I have done numerous – what I guess can be best characterized as dog-and-pony or Mutt-and-Jeff shows at various places, seeking, I think, neither of us necessarily to do anything but see if we could make it a more likely possibility and a more lively possibility that a negotiation would not only begin, but continue and lead to some useful results. And I’m very happy to be present with Alireza Nader from RAND as well, who I know brings special insights of his own into the problems and the prospects for the future.
I’d like to just do two things, Daryl, if I can. And thank you for your very valuable and very useful introduction. I’d like, in the typical diplomat’s refuge, to talk a little bit first about process. The truth is, American diplomats, when totally stymied, will always want to talk about process. So I have a second portion of what I’d like to speak about today, and that’s to talk a little bit about the substance and how and in what way the substance might actually be used to prepare and prosper in negotiation.
I leave judgments up to the press, who have been liberal with them, and others about the prospects for breakthroughs in Kazakhstan. My own sense is that it is a breakthrough in 33 years of mistrust and misunderstanding to have continued talks even if nothing else comes of them for a while but a certain amount of coffee-drinking. But I do believe, in fact, that we are approaching a time when the pace of talks that have been set in 2012, three high-level talks and a number of expert talks, and the continuation of that pace can help us, among other things, lead to moves ahead.
Let’s talk about process in the broadest sense. We had a brief flirtation at Munich and beyond with the U.S. proposal and with seemingly a mixed Iranian reaction to the idea of bilateral negotiations. And I assumed that these would be bilateral negotiations in the context of the discussions between the P5+1 in Iran, much like the 6+1 talks were conducted in the Far East, not that they are necessarily markedly important as a record for success in this format but because in fact they provide an opportunity for bilateral conversations to proceed. And I would assume they might proceed between Iran and other partners in the P5+1 but at the same time preserve the structure of common agreement that will have to be achieved at the end of the conversations between the 5+1 and Iran.
I think secondly, it’s important to note that such talks can help in a number of ways. It is no state secret that the EU3 talks when they first began were in fact EU3+1 talks; despite the fact the United States was not present at the table. The United States was a necessary partner and at the same time perhaps a sufficient partner but didn’t appear until the last year of the Bush administration. The idea, therefore, that the U.S. plays an important role is not a figment of Madeline Albright’s imagination, nor is it hubris, but I think it’s a reality. And therefore, having the U.S. actively at the table with Iran, with opportunities to speak frankly and informally in a bilateral context, in my view, could be very helpful.
The P5+1 is, by definition, a lowest common denominator operation. And instincts among the P5+1 against being adventuresome are in some ways matched inside the United States government. And so there is a mutual reinforcement of excessive timidity, if I can put it that way, which is not a helpful fact of life when you’re, in a sense, dealing with set of negotiations that have a finite life.
And I think that’s important to look at and to try to assure, that perhaps it could be overcome or at least worked around in some way so that it would be useful as this process goes ahead. I think there’s some other factors that probably also play here that might be looked at, but those are the most important ones, I think, to speed the process ahead.
I think there are other issues of process that might well also be considered. I mentioned earlier the need for regular meetings. I mentioned earlier the hope that meetings could be better prepared and that they might move ahead on a regular schedule. We have set a precedent in the United States in the last half of the year 2012 that elections are also a factor in the negotiating process, and we should expect no less with respect to Iran’s elections and their impact, in a process sense, on negotiations.
We owe it, at least on reciprocal basis, to understand that Iran may wish for electoral reasons to delay, even if in fact the electoral process and the electoral context – and I mean on aspersion on this – is different than it is in the United States and the electoral office is somewhat different than it is in the United States. Nevertheless, it needs to be taken into account. And I think that that is significant.
Let me turn now briefly to substantive questions. I think at the outset, at the 50,000 foot level, against the backdrop of long mistrust and misunderstanding, there is at least one set of tradeoff issues that both sides – that each side harbors serious doubts upon that have to be dispelled. Certainly on the Iranian side, there is the increasing realization, often brought home to us by our Iranian contacts, that at the very top of the Iranian leadership, and perhaps permeating it, is a deep distrust over the fact that, from their perspective, the Western and U.S. policy is seemingly – is attached to wholly if not completely to regime change as the only acceptable objective.
On our side, I believe we need to be given credit for equal and opposite prejudicial views about the outcome and about the approach. That is, we harbor deep and abiding concerns about whether Iran is really only interested in a civil nuclear program or whether it has military objectives in mind. To some extent, these two get in the way of a process of negotiations and will have to be dealt with if the negotiations are going to proceed.
There are no easy ways because, in fact, after a long period of mistrust, any pious assertion to the contrary, no matter how many bibles are under the hand that makes it, will in itself only breed uncertainty about what is really meant, given the level of distrust. Action, in my view, is much more important to dispel those concerns. And there are many forms of action. One set of actions is that if Iran believes there are things that we are doing which in fact are being done for the purpose of regime change, we ought to be able to find a way to put those on the table and talk about them.
If Iran believes that we are serious about a negotiation effort – and they certainly have been working hard to try to get them going, including a bilateral negotiation and a negotiation with the government of Iran – why would we, if we have regime change in mind, bolster that government through a negotiating process that could lead to an end which, in many ways, would reaffirm its continued existence? Certainly that doesn’t make much sense.
On the other side, we have deep concerns, but we had said at the same time that it is time for us to see, as Secretary Clinton said recently, whether the fatwa outlawing the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons by Iran can somehow be reinforced and strengthened as an Iranian declaration. It’s a declaration, in my view, which is supportive of, consistent with and indeed a ratification of Iran’s commitments under the NPT, which in the international context should take a first-place form of commitment, but need to be worked on. So that is important.
The second set of issues that I would raise is the grand bargain versus smaller steps. My own view is increasingly it is unrealistic to believe that negotiators who can barely agree on the time of day, or indeed the month and date for the next meeting, should have to solve a whole plethora of problems, just in the nuclear field alone, to say nothing of a wider scope of differences between the U.S. and Iran at a single series of negotiations.
It would have the disadvantage of being exceedingly, if not super complex. The disadvantage for allowing each side to conclude that any objection to any one of the problems that has to be put in place before anything could be put in place is merely an exercise in creating a giant schlep for whatever purposes that might have in the interest of the party being accused of doing so. So I believe it is time to think about smaller steps and that they’re important.
But against the backdrop of that, we have another Iranian concern, which I believe it is entirely possible to dispel by at least providing a sense of an open process that can arrive at an end game, the end state of which might be more easily described than how to get there or the steps by which in fact you approach that end. The end state that I think that is important to think about has four points – two Iranian concerns and two U.S. and allies concerns.
The U.S. and allies concerns are, simply stated: How and in what way can we get an put in place an accurate description of the Iranian program, including its intentions, that limit it to the civil scope which Iran continues to profess is its objective, and how can we put in place the necessary inspections and transparency to assure that there is the best of all possible chances of making clear on a regular basis that the program remains in that scope?
Certainly we have no idea yet, unless it’s been vouchsafed in total secrecy, what the Iranian objective is with respect to its needs for fuel at the 20 percent enrichment level for the TRR Reactor. And we have even less idea, even though now eight tons of LEU has been accumulated, of what Iran’s plans are for LEU. It has one reactor, conveniently supplied by the Russians on a long-term basis with take-back of spent fuel.
I could see perhaps in Iran some concern that at some point the Russians might turn off the fuel supply. And I could see it as legitimate to build some reservoir of capacity against that objective, however unlikely that might seem. But to go beyond there, what is eight tons of fuel going to do? Is it for sale overseas? Well, sell it. Is it for use in some future, undefined, unknown and yet unfunded reactor program? Well, tell us about it.
I think there is fertile use for conversations to begin to define this because, on the Iranian side, we understand they would like to have no more sanctions in place, at the end of the day. And I can understand why – certainly against their nuclear program. And they would like recognition of their right to enrich.
That is, of course, tied directly, clearly and completely, in my view, to what kind of program they intend to enrich for – that evanescent, somewhat elusive, undescribed civil program I’ve just decided, which should be on the agenda of the talks if they’re going to make any real progress because knowing the answer to that question will help to define, not just the basis on which we can trust the fatwa, but more importantly on the basis on which we can extend never before vouchsafed as an obligation by us from the DOD on down, the recognition of the Iranian right to enrich. It’s in the NPT. It has been temporarily taken away by the U.N. Security Council, and that will be dealt with, I suspect, if we get a deal. And to some extent, that may be what concerns Iran. And that can be changed, in my view, in the context of a deal. But a deal has to have parameters.
One final point: small steps. I think that here, as we have seen – and Daryl laid this out very well – we have what I have come to call the horse for a rabbit problem. The Iranian proposal is a kind of you give us your horse, no more sanctions, and we’ll give you a rabbit, a PMD, and maybe some description of a civil program; we’re not yet sure.
That’s not bad, but it’s not quite there yet. And of course the timing of how these various steps come together is important, and it’s another thing that makes a grand bargain hard. But it could help to define an early step.
And I have to say, with, I hope, equal candor and determination, that the Western proposals have their own horse for a rabbit context: shutdown of Fordow, ending of 20 percent, sending out all of 20 percent, spare parts in return for airplanes – and I used to work for Boeing, so I think it’s a great idea, but that’s not either here nor there with respect to this particular issue – and some other efforts to help. But at the moment I can see no sanctions relief. We have now dangles today in the press about some sanctions relief, and hopefully that will be forthcoming.
I would be willing to start with something purely and simply as straightforward as moving all of the Iranian fuel to someplace away from where it could be easily upgraded, if, of course, it is done under IAEA control. I’d be even happier for the Iranians to continue doing what they seemingly have been doing with a significant percentage of the 20 percent fuel, turning it into metallic powder, preparatory, hopefully, to making it into fuel elements, which means that rapid reversibility or rapid upgrading of 20 percent material has to move it back to gaseous form and then back into the centrifuge cascades, which builds in, I think, a little extra help on the process and should not be discounted or thrown away as a way to proceed.
But I think that asking the Iranians for a definition of what they need and then regulating the 20 percent production to an agreed definition is a very logical starting place. If at the moment all 20 percent is being made at Fordow and no 3.5 percent is being made there, then of course stopping 20 percent or limiting 20 percent is a limited – is a limit on Fordow, even if it doesn’t shut the gates. And shutting the gates, of course, is a deep Israeli concern, but in large measure that has to do with the military capability of taking out a difficult target, rather than necessarily reaching a joint agreement on the endpoint of an Iranian program that might continue.
So I think the four points I raised about the end state are important. I think a very limited early step would be important, even if it doesn’t seem to be overwhelming. And at the end of the day, because I’m a very low common denominator guy on talks, I think we’ve got to try to continue them. I’d even be agreed for a date, time and place for the next meeting.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you, Tom.
SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: Good afternoon. First of all, I would like to thank Daryl and Arms Control Association for arranging this event.
I had a prepared a written 10-minute statement, but after Tom’s speech, I understood this is completely useless, and I had to make my mind, when you were talking, what to say.
Obama has been re-elected. This is positive. John Kerry now is secretary of state. This is positive. Everybody’s optimistic Chuck Hagel also would be secretary of defense. This is also positive.
But tomorrow’s nuclear talks in Kazakhstan would fail, and I believe, despite of positive developments in the new administration/second term of Obama, this would continue to fail – any further negotiations in the future.
Let me too refer to three issues after the four points Tom raised. The first is about the format of the P5+1. I wonder whether any more this format would be constructive. It seems the format – the composition of P5+1, five permanent members of United Nations Security Council plus Germany, is dysfunctional. And I believe Europeans – also they have the same understanding; Americans – also they have the same understanding, perhaps Chinese and Russia also the same, although they cannot say.
Tom is right; when we were talking with EU-3, we failed because the U.S. was not on board. When the U.S. joined to talks, there was two different school of thoughts in Iran. The Iranian diplomats, including me, we were happy the U.S. is joining to direct talks, and it was a hope for us there would be a resolution. But Iranian leadership was completely suspicious, and they believed this would be counterproductive, because the U.S. is not going to come to negotiations for good intentions.
Unfortunately, after five years, with the presence of the U.S., the situation has become much more complicated. With the U.S. initiative, the file has been referred to United Nations Security Council. Many international multilateral sanctions, resolutions, unilateral – American unilateral sanctions, European unilateral sanctions – this has made really the situation much, much more complicated, compared to 2005, to find a solution.
Nevertheless, to me, there is a new conclusion. We should think whether to continue the P5+1 format or to create a new situation for Iran and the U.S. to sit together and to resolve the problem, rather than wasting the time for another – years, five years, 10 years. I think this would be the best way and the shortest way.
But whether this would be possible or not, me and Tom – just we were talking before this event about interpretation of the recent statements by American/Iranian leaders on direct talks, and although there is a misunderstanding in the West about Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement on direct talks with the U.S., which – he said officially this would not be – this would not resolve anything, but in his statement he made it very, very clear that neither the nuclear talks – the direct talks with the U.S. is red line for Iran and nor normal relation with the U.S.
For him, for me, being 30 years in Iranian administration and familiar with his mindset and also, if someone reads very carefully his statement, for him to issue is important or to enter meaningful talks with the U.S. – one is about the U.S. language. The U.S. has continued to use the language of threat. And as long as the U.S. is talking with Iran with the language of threat, humiliation, Iranians – they would not come to any direct talks, because this would – practically means that Iran has raised a hand under pressures and threats, and they are not going to do it.
The second is about action. The U.S., during 30 years, I mean, they have – many times they have proposed Iran for direct talks. It is not only limited to President Obama. But Iranians, they gauge the intention of the U.S. not by talks, words and invitations; they gauge by the U.S. actions. And unfortunately, in parallel of invitation for direct talks, always the U.S. has escalated hostilities, pressures, sanctions. Just the last event was Vice President Biden, you remember, two weeks ago in Munich, he invited Iran for direct talks. At the same time, in Washington, the Congress passed a new legislation for more sanctions. Iranians in Tehran, sitting in Tehran, they don’t pay attention to what Biden is talking about. They look at Washington decision for more sanctions and pressures. And these two have convinced Iran that they U.S. is not ready for a serious, genuine, meaningful talks.
Therefore, if Kerry – Senator Kerry is State Secretary Kerry wants to make a chance in Iranian mindset, the first one is what Tom said – I hundred percent agree – the Iranian perception is that the U.S. is after regime change. But the second is to change the language, to use the language of respect rather than threats and humiliation. He said, Ayatollah Khamenei said you are putting gun on our head, and you’re telling us, either negotiate or we will kill you. What kind of negotiation is this? And also to support your invitation for direct talks with positive actions, not with more hostility, in order to convince the Iranians that you have a good will.
My second point is about the IAEA role. I believe as long as there is not a comprehensive deal between Iran and the international interlocutors, now P5+1, the IAEA should not go to discuss technical issues with Iran. It doesn’t work, and definitely this would be counterproductive. The IAEA has had two visit in last two, three months. Both failed. And I predicted before every of – both two visits, I said publicly this would fail. This was a mistake by Iran. This was a mistake by the IAEA. It’s clear.
Iran has no problem for cooperate with the IAEA on technical ambiguities in the framework of safeguard agreement. But the IAEA is asking Iran for inspections, accesses in the framework of additional protocol and even beyond additional protocol. This possible military dimension issues, many of you may have heard. The IAEA is asking Iran to give accesses in order to address these possible military dimension issues.
For Iran to give access, Iran should accept to give access beyond additional protocol. There is no international arrangement beyond additional protocol, nothing. Therefore, for Iran to accept additional protocol, a protocol with 70 countries – even today they have not signed, and – or for Iran to give access beyond additional protocol, there should be something in return. The IAEA is not in position to discuss the reciprocations. That’s why I believe first we need a deal. And then the IAEA is welcome to Tehran, and I’m confident Iranians, they will cooperate for any level of transparency with the IAEA.
My last point is about content of a deal. As far as I understand – if anyones understand differently, please correct me – the world powers, they have five major demands. The first one is for Iran to implement additional protocol to enable the IAEA for intrusive inspections. The second one is to implement subsidiary arrangement code 3.1, which would, again, bring more transparencies. And the third one is to cooperate with the IAEA to address the possible military dimension issues, PMDs, which would require Iran to give access beyond additional protocol. And the fourth one is to cap at 5 percent. And the fifth is limiting the stockpile, enriched uranium stockpile.
If this is exactly this one – these five or more, it is not matter – it doesn’t matter. The – but definitely, this is true that the P5+1, they are asking Iran two sets of measures: One set’s for transparencies, whatever it is – additional protocol or – one set is about breakout capability, like cap at 5 percent.
Iranians also, they have two demands, as Tom mentioned: for the P5+1 to respect of Iran under NPT for enrichment, the legitimate rights of Iran, not to discriminize (sic) Iran. And the second: Ultimately, sanction should be relieved – should be lifted.
The solution, in my understanding, is, first of all, the P5+1 in Iran, they should agree on the principles rather than discussing on the piecemeal steps or the first step. The P-5, they can present Iran a list of measures on transparency, whatever it is. It is additional protocol subsidiary arrangement, PMDs, access to Parchin or whatever it is. The second sets of measures the P-5 can present to Iran is on breakout capability, on assurances of – on nondivergent of Iranian nuclear program toward nuclear weapons in the – in the future. What can be the objective guarantees with the world powers that Iranian nuclear program would never diverge and Iran would stay as non-nuclear weapon state forever?
If they present these two sets of measures plus respecting accepting the two principles, the two major items Iran is asking, right, and sanctions, first, they need to accept – to agree on the principles, including all these three, the measures on transparency, the measures on breakout capability and Iranian demands. If they agree, then the negotiations can go – (next ?), talks on definition of the first step, reciprocations, what – the priority a step is 20 percent or the priority a step is additional protocol – these can come later
But I believe Iran would be ready. I believe Iran today is ready. China is ready. Russia is ready. Part of Europeans are ready, part not, like France.
But the main problem, again, here is in Washington. Washington is not ready to move on substantive sanctions at all. As long as the U.S. and the P5+1 are not ready to recognize the rights of Iran and to move on sanctions, substantive sanctions, there would be no solution. There would be no solution.
Just a friend of mine who had recently had a chance to talk with a member of P5+1 told me the next talks would be so-called – in Almaty would be about lifting targeted sanctions. Targeted sanctions is what Tom said, the spare parts for airplanes or letting Iran to import gold or something like this. If they want Iran to go for strategic move, they need to go for a strategic removal of sanctions. Otherwise, I am not really optimistic we would reach to anywhere.
Daryl, you are right. My time is over, but we will have time to talk in the panel. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. KIMBALL: Ali Nader, you're next. We’ve already had a table set by our first two speakers. Thanks for coming.
ALIREZA NADER: Good afternoon. Thanks for organizing this great panel.
I just want to put the negotiations in context, because I don’t really think that the Almaty negotiations or any other negotiations are just about Iran’s nuclear program. Rather, it’s really about the relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic. The current problem is that it’s an issue of sequencing. Iran wants the P5+1 to take certain actions to build confidence. And the P5+1 wants Iran to take certain actions to build confidence first. And this is really an issue because of the historical sense of distrust between the United States and Iran. And that’s really the major impediment in the upcoming talks.
Now, why do the two sides not trust each other? For the United States, a sense of distrust comes from the secretive nature of the Iranian nuclear program. We’ll have to recall that Iran’s nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak were not willingly revealed by the Islamic Republic but by other parties. That in itself has created a sense of distrust.
Also, we have to remember that there is a strategic rivalry between the Islamic Republic and the United States, and negotiations have to be seen within that context. It’s not just about a process or sequencing. There’s a real competition going on here between the two countries. Iran’s opposition to Israel, the Iranian regime’s support for terrorism and the very nature of the Islamic Republic creates a lot of doubts in Washington, D.C., regarding Iranian intentions. And we’re not going to be easily able to solve that.
How does the regime view the United States? With a lot of distrust. The head of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, believes that the United States is fundamentally opposed to the Iranian revolution, that the United States just doesn’t oppose Iranian policies but the very essence of the Islamic Republic. And this is what he has said repeatedly. And also, the United States wants to overthrow and diminish Iran’s allies in the region, including the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and eventually Hezbollah once, and if, but really once the Bashar al-Assad regime falls. In addition, Khamenei believes that the United States wants to implement a velvet revolution in Iran – this is very actually cultural in nature; it’s not just about sanctions or a military attack – that the United States wants to support reformists and a civil society in Iran to overthrow the regime.
And so if the two sides have these fundamental perceptions of each other, we have to ask: Can there be a reconciliation between the United States and the Islamic Republic? And the answer is no. As long as we have the current regime in Iran, we’re not going to see a normalization of relations with Iran.
Of course, there’s a convergence of interest as well, and I think that’s where we can be a little hopeful on the current crisis. And that convergence is that neither side really wants to resort to military action to reach a solution. There's all – there’s a lot of talk about the military option in Washington, D.C., and Tel Aviv, but both sides are reluctant to take military action. Iran, of course, does not want military action, either. A military conflict, you can make a very good argument, would be against the national interests of all sides. Of course, we can’t rule out a military conflict because even if the United States does not want a military conflict, we may come to a point if negotiations fail that the U.S. may have to seriously undertake military actions or consider a military option.
Now, what does, really, Washington want? It’s not a matter of Iran’s right to enrich uranium. I think we’re willing to give that to Iran. What we’re concerned about – the United States and its allies specifically – is an Iranian nuclear weapons capability. Now, Ayatollah Khamenei has supposedly issued a fatwa, or an edict, saying Iran does not want nuclear weapons. But that’s not good enough. We also want to prevent Iran from having the capability, from building the infrastructure and enriching enough uranium so it can dash toward a nuclear weapons capability. And today we see that Iran is shrinking that time, that it’s closing – getting closer and closer to that nuclear weapons capability by enriching uranium to 20 percent, by installing more advanced centrifuges, the IR-2 in Natanz, by continuing work at Fordow. And Iran, of course, wants a recognition of its right to enrich uranium and the lifting of sanctions.
Now, a note on sanctions. Ayatollah Khamenei has said that he will not negotiate with a gun put against his head, but given the nature of the distrust between the Islamic Republic and the United States, we need both positive and negative inducements to get Tehran to come to the table. We can’t accept on good faith that Ayatollah Khamenei does not want nuclear weapons. There has to be positive and negative inducements.
Now, we’ve heard a lot about the negative effects of sanctions. No doubt, they’re hurting the Iranian population; they’re hurting the Iranian middle class. And we can go on in terms of the statistics – Iran’s reduction of oil exports, et cetera, et cetera. And of course the sanctions are hurting the Iranian population, unfortunately. But also sanctions are affecting the regime as well. These are not the kind of sanctions that the regime can escape from. The Islamic Republic is deeply dependent on its oil exports. Even its nonoil export economy is deeply suffering in terms of reduction in auto manufacturing and a number of other exports. So over time, other elements of the regime, including the Revolutionary Guards and the bazaar in Iran, which form the pillars of Khamenei’s support, are going to feel the pressure of sanctions as well, and this will exacerbate the internal tensions in Tehran.
We’re facing the June 2013 presidential election. The other week you saw Ali Larijani, the speaker of parliament, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad get in a big public fight. And as the economic pie in Iran shrinks, the different factions vying for power and wealth are going to compete with each other even more. Ahmadinejad always talks about an economic mafia running Iran, and he complains about this economic mafia. And in reality, there are several economic mafias running Iran and they’re competing with each other.
And lastly, the Iranian population is also getting restless. The crisis the regime faces today is not just about the nuclear program or the internal divisions in Iran. It’s really a crisis of legitimacy. We saw this crisis play itself out in 2009 with Iranians coming out into the streets. And Iran has witnessed the rest of the Middle East really changing in a very dynamic way, so the same Arab Spring that we’ve seen in other countries might still be very possible in Iran. The regime cannot avoid some of the internal contradictions within Iran.
Also, Iran’s regional position has greatly weakened over the years. From 2003 to 2009, you could argue that the Islamic Republic was regionally ascendant, especially with the U.S. problems in Iraq and Afghanistan. The regime in Baghdad that came to power after 2003 had very friendly relations with Iran; Hezbollah was able to withstand Israel’s military assault – or the military conflict between the two in 2006; Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. And so a lot of groups allied with Tehran were very successful during that time, and a lot of regional actors saw Iran as an ascendant power.
I think things have really changed, especially since 2009. The Iranian regime’s crackdown on protesters really showed the rest of the region what kind of regime this was, that it was not interested in protecting the rights of the downtrodden, but it was really willing to use violence and intimidation to hold onto power in Iran without any sort of democratic reforms.
And today we see that the Syrian regime may fall sometime soon, sooner or later, and this would be a big blow to Iran’s regional ambitions. It would lose its major ally in the Middle East. It would be effectively cut off physically from Hezbollah. It would not be able to supply Hezbollah as well militarily. So, all the indications are bad for the regime.
And when we talk about negotiations, of course, we don’t want to tell the other side you’re weak, we’re strong, so you have to make concessions. That’s not what a good diplomat does. However, fundamentally, Tehran has a weaker hand in this equation, and there are a lot of people in Iran who realize that. So of course, Ayatollah Khamenei has said that he’s not a politician; he’s a revolutionary; his policy is resistance, that he’s not going to give in to the United States, that the United States uses the language of force.
But there are those around Ayatollah Khamenei who don’t necessarily see things the way he does, perhaps, that they realize Iran is under a tremendous pressure. Many Iranian officials have talked about the dangers of sanctions. A lot of people around Khamenei, or within the elite, anyways, realize that the regime is jeopardizing its own existence through its policies, and if the current negotiations in Almaty do not succeed, then we can expect to see increasing sanctions against Iran, pressure on Iran’s remaining trade partners, such as China, India and Turkey and even Pakistan, to cut off trade relations.
So unfortunately, for the Iranian people, anyhow, the worst is yet to come. This is not an entirely positive situation, but I think it provides the United States and its allies with the opportunity to pursue their current policies without resorting to military force, in the hope that in the next several months and the coming years internal developments in Iran will give the United States an opportunity to forgo the military option completely.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you all very much.
We now are going to be turning the microphones over to you, after I open up the questions, so keep your hands up so that our – my staff can find you in just a second.
I wanted to bring us all back to the talks that are going to begin tomorrow and some of the early reports that have come out and ask you to respond to some of the things that are being said, apparently, by some of the U.S. officials earlier today and to ask you what your interpretation is, because I think some of this speaks to what Hossein Mousavian was talking about in terms of the U.S. trying to outline a pathway towards a better U.S. and Iranian relationship and a long-term solution, not just the piecemeal steps.
And there’s – there are – there’s a report this morning that the updated P5+1 proposal is a, quote, “real, serious and substantive offer,” said one U.S. diplomat. “We are trying to outline a pathway for sanctions relief. The president has been clear that if Iran keeps all obligations under the NPT, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the IAEA, there is absolutely a pathway for it to have peaceful nuclear power.”
So if we imagine for a moment that the offer is genuinely different, what would each of you say that that different package ought to be at this round in order to achieve some of that progress? I just wanted to have you focus in on what some of those elements might be in that more serious or substantive offer.
So Tom, if you could start off, and then maybe Hossein, and then Ali, please.
MR. PICKERING: Yeah. Daryl, thanks. I tried to cover some of this in my prepared remarks when I talked about maybe two different but related early packages.
I think that there’s clearly an effort on the part of the United States, for which I commend them, to see if they can, pardon the expression, enrich the sanctions menu. But I think that has to happen. I think the Iranian expectation is very high here. But the notion that the sanctions menu should be completely devoid of a relationship with the nuclear program for which they would put on is probably a red line that’ll have to be crossed somewhere. It doesn’t mean that the sanctions have to be on the trade in nuclear material so much as they have to have been put in effect for purposes of influencing Iranian nuclear program. And I think that is a kind of useful effort if it can be (eked ?) over there.
One possibility is perhaps some of the EU sanctions on bank transfers and on petroleum. Iran still depends on refined petroleum imports. Another is possibly one that may or may not have a nuclear connection, but it bothers me. It’s bothered me for a long time. It’s the fact that we apparently give license, at OFAC in Treasury, for export of food and medicine, but we in effect have made it clear to the banking community in ways that they at least believe is unexceptionable that they cannot process any transfers to pay for the food and medicine. So in fact, it’s giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
And I’m objecting to it because, having been involved in sanctions programs, including the massive sanctions on Iraq, where we specifically, in the U.N. resolutions, excluded food and medicine – it later got tangled up in Oil for Food, and we all know what a mess that was, but that was in large measure because of Saddam’s manipulation of the program and other people’s weaknesses in dealing with that manipulation, not so much the principle. And I think the principle is pretty well-established that in sanctions regimes, you don’t attempt to punish the people for the sins of the regime, and you don’t attempt to deprive them of what are really the essentials, which are access to food and medicine, as long as they’re prepared and willing to pay for that on a reasonable basis.
And I think we ought to try to open that up as a gesture of good will as much as anything else. We’re the bigger power. We can, I think, afford to put things on the table, however much we may be criticized by some domestically for it, as a way of seeking to put on the table some bona fides that can help open it up.
We have problems here – I think Alireza was kind to mention sequencing. And sequencing has two aspects. The easiest aspects is how do you syncopate reciprocal measures for the implementation of a program, and the hard aspect is who takes the first big step to open the door. And that’s a more difficult one. And there I would think it’s probably in our interest to do that but even more in our interest to do that in a place where the policy principle of the United States is in favor of doing that rather than the other way around.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you.
Hossein, your thoughts?
MR. MOUSAVIAN: First all, I have problem with the statement of the U.S. official when he says if Iran is committed under – for its obligation under NPT, that would be – make deal if the U.S. really mean it, but they don’t mean it.
Today they are asking Iran to stop 20 percent enrichment. Under NPT, every member is permitted to have enrichment up to hundred percent. When you are asking Iran to be committed to do enrichment below 5 percent, no other NPT member have committed officially to IAEA that they would be forever committed to do enrichment below 5 percent. When they are talking with Iran on transparency measures, as I said, they are asking Iran for, on possible military dimension, to give access beyond an additional protocol. This is beyond NPT. It is nothing beyond additional protocol.
The real demand the P5+1 and the U.S., they have, majority of their demands goes beyond NPT. Therefore, when they are publicly saying obligation under NPT, obligation under NPT is only one thing: transparency, transparency within the safeguard, transparency within the Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1, and the maximum is transparency within the additional protocol – nothing beyond.
MR. KIMBALL: Hossein, if I could just jump – go ahead – jump in here.
MR. PICKERING: Could I – could I – the obligation under the NPT is not to acquire, produce or use nuclear weapons. Transparency is a facilitative mechanism to provide assurance. So the obligation is real. The obligation is central. The obligation, I would remind you, happens to accord completely with a text of the fatwa – there have been many – that I find the most prepossessing because it’s the one that’s clearest and most straightforward.
And so in that regard, it is very clear that the right to enrich is linked first to the obligation not to be military, but secondly, ipso facto, because there is only the alternative between military and civil, to a civil program. And there is reason to ask Taiwan, South Korea, South Africa, others who are not nuclear powers but are committed to those obligations not to go beyond a nuclear civil program. And to some extent, that’s what PMD is all about. And to some extent, I can understand your wanting to clear it up later. My own view is that clearing the history of the past is useful but not nearly as important as clearing the history of the future – was what we’re worried about.
MR. KIMBALL: PMD, of course –
MR. PICKERING: And so we ought to focus on the future.
MR. KIMBALL: PMD, of course – potential military dimension.
MR. PICKERING: Possible – potential military developments – dimensions, I’m sorry.
MR. MOUSAVIAN: But on – nevertheless, Tom, the instruments of the IAEA for inspections and transparency is these three instruments: a Subsidiary Arrangement called 3.1, safeguard and additional protocol.
MR. PICKERING: Yeah, but you forget the history of the Iran program, in which the IAEA was involved, in which there was Security Council approval and in which there was, in fact, a hundred percent approval, even including Iraq, for a time, of an inspections system that went beyond. And indeed, it was probably part of the inspiration for the additional protocol. But my own view is that we ought to accord the inspection with the agreements that have been arrived at that have to be inspected. And to some extent, if traditional safeguards are adequate for that, OK. If the additional protocol is required, we would hope – but as you said, that’s purely voluntary. That can’t be forced on the party.
On the other hand, if there are questions that have arisen on this – and I, like you, are in total agreement that the additional protocol ought to be standard and not voluntary, and we ought to do everything not to single out Iran as particularly a selective, separate case, even though there are some history problems having to do with things like purchase from Pakistan that don’t give rise to problems that will, in the long run, in Iran’s interest as well as the interests of the world, be better cleared up than left hanging.
And so, in those particular questions, I would hope that we would see this happen. I think the imperative – the priority is really, as I said, to talk about the future. What is Iran’s intention for the future? What does it need for the TRR? What does it need in low-enriched fuel? What does it intend to do with that? Where is that going? I think some transparency in that area, even though you’re right – it is not part of the safeguards procedure, which is particularly related to the diversion of nuclear material – would nevertheless be in common interest. And if it is a civil program, the notion of secrecy should not really apply, although as you have said, no – with all the threats of the use of military force, we may have given you a stronger reason for secrecy – (chuckles) – than we really intended in terms of talking about that program.
MR. MOUSAVIAN: Whether the demands are legitimate, legal or not – this is another issue. My point is, the current demand are beyond NPT. This is a fact.
MR. PICKERING: They are, but then you get into the Security Council. (Laughs.)
MR. MOUSAVIAN: No, no. No problem. Even Security Council resolutions are beyond NPT.
MR. PICKERING: They are, but they’re binding. (Chuckles.)
MR. MOUSAVIAN: OK. No, no. My argument is not that that is legitimate or illegal. I consider it illegitimate. But I’m talking about the statement of the U.S. official on the NPT. This is beyond NPT. My point is just here; that’s it. But the best way to move forward is what I said – well, that the major principles to be agreed in order to assure Iran’s end state – they would respect the rights, and to ensure the P5+1 that there would be no nuclear weapon in Iran. They should see both of them; they should see the end state of any solution. But if they are not ready – if they are not ready for such a comprehensive package, if they are going just to discuss the steps forward, I believe the priority for the U.S. and the West is 20 percent enrichment.
If this is true, they want Iran to cap its enrichment at 5 percent. And then they want Iran to limit its stockpile. Iran has publicly said, we are ready to stop 20 percent enrichment. I mean – and I am sure they would be ready to – for any deal on the stockpiles. But the issue is with reciprocations. Definitely, this is the big issue of no break-out capability. This is the biggest issue on no break-out capability, capping at 5 percent. But they are not ready to touch United Nations Security Council resolutions at all. They are not ready to touch unilateral U.S. sanctions at all. Therefore, there is only one option left: for the Europeans to take these unilateral sanctions on oil and central bank if Iran is going to accept cap at 5 percent and limitation on its stockpile.
Otherwise, if they – if they are going to ask two very major, substantive issues from Iran, and to promise Iran that they would let Iran to have food or, I don’t know, spare parts or something like this, they are not going to get to anywhere.
MR. NADER: The issue is reciprocity, but the country that’s under question is Iran, right? It’s not P5+1. So Iran has to make the first move to build confidence before the P5+1 can consider any sort of reciprocity because it’s Iran that’s in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
I think if Iran made steps that showed good will – stopping 20 percent uranium enrichment – which at this point doesn’t really even need that much 20 percent enriched uranium – then some of these other – you know, the sanctions that have been passed against Iran can be reconsidered, even the European sanctions. And I think that – there you have reciprocity. But it’s a matter of Iran making that first step, and I think that’s what the international community is waiting for, not just progress on Iran’s nuclear program where it installs more advanced centrifuges, but it does something that could also alleviate pressure on the U.S. administration because the U.S. government also faces a lot of political pressure in handling the negotiations.
If the P5+1 comes out and eases sanctions and there’s no reciprocity in Tehran, then that could leave the United States very exposed in this process.
MR. MOUSAVIAN: No. We are talking about proportionate reciprocations. If Iran is going to stop 20 percent, what should be the reciprocation? But when you say, Ali, Iran should show the good will, I believe the problem is not with Iran. I really believe the problem is with the P5+1. I’ll tell you why. Everybody is crying today, scared about 20 percent. This is the big issue. But everybody forgets, Iran made the first good will in February 2010 when the Iranian foreign minister, Salehi, publicly announced – he said, we are enriching below 5 percent. If the P5+1, they give us fuel rods for Tehran, we would not increase our enrichment to 20 percent. This was a good will.
But miscalculation created by – most probably by Western agencies, intelligence agencies, because they believed Iran does not have capability to make 20 percent. That’s why they believed Iran is bluffing. They didn’t consider this as a good will. They consider it as a bluff. Then in September 2011 – you remember, Ali – Ahmadinejad was in New York. Salehi was in New York. They said, now we’ve made the 20 percent. Now we have it. Give us the fuel rod; we would stop it. This was the second good will from Iran. This was Iranian initiative not to go beyond 5 percent. This was Iranian initiative to stop 20 percent. This was the good will.
But again, miscalculation in the P5+1. They believed Iran is bluffing; they don’t have capability to build fuel rods. Within three months, they made the fuel rods. And before, on 20 percent or any issues – Iranian to show good will – when I was negotiating, I was member of negotiation team who showed the good will. We implemented additional protocol voluntarily. We suspended enrichment voluntarily. This was not the good will? We gave access to Parchin. This was not the good will?
But what did they reciprocated? After all this good wills – implementing additional protocol, suspension, giving access to military sites – they came and they respectfully – they said, no, you should suspend your enrichment for indefinite period. I said, what do you mean? One year, two years, five years? He said, we don’t know, maybe 10 years. Is this good will? You are completely wrong, because the problem is really the P5+1.
MR. KIMBALL: And we are the P-3 – the three panelists plus one. And I want to ask our panelists to – just an excellent discussion – try to be brief because we do have other questions that we want to try to address. And let’s keep looking forwards because there’s a long history that we could unravel if we – if we had time to do so.
So I have a question right here in front – second row here – yes, sir. If you could just identify yourself, ask your question briefly –
Q: Jose Charbose (sp). Ambassador Pickering, you mentioned now and also have mentioned before that this – using this amusing, interesting metaphor of horse for rabbit. I think we all heard Ambassador –
MR. PICKERING: It’s an old Texas expression is my understanding. (Laughter.)
Q: Right. We heard Ambassador Mousavian and I just don’t want to let this opportunity to pass and see if you find, although he’s not representing Iran at the moment –
MR. PICKERING: And I don’t represent the U.S.
MR. PICKERING: So he’s – (inaudible) – already worked out. (Laughter.)
Q: Would you – would you find his articulations of at least Iranians point of view, you know, giving horse for horse because he’s talking about – or he’s pointing fingers to the facts of – problem of the language, problem of negotiation under pressure. And you are a very, of course, a skilled diplomat. How would you address these problems that he’s raising?
MR. PICKERING: Well, I think – look, I think he and I are both getting closer together. The horse is getting smaller and the rabbit is growing. And I think that’s what the U.S. was trying to do. Admittedly, one can pick holes in some of the expressions and one can take a look at this. And I don’t doubt that there are elements of good will for Iran.
I think there are elements of good will for the United States – it finally joined the talks, it’s decided to try to make proposals, its secretary of state at least has made pretty clear that the no-enrichment forever proposal or for 10 years is seemingly no longer a central part of where the U.S. is going. It’s conditioned, but that’s there. The U.S. has tried to expand sanctions relief. It’s now talking about gold. It should probably be talking, although it isn’t yet, about no new sanctions if we can get a process going. I think that’s inevitable and should be there and that’s important.
There’s a lot to do here. As I said in my own discussion, it would be very helpful for the experts to have a talk with leading Iranian experts on what their plan is for their nuclear program. One of the things that bothers us most is the large accumulation of LEU with no apparent use for it. I’ve sat down and worked hard to try to figure out some uses that Iran could put on the table hopefully to justify at least a portion of what it already has.
But that isn’t where that particular engine – (inaudible) – should come from, but it would be hopeful and helpful to know, as Hossein said, that they’re ready to stop at 20 percent. OK, well, what do they need? And do they expect us, as we have offered, to do that and to eliminate all those, or can they use some of their 20 percent for their own fuel rods? I have no objection to that.
That goes ahead under supervision and it takes it even to a less easily reversible form for breakout. And Hossein is right; I agree with him that a very, very big preoccupation now is on Iran positioning itself where it could engage in a rapid breakout. And that’s a central piece of what we’ve been talking and particularly – talking about particularly in an effort to describe the end state in terms that both sides could agree on.
I think that if Iran wants us to recognize its right to enrich, that, in my view, is important only on the basis that we would at some point change the Security Council resolution which seeks to mandate no enrichment in Iran. And I think that that would be a perfectly logical way to do that and that could also be accompanied by words.
But if Iran finds it difficult in trusting our words about regime change, why is it easy to trust our words about the right to enrich? We’ll have to figure out actions to take, I think, to accompany those as we would expect Iran would take actions to accompany things like limitations to 5 percent, or whatever can be agreed here.
This is a very difficult problem. Getting started is hard. There are elements of having gotten started and then they were rebuffed or ignored. We need to get out of that particular mode. We need to find our way forward. My own views – and I disagree with Alireza – I think that it’s probably anybody who has good intentions’ obligations to see that this process gets started one way or another.
I’ve suggested some ways the U.S. could do that. There are ways that Iran can do that. If we do something to get the process started, hopefully that could be reciprocated. It is good news that we’re meeting. I could remember three or four years in a row where we met once a year – came for a meeting, dismissed the other side’s point of view, walked away and spent the next year negotiating the next meeting. That’s not, in my view, very productive.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, other questions. Greg, please, and then –
Q: Greg Thielmann, Arms Control Association. Alireza Nader mentioned that the fall of Assad in Syria would be a big blow to Iran and Hezbollah. I’m just wondering what Ambassador Mousavian and Undersecretary Pickering think about how Syria plays in the background of these negotiations? Is Assad’s problem a help to the P5+1 or a hindrance because it encourages the Iranians to dig in more?
MR. KIMBALL: Tom? Hossein? You want to start?
MR. PICKERING: Go ahead, Hossein, yeah.
MR. MOUSAVIAN: I also believe the Syria issue is not about Syria, is about Iran. But having experienced eight year war, 1980 to 1988, I really cannot imagine Islamic Republic of Iran would have ever challenged with such a situation. We had eight years’ war, correct? All regional countries – all of them, U.S., Europe, Soviet Union – all international community, they were supporting aggressor. They boycotted Iran on everything the time – the whole eight years I was in Iran.
Iran started a war when Iran could not produce –
MR. PICKERING: Iraq.
MR. MOUSAVIAN: No, no. No, no. No, no. The war – I mean, when Iraq invaded Iran. Iran started to defend when Iran didn’t have – couldn’t produce one bullet – one bullet. Everything Iran was 100 independent to U.S., West – conventional arms, 100 percent. Today’s situation definitely for Iran is not worse than that time because the country just right after revolution was very vulnerable, the system was not established. Iraq invaded Iran. Not one country, two country – everybody, Europe, U.S. – everybody was supporting – even they used chemical weapons with the support of the West.
One hundred thousand Iranians, they were killed or injured. One million Iranians, they were killed. But after the war, Iran possessed conventional ore, building missiles, tanks, artilleries. And where is Saddam? I believe these sanctions today is really – definitely is less than what Iran experienced during eight years’ war – definitely. And Syria is a small issue compared to 1980 to 1988. This is the potential – unfortunately, the West is really – has problem to understand the potential of Iranians.
They are very different with some regional Arab countries – big nation, human resources – enormous human resources, very clever strategic resources. They can deliver. The notion of sanctions is really important – (inaudible) – to understand for the United States about sanctions. In 2005, when the U.S. decided to – (inaudible) – Iranian file to United Nations Security Council and to launch the sanctions, at that time Iran had about 1,000 centrifuges.
After sanctions, today Iran has over 10,000 centrifuges. That time, Iran was enriching below 5 percent, now is 20 percent. That time, Iran was working with IR-1, the first generation. Now they have two – second generation, third generation, fourth generations. That time, they couldn’t produce fuel rods. Today they produce.
More sanctions, more nuclear capability. This is Iranian psychology. They want to tell the U.S. and the West, we would not give in on their sanctions. As Alireza said, definitely sanctions have harmed Iranian nation, no doubt about it. But if the target for the sanction is and was and is about the nuclear issue, more sanctions? You should – you should prepare yourself for more enrichment, more capability, more capacity. This is the race they can continue.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, let’s take a couple questions in sequence. Yes, ma’am, you, and then in the rear, please.
Q: Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire. One thing that hasn’t been touched on today is the things that are happening behind the scenes, namely the covert war against Iranian atomic scientists and rocket scientists, assassinations that may or may not be happening with help from U.S. intelligence, and the U.S. cyberwar that we know is happening and, as we know, has success.
Do you think that Iran can be expected to believe the United States is really not looking for regime change or is speaking in good faith if they continue this covert war and cyberwarfare even while it – while it says it’s interested in possibly lifting sanctions? And should those two things be halted, you know, to give – to give, you know, I guess, diplomacy a shot?
MR. KIMBALL: And who are you addressing that to? All –
Q: The panel at large.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. All right, and then we have a question in the – towards the rear, please. Yes, sir. If you could identify yourself.
Q: OK. Thank you for taking my question. I have two questions, Mr. Pickering and also Mr. Mousavian. And my question is how do you assess about the recent nuclear test of DPRK? And do you think there is a difference about a U.S. approach between Iranian program and DPRK program? Thank you.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. All right, so first question. Gentlemen, want to take a shot? Ali?
MR. NADER: On – the sabotage and the cyberattacks are designed to slow down Iran’s program. And we have to remember part of U.S. policy has also been to restrain an Israeli strike against Iran, so some of these policies that you see, including sanctions, are meant to also reassure our allies, and not just Israel but other countries in the region, especially the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia.
Now, we can argue whether those policies are productive or not. In terms of our reassuring allies, perhaps you could argue they’re productive. In terms of inducing Tehran to make concessions on their program, probably not. I mean, just assassinating individual Iranian nuclear scientists to me doesn’t seem that productive. But they were meant to slow down the Iranian program. The cyberattacks against Natanz seemed to do so for a while, but then we’ve seen Iran’s program advance. So I’m not sure actually how those attacks are productive in terms of getting Tehran to negotiate on the issue.
MR. PICKERING: I would not disagree with Ali at all. I think that particularly the assassinations disturb me. That’s, I think, been made clear by Secretary Clinton. She too condemns, and I think that that’s a clear indication of U.S. government intent – at least I hope it is – and U.S. government involvement.
My own view is that as the process of the developing Iranian program went ahead, slowing it down has been an objective for a long period of time, whether it involves Stuxnets or the interruption of external supply. And that’s been a policy pursued with other countries.
On the DPRK, if I can come to that, for different reasons, I believe, different approaches to the use of military force have been taken. Happily in neither case, in my view, has it resulted in the use of military force, although I think the U.S. deeply regrets that the North Koreans have advanced their program to the test stage. I think it’s a serious mistake.
I’m not sure what we can do next. The Chinese seem to be, at least to some significant extent, concerned because the North Koreans are being depended upon by China to provide a buffer of stability on their border while at the same time they are creating a zone of great instability on China’s border. And at some point we would hope China would play a more forceful role, since they seem to have a great deal more influence – (chuckles) – than we do in that particular set of activities. But one would hope as well that the example of a failure to support united action in North Korea would be also a lesson China would pick up with respect to dealing with Iran.
My view is that in both cases, we ought to seek at the negotiating table as long as it is possible and open to us answers to the particular questions involved. But seemingly we can do that only with a more united support around the negotiating table to get in that direction.
MR. MOUSAVIAN: On North Korea, I have already frequently said Iranians, they believe a very clear double standard of the U.S. and the P5+1, because North Korea withdrew from NPT and tested nuclear bomb. Iran is member of NPT and doesn’t have nuclear bomb, and there is no diversion, even. But the level of sanctions on Iran is more than North Korea. And this is double standard of the U.S. and the West of having strategic relations with countries like India, Pakistan while they are not member of NPT and they have nuclear bombs. I agree with Alireza. The issue is not nuclear. The issue is Iran-U.S. hostilities, and the problem is exactly here.
But on covert actions, again, this is like sanctions. Remember when they started covert actions in 2010, Stuxnet or assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist, within three years, Iran has established one of the most powerful cyberarmy in the world. This is the gift of the U.S. and the Israelis to Iranian nation. Now today they have most – if not most, they are between top five most powerful on the cyber issue.
This is the – this is the reaction of Iranians. If they believe they can – with killing one or two nuclear scientists or Stuxnet, they can stop it, then the reaction is this. As long as they cannot understand this Iranian mentality, they would continue their mistakes.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, I want to conclude our session, because we’re out of time, with one concluding question for all the panelists to try to wrap things up.
We’ve heard – I mean, this has been a very rich discussion. I think we get a sense of how challenging the discussions are in – going to be in Almaty because there’s such a long history, there are so many different perspectives, there are so many grievances on both sides, and yet in there somewhere are some areas of agreement. And it’s important for the diplomats to try to tease those out. I think if you were listening carefully, you heard some key areas of agreement amongst our panelists, despite some of the different perspectives. That doesn’t mean that a solution is possible, but it’s perhaps somewhere out there.
And what I wanted to ask each of you to try to answer briefly is whether you believe in 2013 there may be progress towards resolving the long-standing nuclear disputes and very briefly, if so, why you think there is a chance for progress.
So let me start with Ali, and we’ll come down this way to Tom.
MR. NADER: I think there – yes, there may be some progress. I wouldn’t necessarily bet money on it, because we can see the same thing in 2014 and 2015 and see this situation drag on.
The only reason I think that there may be some progress is because Tehran is feeling a lot of pressure economically through sanctions. And yes, a nuclear program has advanced, but you have to take into account the tremendous damage sanctions are doing to Iran as a country but also, I think, the regime ultimately. And the leadership in Tehran has faced increasing pressure and is going to face more pressure to be more flexible on the nuclear program. So that, I think, is a cause for some hope, if you want to call it that.
And I think when it comes time to negotiations, I think the P5+1, of course, should be more flexible. For example, some of the demands – closing down Fordow – initially might not be as flexible as perceived by Tehran because that gives it a lot of leverage. So I think there is also room for P5+1 to maneuver, and hopefully, if Iran comes to the table with some confidence-inducing measures, then the P5+1 will reciprocate.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, thanks.
MR. MOUSAVIAN: (Chuckles.) I believe there would be definitely a breakthrough if the U.S. changes its original strategy toward Iranian nuclear issue and Iranian – global issues with Iran.
I disagree with Alireza said, as long as Islamic republic remains, there would be no solution to Iran-U.S. relations. I believe within at least a decade we would have neither regime change in Washington nor in Tehran. (Laughter.) Therefore, forget this regime change issue.
We should try to find a solution realistically. Everything is – it depends, I believe, to Iran-U.S. relations. In parallel to U.S. – to P5+1 on nuclear talks with Iran, we need to work on Iran-U.S. relations. We need to remove this – the mistrust between Iran and the U.S.
I believe the best way to create trust between Iran and the U.S. is to start from the issues of common interests. For 33 years Iran and the U.S. – I mean more U.S. – is concentrated on the issues of disputes, like peace process or terrorism or nuclear. There are a lot of fields and issues, like Afghanistan, like Iraq, like drug trafficking, which they have common position, common stance. If today the U.S. is going to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran can assist. Stability of Afghanistan and Iraq is extremely critical to Washington and Tehran. Washington and Tehran, they are supporting the same governments in Baghdad and in Kabul, while the U.S. allies in the region, they are working against both governments.
Therefore, why they cannot sit together to cooperate to create confidence? Confidence through common-interest issues definitely would work more than confidence through these issues of disputes.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you.
MR. PICKERING: I, like Ali and Hossein, hope there will be – hope there will be a process that will lead somewhere. Unlike Ali, I’d be willing to put a little money on a positive outcome – not a lot, but I’d be willing to put a little money on it. (Laughter.)
I think that several issues stand in the way. The U.S. is moving, and it’s coming very close to a point where Iran will have to think very carefully. It’s coming close to a point where it is trying to put on the table what it is Iran keeps saying it really wants, and it’s not incompatible with U.S. objectives: a civil nuclear program under full transparency without sanctions in a process that can go ahead with international support, monitoring and supervision.
To some extent, Hossein, what you consider to be the misbehavior of the United States has been matched by the elements of mistrust that the United States feels about Iran, however good or ill may be. To some extent, in the end, it will not be possible to argue that the pressure tactics should prevent Iran from achieving what it says it wants, which is coming close to being put on the table. And I think it’s within reach in a serious negotiation. And a serious negotiation has to have more than one-day meetings, which seems to be some kind of de rigeur arrangement that nobody is willing to break yet. But we need to find a way around that.
I agree with you a hundred percent on bilateral relationships. But if, in fact, you’re going to have a kind of preliminary precondition from the supreme leader that somehow we have to find a way to wash our souls in public so they’re whiter than snow, I don’t know how we’re going to do it. It is not, in my view, within the range of possibility if that’s a precondition. A precondition will stand in the way of achieving what you say are your objectives. And so it is important.
We have, I think, quite carefully eschewed preconditions for conversation, despite the fact that there is inordinate preoccupation with PMD, with Parchin and with other issues that still hang on out there. And so we need to find a way through that hurdle because I couldn’t agree with you – you made a much better statement about the value and importance of bilateral negotiations than I did. And I’m totally in agreement with you, and we need to think about how to find a way over the hurdles that now seem to have been popping up with respect to that particular question.
I suspect, like a lot of these things, at rock bottom, they’re domestic political concerns, and we have to understand that. And I in my country and, I think, you in your country have to do our best to make people believe and understand that leadership is leadership, that when it comes to overcoming domestic political concerns, if the risk is worth taking, then we can’t rule by the polls; we have to encourage our leaders, on those few things that make a serious difference, to reach out and stake a position even if it does present some dangers.
We’re in a good position now because we in fact have four years to the next election. You’re in a good position because you have an indeterminate time for supreme leadership to stay in power. All of this, in my view, gives us an opportunity, and 2013 is a good year to pick up that opportunity. And I hope that in fact, we can find ways to overcome what seem to be the drags on the process. And I’m not saying they’re all on one side or the other side; they’re on both sides.
But the opportunity to discuss those in public and talk about ways in which we’re in agreement – and I agree with you on Afghanistan and Iraq. And I wrote an article with friends three years ago saying we ought to find a way to try to begin to attack some of those questions in parallel, in conjunction or, indeed, in a different format if that’s necessary as a way to increase the possibility of building confidence between us. And I think now 2013 is a good year to think about that as well.
But thank you, Daryl, for the opportunity. And thank you and the Arms Control Association for everything you do to promote good sense and, I hope, rationality in what is sometimes a field where that is rare.
MR. KIMBALL: Well, thank you, Tom. (Applause.)
And thank you all for a very rational, very interesting and rich conversation. This is not going to be the last one that we have on this topic – (laughter) – for better or worse. (Laughter.) And there’s far more on the Arms Control Association website and in our new briefing book on the history of efforts on this subject, the options for the diplomats in Almaty.
We look forward to seeing you once again. We are adjourned this afternoon. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
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