July 12th, 2015
02:45 PM ET

Ploughshares Fund Pres Joe Cirincione discusses the likelihood of the Iran nuclear deal on Fareed Zakaria's GPS

The following transcript is of an interview with Joseph Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund and Karim Sadjadpour, senior associate for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. They discussed the likelihood of the Iran nuclear deal, what’s happening in with the P+5 negotiations, and if the Supreme Leader is supreme in Iran.

MANDATORY CREDIT for reference and usage: “CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS”

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

As the deadline looms for an Iran nuclear deal, Fareed talks to Karim Sadjadpour & Joe Cirincione about whether negotiations will be successful.

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Cirincione on if the deal lengthens the time of weapon creation for Iran: “This, without a doubt, lengthens the breakout time.  It will take them at least a year to make the material at least for one weapon.  And then many months after that to actually fashion it into a weapon.  So this gives us ample warning time to take actions, should Iran try to creep out, sneak out, or break out of this agreement.”

Sadjadpour on what’s going on in Iran, in terms of negotiations: “I think this is a difficult time for Iran's Supreme Leader, Fareed.  Because he basically has to reconcile the ideological prerogatives of the Islamic republic, which has been based always on resistance against the United States with the economic needs of the Iranian nation.  This is a country which is really experiencing a perfect storm economically, because they're losing hundreds of billions of dollars as a result of the sanctions at a time when oil prices have collapsed.  And they're spending billions of dollars each month trying to sustain the Assad regime in Syria.  So I think that, as Joe said, this deal is likely going to happen, but I think it's a very bitter pill for the Supreme Leader to swallow.”

Cirincione on the likelihood of the Iran nuclear deal: “It's almost certain.  This deal is coming.  The climax will likely be tomorrow.  If it doesn't happen now, we're going to have a serious case of negotiations interruptus.  It's a complicated document, about a hundred pages.  They're in the final stages, making sure the phrases are right, the commas are in the right place.  They don't want mistakes at this late stage.  And there are a couple issues yet unresolved.  But most of the big issues that have blocked the deal, they’ve all been settled.”

Sadjadpour on if the Supreme Leader is supreme—in Iran: “I think we have to be humble about our knowledge of the inner workings of the Iranian Regime.  But I would say the Supreme Leader certainly has control over the main institutions in Iran. …He is not an absolute dictator.  But he’s now the second longest dictator in the Middle East after the sultan of Oman.  And there’s a reason why that’s so. He is ideological but he’s also pragmatic. At the end of the day, what’s paramount for him is his own survival and the survival of the system.  And I think they’ve reached a point now where this deal is an economic necessity.”

Cirincione on the sanctions being lifted sequentially: “…this is what's holding up the negotiations.  …Particularly on the difficult issue of the arms embargo, prohibiting arms in or out of Iran.  That is not going to be lifted right away, but down the road, as Iran performs, those restraints will be taken off.”

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN GPS: “I remain hopeful”.  That's how Secretary of State John Kerry described his mind-set this morning regarding the talks with Iran over its nuclear program.  Tomorrow marks the deadline for the talks but three deadlines have slipped already by.  Is there really hope this time?

Let's bring in my panel.  Joe Cirincione is an expert on proliferation and nuclear weapons policy.  He is president of the Ploughshares Fund and the author of Nuclear Nightmares. And Karim Sadjadpour is one of the world's top experts on Iran. He is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Joe, first, you are very plugged in.  What are you hearing about the likelihood of a deal?

JOE CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT OF PLOUGHSHARES FUND:  It's almost certain.  This deal is coming.  The climax will likely be tomorrow.  If it doesn't happen now, we're going to have a serious case of negotiations interruptus.  It's a complicated document, about a hundred pages.  They're in the final stages, making sure the phrases are right, the commas are in the right place.  They don't want mistakes at this late stage.  And there are a couple issues yet unresolved.  But most of the big issues that have blocked the deal, they’ve all been settled.

ZAKARIA:  Inspections of military facilities will be allowed?

CIRINCIONE:  We are going to have inspections of Iranian military facilities.  They've crafted a way to do this with a little notice, a little bit of management of the inspectors as they go in.  But we'll be able to go where we need to go when we need to go there.

ZAKARIA:  The sanctions will be lifted, not all at once but sequentially?

CIRINCIONE:  And this is what's holding up the negotiations.  What is exactly the sequence?  What does Iran have to do and what exactly is lifted.  Particularly on the difficult issue of the arms embargo, prohibiting arms in or out of Iran.  That is not going to be lifted right away, but down the road, as Iran performs, those restraints will be taken off.

ZAKARIA:  Iran's ballistic missile program, which is unrelated to its nuclear program, Iran says that should have no bearing, that embargo should be lifted.

CIRINCIONE:  Everything I hear is that the sanctions will remain on the ballistic missile program as they will for the terrorism and human rights violations.  So not all of the issues with Iran are settled.  This is just the one on the nuclear deal, to shrink raptus program, shrink it down to a manageable size, and then wrap it in a verification and monitoring system.

ZAKARIA:  Bottom line.  People say Iran is currently two months away from breakout, the capacity to make a weapon.  The deal will take it to 13 months or so.  There are critics, Allen Cooperman, who say, no, the deal will only extend it by one month.  Just your judgment.  We can't get into the technical details.  Do you believe the deal, as you understand it, does in fact take Iran from being two months away from a bomb to 13 months away from a bomb?

CIRINCIONE:  This, without a doubt, lengthens the breakout time.  It will take them at least a year to make the material at least for one weapon.  And then many months after that to actually fashion it into a weapon.  So this gives us ample warning time to take actions, should Iran try to creep out, sneak out, or break out of this agreement.

ZAKARIA:  Karim, explain what's going on in the negotiations.  Because I noticed that Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, keeps having to go back to Tehran.  Kerry doesn't keep coming back to Washington.  What that suggests to me the Iranians are having difficulty coming to yes.  The Supreme Leader made statements saying no inspection of military facilities at all.  All sanctions will have to be lifted immediately.  This is an odd way to prepare your public for the deal because those things aren't going to happen.  What is going on inside Iran?

KARIM SADJADPOUR, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE:  I think this is a difficult time for Iran's Supreme Leader, Fareed.  Because he basically has to reconcile the ideological prerogatives of the Islamic republic, which has been based always on resistance against the United States with the economic needs of the Iranian nation.  This is a country which is really experiencing a perfect storm economically, because they're losing hundreds of billions of dollars as a result of the sanctions at a time when oil prices have collapsed.  And they're spending billions of dollars each month trying to sustain the Assad Regime in Syria.  So I think that, as Joe said, this deal is likely going to happen, but I think it's a very bitter pill for the Supreme Leader to swallow.

ZAKARIA: What I wonder, is the Supreme Leader, supreme?  By which I mean, is he really ultimately - does he have the kind of authority that Mao Zedong when he brought China in from the cold and made peace with America? Mao just did it. Yeah, there were a lot of people in China at the highest levels who didn't want to do it but it didn't matter.  He was Mao. Does the Supreme Leader have that kind of authority or is he juggling the revolutionary guard on one side, Rouhani, the president and the liberal faction on the other?

SADJADPOUR:  Well, I think we have to be humble about our knowledge of the inner workings of the Iranian Regime.  But I would say the Supreme Leader certainly has control over the main institutions in Iran.  You talked about the revolutionary guards.  They oversee the nuclear program.  And all of the statements from senior revolutionary guard commanders have always been obsequious towards the Supreme Leader.  Even the statements from Rouhani and Zarif have been very deferential to the Supreme Leader.

So it's my sense he may not be as powerful as Mao.  He is not an absolute dictator.  But he’s now the second longest dictator in the Middle East after the sultan of Oman.  And there’s a reason why that’s so. He is ideological but he’s also pragmatic. At the end of the day, what’s paramount for him is his own survival and the survival of the system.  And I think they’ve reached a point now where this deal is an economic necessity.

ZAKARIA:  (INAUDIBLE) I think they’re reflecting a lot of what conservatives worry about, saying if the deal takes place, Iran gets access to lots of money, billions - tens of billions of dollars.  It could become more active in its foreign policy, some of which is very anti-American.  Do you worry that the deal will unleash a more activist anti-American Iran?  Or could it be the beginning of a genuine rapprochement with the United States?

SADJADPOUR:  You know, Fareed, I think that 2,500 years of Persian civilization makes me hopeful that this current kind of isolated Iran, which is a pariah state, is an anomaly of history and geography.  On the other hand, 36 years of the policy of the Islamic republic makes me sober.  And so I think there is valid hope that, in time, five or ten years from now, it could help transform Iran. But there is valid concern it could empower the hard-line forces in the short term.

ZAKARIA:  Karim, Joe, fantastic discussion.  Thank you both very much.

END INTERVIEW


Topics: CNN • Fareed Zakaria • Fareed Zakaria GPS
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