July 15th, 2015

Does the deal restrict Iran’s ability to buy weapons?

The President’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice, joins CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to discuss the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Additional information: The Situation Room:http://www.cnn.com/shows/situation-room

MANDATORY CREDIT // The Situation Room  



WOLF BLITZER, HOST: There’s lots to discuss with the president’s national security adviser, Ambassador Susan Rice.

She’s joining us now live from the White House.

Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Good to be with you, Wolf, as always.

BLITZER: Let’s clarify a few points as far as this — this nuclear deal with Iran is concerned.

I take it that all of the IAEA inspection teams, all the inspectors who go in, will have to be from countries that have formal full diplomatic relations with Iran. As a result, no Americans will directly be involved in any on the ground inspections in Iran, is that right?

RICE: Wolf, yes, the IAEA, which is a highly respected international organization, will field an international team of inspectors. And those inspectors will, in all likelihood, come from IAEA member states, most of whom have diplomatic relations with Iran. We, of course, are a rare exception.

BLITZER: So no one…

RICE: The British have diplomatic relations…

BLITZER: — so no Americans…

RICE: — the French…

BLITZER: — will be — I just want to be precise on this. Sorry for interrupting.

No Americans will be on the ground in Iran actually inspecting?

RICE: No Americans will be part of the IAEA inspection teams.

BLITZER: Will Americans be outside of the IAEA inspection teams?

RICE: Well, there are Americans in Iran on a daily basis, Wolf, so I’m not — I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking.

BLITZER: I’m talking about American government officials or military officials who could be inspecting.

RICE: We — there are not going to independent American inspectors separate from the IAEA. The IAEA will be doing inspections — the inspections on behalf of the United States and the rest of the international community.

BLITZER: Because I know there are American tourists and Americans who go visit family members in Iran. I’m talking about U.S. government sent people, diplomats or others, to go in there and see what’s going on.

I take it they will not be doing that?

RICE: I don’t anticipate that, no.

BLITZER: Because the president today said he does not anticipate restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran any time soon.

RICE: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, let’s talk a little bit about the criticism that a lot of Republicans, and as well as some Democrats, are delivering since the deal was announced. There seems to be a lot of concern about this so-called 24-day period that the Iranians would have before any inspectors would come to suspected sites. They say 24 days is way too long, to which you say?

RICE: I say, Wolf, that’s a misplaced concern. And let me explain why.

First of all, in this very strong deal, there will be 24-7 presence of both inspectors and cameras and surveillance at all of Iran’s known nuclear facilities. Moreover, the entirety of the Iranian supply chain, from uranium mines and mills to centrifuge manufacturing facilities, will all be continuously monitored.

So what we’re talking about is the rare case when we have a suspicious site or other suspicious entity that we or other members of the international community believe needs to be inspected. In that case, the IAEA will go to Iran and say we need to look at this. And if the Iranians say no, there will be a process for working out that access to the IAEA’s satisfaction.

If that does not occur, then the United States, acting with its European partners, can together decide that that inspection must occur. And if it hasn’t occurred by the end of 24 days, Iran will be in violation of the agreement and we would be in a position to go straight to the U.N. Security Council and automatically, unilaterally, by the United States, reimpose sanctions.

Now, you say 24 days is a long time. The fact of the matter is we are talking about a suspect facility which, as the president said, is not going to be something small and portable. We’re talking about potentially something like an undeclared nuclear facility, a building or something on a military base. And in that case, we will be watching it as the U.S. government and other members of the international community continuously.

If we see something suspect, I can promise you, we’re looking at it and we’re looking at it 24-7.

And then, in addition, the kinds of materials that we would be worried about being hidden are radioactive. And with the sophisticated equipment that the IAEA and we and others now have, any radioactive material can be easily detected for a long, long period of time, far more than a month or even several months. That material remains detectable in many instances, up for — up to years.

So we’re not concerned that that length of time gives the Iranians the ability to hide nefarious nuclear activity.

BLITZER: All right, let’s talk about the money that Iran is about to get, assuming this deal works out, about $150 billion in sanctions relief. This is Iranian money that’s been held up. It’s been — it’s been tied up under the U.N. sanctions, the U.S. sanctions.

Once they start getting that money, are there any restrictions on how the Iranians can use that money?

Obviously, they could use it to build schools or highways, but they could use it to support international terrorism, right?

RICE: Well, let’s back up and let’s understand what this is about. Remember, the sanctions that we and the international community put in place were for one reason, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. That was the existential threat that we were all concerned about, the United States, Israel and the whole world. This deal will verifiably prevent that from happening.

The U.N. resolutions that set up this structure always envisioned that if an when Iran met its obligations and we could be confident that they were not engaged in illegal construction or preparations for a nuclear weapon, that all the sanctions would be lifted. That’s what the — that’s what we all signed up to.

Now, the money you’re referring to, we actually estimate is closer to $100 billion, not $150 billion, is Iranian money, as you said, that has been held in accounts, frozen in accounts around the world.

Our best judgment is, first of all, they’re — it’s going to take them quite a while to access that money. And it will take — they won’t be able to get it all at once. They won’t get any of it, not one dime of it, Wolf, unless and until they take the steps that they’ve committed to take to dismantle the bulk of their nuclear program.

So they have to take out two thirds of their centrifuges. They have to get rid of 98 percent of their uranium stockpile. They have to render inoperative their plutonium facility. They have to let the IAEA do the inspections and the interviews that are necessary to answer the questions that remain about Iran’s past nuclear activities.

Among — they have to let the IAEA in and establish this 24-7 monitoring that I described. All of those steps have to be taken. And then at that point, the sanctions will be suspended and Iran will begin to be able to access its frozen accounts around the world.

What do we think they’ll spend that money on?

We think for the most part, they’re going to need to spend it on the Iranian nuclear program and their economy, which has tanked. And Rouhani, the president, was really elected on the hope that he would bring economic relief…

BLITZER: All right…

RICE: — to the Iranian people. But yes…

BLITZER: — but I just want to be precise…

RICE: — it is real. It is possible. And they, in fact, we should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.

But the goal here, Wolf, was never — and it was not designed to prevent them from engaging in bad behavior in the region. They’re doing that today.

The goal is to ensure that they don’t have a nuclear weapon. And therefore…

BLITZER: All right…

RICE: — when they are engaging in that bad behavior, that much more dangerous.

BLITZER: Now, I just want to be precise. So there’s really — once the money starts flowing in, it’s their money, correctly, as I pointed out and as you pointed out, it’s their money, what they could do with it whatever they want. If they want to give a billion dollars in weapons to Bashar al-Assad or a billion dollars to Houthi rebels in Yemen…

RICE: No, they can’t — they can’t do that, Wolf, because they’ll still be under an arms embargo that would prevent them from sending weapons anywhere.

BLITZER: Well, what if they’re not sending weapons?

What if they’re just sending money?

RICE: Well, they may be able to send money, yes.

BLITZER: All right, let’s talk about this deal. I know you think it will go through the Senate, it will go through the House. You’ll be able to override a presidential veto…

RICE: By the way…


RICE: — by the way, Wolf, just to be clear…


RICE: — they’re sending money now while they’re under sanctions.

BLITZER: Yes, but…

RICE: There’s nothing currently…

BLITZER: But the critics point out they’re going to have…

RICE: — that is preventing them from sending money.

BLITZER: — they’re going to have a lot more money as a — if, in fact, the sanctions are lifted.

RICE: They will have more money…


RICE: — once they have verifiably given up their nuclear weapons capacity and any ability to reconstitute it.

BLITZER: All right, I have one final question, because I know you’ve got to run, Ambassador Rice.

If the deal does fall apart, if the Congress, for whatever reason, Democrats join Republicans and vote against it, they don’t override a presidential — the president’s veto is not overridden, what would that mean for the president’s legacy?

RICE: Well, I think it’s hardly important what it means to the president’s legacy.

The question will be what does it mean for U.S. national security and for the security of Israel and our closest partners in the region?

What will happen, Wolf, if Congress decides that they want to reject this deal, a deal that was negotiated by the United States and our closest partners in Europe and around the world, one that is accepted by the entire international community as effectively preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, several things will happen.

First, Iran will be completely unconstrained and relieved of its obligations under this deal. And there will be nothing to prevent them from racing to a bomb if they so chose to do so.

Secondly, the sanctions regime, which we have so painstakingly put in place, which has brought Iran to the negotiating table and enabled this deal, will collapse, because the countries around the world that have adhered religiously to this regime and have lost resources as a result are going to say, what’s the point?

We signed up for the sanctions regime to get them to the table. We got them to the table, they agreed to a good deal, and then the United States abrogated the deal.

So we’re going to have an Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon unconstrained with no monitoring and no constituents. We’ll no sanctions regime and the credibility of the United States, not this administration, because this will have died on a bipartisan basis, but the United States as the world leader, will be very, very badly damaged.

I think that would be a terrible outcome. And it’s not in our interests, nor is it in Israel’s interests or anybody else.

If this deal is going to fail, let it be because the Iranian government didn’t implement its obligations. And if that’s the case, we’re in a strengthened position. We can maintain the sanctions regime and we will have the international community behind us for whatever else we may need to do.

But if we jettison a deal that is a good deal, that accomplishes everything we set out to accomplish, then it’s on us. And Iran is unconstrained and the sanctions regime and international unity is destroyed. That makes no sense.

BLITZER: Ambassador Susan Rice, thanks so much for joining us.

RICE: Good to be with you, Wolf, as always.

BLITZER: Susan is — yes, Susan Rice is the president’s national security adviser.