July 26th, 2015
10:41 AM ET

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Fareed Zakaria GPS talks the Iran deal and if he can get a skeptical Congress to accept it

Please credit any usage to “CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS”

The following transcript is of an interview by host Fareed Zakaria with Dr. Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of Energy (Barack Obama Administration, 2013-present). They discussed the terms of the P5+1 deal and his testimony before the Senate this week, how long the current framework delays Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and if Secretary Moniz believes he can convince a skeptical Congress to accept the deal.

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

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on selling the Iran deal

Energy Secretary Moniz on terms of Iran detail

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Fareed Zakaria & Sec. Moniz on why Iran has 24 days to grant inspectors access to specific sites under the deal: “[ZAKARIA]: The big objection that has gotten popular attention is this idea that Iran has up to 24 days to comply with a request for an inspection of a suspected site. Now first I want to clarify. When Ben Rhodes - one of the president’s top aides - said that the inspectors will have anytime/anywhere access, he said specifically to Iran's known nuclear sites. Is that in fact true, that the sites that are declared nuclear facilities - Natanz, Arak, Fordo - there will be 24/7 anytime/anywhere access? [MONIZ]: That is correct. The IAEA, the international inspectors, can have daily access to these facilities. This 24-day process is what would apply to undeclared sites that we, the international community, the IAEA suspect is having undeclared nuclear activities.

Sec. Moniz on the goals, cooperation among the P5+1 nations during negotiations: “…this really was a six-nation negotiation - the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.... our scientists from all six countries worked very, very well together. …the cohesion of this group in the commitment to seeing that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon future is really, in itself, I think, a major outcome of the negotiation.”

Sec. Moniz on if the world powers would impose economic sanctions if Iran violates this deal: “We have every reason to believe so. Russia and China, as well as our European partners, were all very constructive members of this negotiation. I think there's a genuine common interest in, again, Iran not having a nuclear weapon and more generally in supporting the non-proliferation regime.”

Sec. Moniz on whether the nuclear deal enables Iran to create a nuclear bomb faster:  “I'm very confident - again, blocks the path, or if they choose to just go after it, to detect it and to have plenty of time to respond.”

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: The White House had no fewer than three Cabinet secretaries on the hot seat on Thursday in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, making the case for congressional support of the Iran deal. It wasn’t a very sympathetic crowd.

But President Obama was clear in his press conference last week: Any objectors to the deal should be able to tell Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz why they are right and Moniz is wrong. After all, Moniz is, as Obama said, an MIT nuclear physicist and an expert on these issues. But despite his credentials will he make the sale on Capitol Hill? We'll ask him.

Secretary Moniz joins me now. Welcome, sir.

ERNEST MONIZ, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY:  Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: You heard what people on the Hill were saying. I think it was Marco Rubio who said the deal is irreparably flawed, which makes me wonder, do you think there was any deal that the Republicans on the Hill would have accepted?

MONIZ: Well, certainly I think that the nuclear dimensions of the deal, frankly, are far stronger than anyone had expected - really bites hard into the Iranian nuclear program for quite a long time. I think as you heard in the hearing, a lot of the objection was really directed at the idea that Iran would, in fact, get economic relief and concern about non-nuclear dimensions in terms of using those resources.

ZAKARIA: So the main objections that I've heard to the deal are - go as follows: There are people like Alan Kuperman who say the centrifuges - first of all, there should have been more centrifuges disconnected, and more importantly, they are not destroyed; they are merely disconnected - that Iran still has in a storage room somewhere these thousands of centrifuges that it could reconnect very quickly and that therefore your breakout time scenarios are unreasonable - that they could actually much more quickly race to the amount of fissile material to make a bomb. Is that fair?

MONIZ: It - that is actually incorrect. I read that as well - it is incorrect. The issue of rebuilding centrifuges and infrastructure is in fact part of the breakout calculations that our laboratory scientists have done.

I might add that these negotiations were constantly supported by the nation's top nuclear scientists and engineers, and it was simply incorrect that those factors weren't included.

ZAKARIA: The big objection that has gotten popular attention is this idea that Iran has up to 24 days to comply with a request for an inspection of a suspected site. Now first I want to clarify. When Ben Rhodes, the president's - one of the president’s top aides - said that the inspectors will have anytime/anywhere access, he said specifically to Iran's known nuclear sites.

Is that in fact true, that the sites that are declared nuclear facilities - Natanz, Arak, Fordo - there will be 24/7 anytime/anywhere access?

MONIZ: That is correct. The IAEA, the international inspectors, can have daily access to these facilities. This 24-day process is what would apply to undeclared sites that we, the international community, the IAEA suspect is having undeclared nuclear activities.

ZAKARIA: This was a group negotiation in a sense, so the United States was not alone on one side of the table. You had Russia; you had China; you had the Europeans. Did you have to give in on some of your core preferences, or your preferences, to accommodate, say, Russia's views?

MONIZ: The - by the way, it's a very important point, Fareed, that this really was a six-nation negotiation - the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany. And sure, we had to negotiate among ourselves because there are lots of tradeoffs in this.

For example, even the one-year breakout time, there are many ways to achieve that and different countries weighted things differently. But I think in the end, in that case, our scientists from all six countries worked very, very well together.

And I think the cohesion of these six countries, when we obviously have - let's say, with Russia - we obviously have our major differences at the moment, but nevertheless the cohesion of this group in the commitment to seeing that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon future is really, in itself, I think, a major outcome of the negotiation. And that cohesion, of course, really ups the ante in the current congressional discussion if we were to undermine this agreement at this stage. We would have significant problems with our - with other major powers.

ZAKARIA: Are you confident that if Iran were to violate the terms of this deal it would not turn into a kind of endless interpretation between the United States and, say, Russia and China - that the sanctions would, in fact, snap back?

MONIZ: We have every reason to believe so. Russia and China, as well as our European partners, were all very constructive members of this negotiation. I think there's a genuine common interest in, again, Iran not having a nuclear weapon and more generally in supporting the non-proliferation regime.

ZAKARIA: You know, this is obviously a big deal for the United States, for the world, but personally this is - this must be a big deal for you in the sense that you are an MIT nuclear physicist. You ran a particle accelerator lab. Your credibility is on the line. Are you confident that this deal achieves the - that this deal blocks Iran's path to a nuclear weapon?

MONIZ: I'm very confident - again, blocks the path, or if they choose to just go after it, to detect it and to have plenty of time to respond.

ZAKARIA: Secretary Moniz, thank you very much.

MONIZ: Thank you, Fareed.

 

END INTERVIEW

 


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