From this Thursday's Democracy Now, former Iranian Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian explains why Congress should approve the deal the Obama administration just made with the Iranians rather than listen to the fearmongering we're hearing from the Republicans, Israelis and their supporters.
President Obama is defending the global agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program as critics of the deal are accusing the White House of appeasement. The deal reached Tuesday will see Iran reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and cut its number of centrifuges by two-thirds. In exchange, Iran will see an easing of international sanctions that have battered the economy, causing food insecurity and medication shortages. Congress will have 60 days to review the agreement.
"The deal has closed all possible pathways toward possible militarization, weaponization of Iranian nuclear program," says Iranian Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former nuclear negotiator. "If the opponents in the region used the Iranian model for all countries in the Middle East, this would be the only way to assure a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East," Mousavian is now an associate research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is the author of "The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir" and, most recently, "Iran and the United States: An Insider’s view on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace."
AMY GOODMAN: In Iran, residents poured out into the streets to celebrate the agreement, which many hope will help lead to a normalization of ties with the West.
To talk more about the implications of the deal, we go now to Princeton University to talk to Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian. He’s an associate research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, former diplomat who, from 1990 to 1997, served as Iran’s ambassador to Germany. From '97 to 2005, he was head of the Foreign Relations Committee of Iran's National Security Council. And from 2003 to 2005, he served as spokesman for Iran in its nuclear negotiations with the European Union. He’s the author of The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir and, most recently, Iran and the United States: An Insider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ambassador. Do you think this agreement is a road to peace? What do you think is most important about it?
SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: I’m confident this agreement is a road to peace. The big issue, as President Obama said, the agreement prevented a war, could be disaster for the U.S., for Iran, for the region and for international community. Second, the deal has closed all possible pathways toward possible militarization, weaponization of Iranian nuclear program. The U.S. and the West, they were worried if Iranian nuclear program in the future would divert toward weaponization. That’s why President Obama’s red line was zero nuclear bomb, no nuclear bomb. This red line was welcomed in Tehran very much, because Iranians, they believe and they were reiterating they have never been after nuclear bomb, and they would be ready to give every assurances that the Iranian nuclear program will remain peaceful forever. After 23 months of tough negotiations, they have finalized 159 pages, which would cover the American red line, which is no nuclear bomb.
We have heavy water facility in Arak. Iran has accepted to have no reprocessing at heavy water for a long period. As long as you have no reprocessing, it’s impossible to make nuclear bomb from heavy water facility. Moreover, as a goodwill, Iran has accepted to reduce the production of plutonium from 10 kilogram per year, the current capacity, to below one kilogram, because if you are doing reprocessing, you would need 10 kilogram plutonium to produce a nuclear bomb. Then, when Iran is reducing less than one kilogram per year, this would be a double guarantee that Iran would never be after nuclear weapon from heavy water facility. Again, another confidence-building measure, Iran has agreed to spent fuel—to export spent fuel from heavy water. Even if you have 10 kilogram plutonium, even if you are reprocessing, when you export the spent fuel, it’s impossible to make nuclear bomb. Therefore, all possible measures have been agreed to secure no nuclear weapon from heavy water.
Then we go to enrichment facility. Iran has agreed to enrich below 5 percent. To make nuclear bomb from enrichment facility, you need to enrich above 90 percent. As long as you are enriching below 5 percent, it’s impossible to make nuclear bomb. Second, Iran has agreed to decrease the 10,000 kilogram of the current stockpile to 300 kilogram for just domestic needs. And Iran has agreed to convert the second enrichment site, Fordow, to R&D center, not enrichment site. And also, two-third of centrifuges would be decreased for at least a period of 10 years as a confidence-building measures. Therefore—on the transparency also, Iran has agreed to all protocols, arrangements at the maximum level within the international rules and regulations, which is safeguard agreement, which is subsidiary arrangement Code 3.1, and, finally, is additional protocol. Internationally, on transparency and inspection, we don’t have anything more; Iran has accepted all three. Therefore, Iran would be the most transparent nation on its nuclear program. And Iran has given the confidence-building measures, has accepted measures which no other member of NPT has ever accepted to yet, like enriching below 5 percent, like what already I explained for you. That’s why I believe the deal is a win deal for Washington.
Then we go to Iran. I believe the deal also is a win deal for Iran, because Iranians, they were telling Americans, "Look, if you want to close all pathway to nuclear bomb, welcome. We are with you. We have no problem to give you any assurances. But we—our red line is our legitimate rights under international rule, Non-Proliferation Treaty, to enjoy peaceful nuclear technology. We don’t want anything beyond." And Iranians, they got it. And second red line of Iranians would—was lifting the sanctions. Also they got their second red line. Therefore, this is a win-win deal.
And I believe this could be really a model. This could be useful far, far beyond Iranian nuclear issue, because if the world powers, if the opponents in the region, they use the Iranian model for all countries in the Middle East, this would be the only way to assure nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East. If every country accept the same measures, we would never have nuclear bomb in Middle East.
And finally, I would say, definitely, the deal would decrease tension between Iran and the U.S., definitely. Definitely, the deal would help improving Iran-U.S. relations. Iran and the U.S. now succeeding one big negotiations, they would be able to have dialogue on regional issues, fighting terrorism and extremism in the region.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Mousavian, could you explain why the negotiations failed in the past over so many years? Was it the sanctions regime that enabled the agreement to come to a close now, the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran?
SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: See, it was the U.S. conventional understanding that if they put sanctions, Iranians, they would give up the nuclear program. That’s why they referred Iranian nuclear file in 2006 to United Nations Security Council, and they imposed six resolutions with draconian sanctions. And Europeans also, they went beyond United Nations Security Council sanctions: They imposed sanctions on central bank and oil, unilateral sanctions, multilateral sanctions, U.N. sanctions, since 2006. Then, they all believed Iran would give up.
But sanctions pushed Iran to increase its nuclear capacity. Before sanctions, Iranians, they had a few hundred centrifuges; after sanctions, 22,000 centrifuges. Before sanctions, Iranians, they were enriching below 5 percent; after sanctions, they were enriching to 20 percent. Before sanctions, Iranians, they were working with one model of centrifuges; after sanctions, eight models of centrifuges, extremely developed centrifuges, during the sanction period.
And then, suddenly, the U.S. opened its eyes and saw Iran has just three months to break out. And definitely, they would resist sanctions for more three months, even more three years, but they would pass the breakout. And then the U.S. would have to negotiate with Iran after breakout, which would have to give a lot of concessions. Here, the U.S. and the world powers, they understood the sanctions have been completely counterproductive. The sanctions pushed Iran toward expanding enormously its nuclear program. That’s why they came to negotiate. This was number one.
Number two, if you look at the principles agreed July 14th, 2015, you would see this is exactly the same principles we proposed EU3, which that time they were our interlocutors, in March 2005, during President Khatami, when I was a spokesperson of nuclear file of Iran. The same principles before sanctions, we gave to Europeans. But Europeans, they could not make a deal with us, because the U.S. position was zero enrichment. Iranians, they were saying, Iran cannot have enrichment. Iran should be the only member of NPT, Non-Proliferation Treaty, to be singled out, to be discriminized, not to have this right. And Iranians definitely were not ready to accept. This was practically the two reasons we could not make the deal. And exactly these are the two reasons we could make the deal just some days ago.
Go read the rest where he takes apart the likes of Lindsey Graham and his allies and explains why the country in the region that's actually causing the instability has been Israel, not Iran.