Ideologies have divisions and categories. Tribal ideologies are different from more modern forms, such as republic. In art, even popular art like Star Wars, we have seen the struggles of the ideologies of republic in conflict with empires. Racial and tribal ideologies harken back to ancient times. A general and interesting scientific question is whether different ideologies belong in different loci of an evolutionary scale. From my point of view, Zionist neoconservatism, a tribalist imperial ideology had taken power in Washington after the false flags of Cole and 9/11 with an emphasis on a planetary military empire. They did not install the planetary military empire which was institutionalized by Truman who fabricated the Cold War in 1945. This is a theme much repeated by myself probably because I am seeking insight. The rapid geopolitical gains of Russia since the issue of an attack on Syria based on accusations that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack on August 21 2013. They have managed to ensure that the chemical weapons of the Syrian regime pass on to international control and Syria signs the OPCW. They also facilitated the US-Iran diplomatic contact after 35 years. These are things that could have been done much earlier by the United States but did not happen because the neoconservative ideology has looked towards the eventual goal of a Greater Israel ensuring that there is no positive relations with Iran. Russia is gaining international power at expense of United States because it is playing a higher level political game. The gains are natural because Russian vision is larger and more inclusive than the concentrated and tribal power that America has been projecting for the past decade.
Archive for September, 2013
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Welcome back to THIS WEEK, your first in 26 years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s been a long time.
This week, analysts in the Middle East have called the events a game-changer, one even likening it to the fall of the Berlin wall.
Is that your view? Has there been a fundamental shift in the relationship between the U.S. and Iran?
ZARIF: Well, I think we have taken the first steps to address an important issue, both for Iran, for the United States and for the international community, an issue which I believe should not have been, should not have become an issue in the first place.
But I has unfortunately become a global problem and now we need to resolve it and the resolution of that issue will be a first step, a necessary first step towards removing the tensions and doubts and misgivings that the two sides have had about each other for the last 30-some years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is, of course, the nuclear issue, but there’s a lot of skepticism as you know about the ability of President Rouhani and you to deliver on any deal. Analysts look at the fact that there wasn’t a handshake, only a phone call, as a sign of weakness. There have been demonstrations greeting President Rouhani when he returned to Iran. And many Western observers believe that your Supreme Leader simply will not do what it takes to back up a deal.
Can you assure Americans that he will indeed back a deal you negotiate?
ZARIF: Well, Iran and the United States are similar in many ways. And one is that we both have pluralistic societies where difference of views exist and difference of views are aired. And I think it’s very healthy, of course —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he has the final say?
ZARIF: Of course, we have to do it with an (inaudible) of mutual respect and mutual interest. We believe that, if the United States is ready to recognize Iran’s rights, to respect Iran’s rights and move from that perspective, then we have a real chance and we negotiate with the full authority of the Leader.
We know what we want to achieve. We know that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon. In fact, what I told the foreign ministers and the secretaries of state, in the meeting of E.U. 3+3, or as you want to call it 5+1, I told them that having an Iran that does not have nuclear weapons is not just your goal, it’s first and foremost our goal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, there’s a lot of skepticism about that. But Secretary Kerry, in an interview that’s going to air tonight, has laid out some concrete steps that Iran could take in order to prove they don’t want a nuclear weapon. Here’s what he had to say.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: They could immediately open up inspection of the Fordo facility; they could immediately sign the protocols, the additional protocols of the international community regarding inspections. They could offer to cease enrichment above a certain level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is Iran prepared to do that?
ZARIF: But Iran is prepared to start negotiating. I’m sure Secretary Kerry does not want to dictate to us what we should or shouldn’t do. We are willing to engage in negotiations. Of course the United States also needs to do certain things very rapidly. One is —
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you need from the U.S.?
ZARIF: One is to dismantle its illegal sanctions against Iran that are targeting ordinary Iranians. Now, in spite of all of the claims to the contrary, it is impossible to open a letter of credit from a bank to buy medicine for Iranian patients because there has been, in fact, blind sanctions against banks dealing with Iran. There has been a lot of arm twisting by the United States, by — not by the entire government, by certain elements within the U.S. government which have tried to put pressure on ordinary Iranian people.
And ordinary Iranian people showed during the last election that they put their trust in the ballot box, they put their trust in the government. They want the government to deal with the rest of the world from a position of strength, through flexibility, but insisting on their rights.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is what —
ZARIF: Sanctions are not a useful tool of implementing policy. And the United States needs to change that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that’s your demand. But in return, is Iran prepared to stop enriching uranium at the levels they are now enriching it?
ZARIF: Iran is prepared to negotiate. You know no country does or should negotiate on the —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s on the table?
ZARIF: Negotiations are on the table to discuss various aspects of Iranian’s enrichment program. Our right to enrich is nonnegotiable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don’t need to enrich above 20 percent, which is only used for military purposes.
ZARIF: We do not need military-grade uranium. That’s a certainty and we will not move in that direction.
But what is necessary is for the two sides to sit together and reach a common objective. We should not have two competing objectives.
You see, let me explain to you, that after the breakup of the Soviet Union one of the concerns that you had and in the west — and I was living here and I shared those concerns — was that all of these scientists that were involved in the nuclear program were now unemployed and they could go to the black market, seeking employment opportunities.
Now, we have a large pool of Iranian scientists. We have an indigenous Iran nuclear program. Israel cannot kill all of our scientists. They have unfortunately assassinated some of them and nobody has raised an eyebrow about it, which is a source of great concern for us that the world, the United States which is supposed to be against terrorism is allowing terrorists to kill innocent Iranian scientists.
But now let me go to the issue and say that all these scientists, the best way to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will always remain peaceful is to make sure that these scientists operate in a facility or facilities that are observed by international observers, monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Including surprise inspections?
ZARIF: Oh yeah. We already have surprise inspections. We are moving in that direction.
As you know, when I was negotiating our nuclear issue in the early 2000s, we had — we were implementing thee additional protocol on a voluntary basis, which provides for surprise inspections. Unfortunately at that time, the U.S. administration, at that time, had different views…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But there were some facilities that were hidden.
ZARIF: …different objectives.
No, all facilities at that time — we’re talking about 2003 to 2005 when we were negotiating — all facilities were open to the IAEA. The IAEA was able to observe the mall…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Only after you were caught.
ZARIF: And the IAEA said that although Iran had not declared its activities, now that we see those activities none of them have been diverted to military use. So there is no question that Iran ever had military intentions. There may have been technical problems. They may have been problems of transparency and we are prepared to address those problems.
But we need to see — you see lack of confidence is unfortunately mutual. As the president said, both President Obama and President Rouhani have said, there has been 34 years of building up of this mutual distrust. We need to move in that direction of removing some of that mistrust through mutual steps that each side needs to take in order to convince the other side that it’s intentions are positive and for a better future for all of us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And a big player in all this, of course, is also Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on his way to the United States right now to meet with President Obama, to speak at the U.N. general assembly.
On his way, he — at the airport, his departure, he called the moves by you and President Rouhani this week a smile attack. And the British Sunday Times is reporting that he’ll be presenting intelligence to President Obama that says Iran already has enough enriched uranium to produce some nuclear weapon, is developing a nuclear detonator and is testing missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.
ZARIF: Well, a smile attack is much better than a lie attack. Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991 — and you can refer to your records — that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon. And we are how many years, 22 years after that and they are still saying we’re six months away from nuclear weapons. I think this six-month time limit is something that is…
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re not six months from a nuclear weapon?
ZARIF: We’re not seeking nuclear weapons. So, we’re not six months, six years, sixty years away from nuclear weapons. We don’t want nuclear weapons. We believe nuclear weapons are detrimental to our security. We believe those who have the illusion that nuclear weapons provide them with security are badly mistaken. We need to have a region and a world free from nuclear weapons.
I appeared before the international court of justice about 16 years ago and argued for 90 minutes that the use of chemical — nuclear weapons under any circumstances is illegal.
Our leader has a religious verdict that the use of nuclear weapons, even possession of nuclear weapons, is contrary to religious doctrine.
So, these are our positions. Israel has 200 war — nuclear warheads. Israel is the source of insecurity in our region. Israel is the source of aggression and violation of human rights of the Palestinian people. It should not have the audacity to continue to lie to the American people and to the world by — and mislead everybody.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you don’t want nuclear weapons why enrich uranium to the levels you’re enriching uranium?
ZARIF: Because that’s our right. We needed — you see, we came to the market requesting, we own 10 percent of a European company that produces enriched uranium called Eurodif. We have not been able to get a gram of uranium from them for the past 30-some years. We have not been able to get the uranium that we need for the Tehran research reactor, which was accidentally — not accidentally, in fact intentionally built by President Eisenhower under the Atoms for Peace program.
But not only the United States is not providing the fuel for that reactor that itself built in Iran in the 1950s, it is preventing others from providing us with fuel.
So what should we do? Should we lay down and die? No. We don’t do that. We go and we rely on our own scientists, rely on our own capabilities and we produce them.
Now after — they were hoping we can’t — we couldn’t produce them. Now after we were able technically to do it, now they say you shouldn’t. You see, we need to — we cannot start history at the time of our choosing. The background has to be addressed, the historical aspects have to be addressed. The historical sources of Iran’s very serious and deep mistrust of the behavior of the United States needs to be addressed and we should take concrete steps, concrete steps, one after another.
We have not forgotten the fact, that when Iraq used chemical weapons Iran, not only the United States didn’t condemn it, it went out of its way to blame us for the use of chemical weapons.
So, these are all facts of history which are very fresh in the minds of Iranians.
We are willing to show flexibility, not forget that. We may be willing forgive as President Mandela said once, but we’re not going to forget.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned history. Both you and President Rouhani have gone farther than your predecessors in acknowledging and condemning the massacre of Jews during World War II.
In fact you had a tweet at the beginning of the Jewish new year where you said that Iran has never denied the holocaust. The man who was perceived to denying it is now gone. Happy New Year. This was speaking — House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter.
Yet, the website of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, right now, on his website right now in English, he refers to the myth of the massacre of the Jews known as the Holocaust? So, you endorse or reject the Ayatollah’s belief that the Holocaust is a myth?
ZARIF: I have spoken to the leader on this issue. He rejects and condemns the killing of innocent people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is the Holocaust a myth?
ZARIF: No, the Holocaust is not a myth. Nobody is talking about the myth. It’s a — if it said…
STEPHANOPOULOS: It says it right there.
ZARIF: If it said it, it’s a bad translation. And it is translated out of context that they have, they are using it. He was talking about the reaction to somebody talking about the historical incident and requiring research about that historical incident and said, what is it that people are so upset that somebody is simply asking that we should do some studies of that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The word “myth” upset people…
ZARIF: But — but — you see, this is the problem when you translate something from Persian to English you may lose something as the film goes, lost in translation. You may lose some of the meaning. This has been unfortunately the case several times over.
The point is, we condemn the killing of innocent people, whether it happened in Nazi Germany or whether it’s happening in Palestine. One crime, however heinous — and holocaust was a heinous crime, it was a genocide, it must never be allowed to be repeated.
But that crime cannot be, and should not be, a justification to trample the rights of the Palestinian people for 60 years. We should have abandoned this game and start recognizing the fact that without respect for the rights of the Palestinians we will never have peace in our region.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can the translation be changed?
ZARIF: I’ll talk to them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you one final question. You’ve spent a good part of your adult life in the United States, your children were born here, as I mentioned, you were on This Week 26 years ago.
When you hear those chants the come up so often in Iran, “death to America. Death to America,” what do you think about that? And what can you say to those Iranians who say “death to America.”
ZARIF: Well, I think they’re talking about the policy, they’re not talking about the American people. We have been time and again — the leader, various presidents on the record, that we have no quarrel with the American people.
American people are nice, peace loving, generous people who come to the aid of people in need all over the world and this is what we respect and have a lot of admiration for.
It’s the policies of the U.S. government which has unfortunately been the source of instability in our region for many years. The United States supported dictators. It would be amazing for American people to know what types of governments in our region have been supported by the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, we have a ways to go.
ZARIF: But the Iranians — but the Iranians feel it with their flesh the type of regime that govern them because of the support of the U.S. Some of the countries in our region continue to experience this.
The fact that the United States supports whatever policy is followed by Israel is another indication that the United States needs to revisit some of its policies and move forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Zarif, thank you very much for your time this morning. Welcome back to “This Week.”
Saudi judicial corporal punishment is on the radar of the propaganda against Islam in the west. It is rightly condemned, but one has to put judicial corporal punishment on trial globally. There are 33 countries listed where JCP is used and we must strive to end it everywhere. One can also do a little research to find that even in England, judicial corporal punishment was legal well into the 20th century. It is admirable that to a large extent JCP is no longer used in the European countries but in the guise of military operations, United States has systematically used torture in Iraq, which obviously includes JCP. JCP is a plague on the human rights and should be removed along with capital punishment throughout the globe without any excuse for ‘military need’. We cannot simply use it for fomenting hatred against Muslims.
The issue that bloggers and progressive activists have focused on, rightly in my opinion about the post-9/11 police state measures is section 1031 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 . The specific section of interest which allows indefinite detention of US citizens and authorization for military action is Section 1031 which has the following text:
SEC. 1031. AFFIRMATION OF AUTHORITY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES TO DETAIN COVERED PERSONS PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.
(a) In General.–Congress affirms that the authority of the
President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the
Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes
the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain
covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition
under the law of war.
(b) Covered Persons.–A covered person under this section is any
person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided
the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or
harbored those responsible for those attacks.
(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported
al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in
hostilities against the United States or its coalition
partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent
act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such
(c) Disposition Under Law of War.–The disposition of a person
under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the
(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the
end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use
of Military Force.
(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code
(as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title
XVIII of Public Law 111-84)).
(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent
tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.
(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s
country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other
(d) Construction.–Nothing in this section is intended to limit or
expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization
for Use of Military Force.
(e) Authorities.–Nothing in this section shall be construed to
affect existing law or authorities, relating to the detention of United
States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States or any
other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.
(f) Requirement for Briefings of Congress.–The Secretary of
Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the
authority described in this section, including the organizations,
entities, and individuals considered to be “covered persons” for
purposes of subsection (b)(2).
We should also quote section 1021:
Now we can look at the Senate voting record for it which only included 13 Nays. Note that the Democrats, the so-called progressives in Senate, had no problems voting Yea on this police state measure. This is a measure that destroys the civic freedoms of the American republic. In foreign policy we have not only the death squads in Iraq but in America we have seen the proud resurgence of a National Security State that goes back to 1945 during the Truman regime. Finally let’s just jot down the lobbyists and their contribution to this horrific police state measure, where you will see some corporate defense giants. The important thing, however, is that police state measures such as the creation of Department of Homeland Security, the Israelification of America in terms of security which is covered by Max Blumenthal, the Patriot Act and other invasive security measures could not have happened without the false flags of Cole and 9/11 for which I believe the responsibility lies with Zionist neoconservatives and the Likudnik right regime of Israel.
No mention of police state erosion of civil liberties can be complete without the resistance to it. Chris Hedges and others had filed a lawsuit against Obama administration which went all the way to the Supreme Court before being blocked. There are many articles following this case of which this is an example. Beyond the bureaucratic wrangling here the real issue is that the United States has pursued a path to fascism following the two operations on USS Cole and 9/11 both of which catalyzed the descent both domestically and internationally without restraint as the CIA-created Islamists have been conducting terror operations now even funded overtly by the government in Syria. By this circuitous route of proxy activities of the terrorists, with whom the vast majority of Muslims have no link, whom the vast majority of Muslims do not support, produce professional quality propaganda that is used politically by the foreign policy elites and the government to continue the slide into fascism with militarization and Israelification of American security.
Lally Weymouth’s interview with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak sat down this week with The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth. Excerpts:
Q. An Israeli was killed this week in the south by someone from the Sinai. How do you see the situation in the Sinai?
A. It was another terror attack on our project to build a fence [between Israel and Egypt]. We have a crash program now to build a fence to block the flood of workers from Eritrea and North Sudan and terrorists and smugglers into Israel. This [incident] follows another rocket attack near Eilat from Sinai. That’s dangerous because it means a loss of grip on the Sinai by the Egyptian authorities, and the terrorists abuse this. We are determined to stop the infiltration and to deal with terrorist attacks and the launching of rockets into Israel from Sinai.
What’s your view of the outcome of the Egyptian elections?
It’s up to the Egyptian people. We expect whomever will be elected to establish a government that will live up to the international commitments of Egypt, including the peace treaty with Israel and keeping law and order in the Sinai.
This week nuclear talks between the “P5 + 1” [United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany] and Iran resumed in Russia. Do you hold out any hope for these talks?
We hope that we’ll wake up and there will be an agreement to end the Iranian nuclear weapons program. But we are too realistic. Sanctions are working better than in the past; diplomacy is more determined. But if I have to ask myself whether this will convince the ayatollahs to sit around the table and decide that the time has come to put an end to the military nuclear program, I don’t think that’s the case. They still feel there is room for maneuver. There is still a need both to ratchet up the sanctions and to heighten significantly the demands on the Iranians that would put an end to enrichment, would take all the enriched uranium out of the country, and would close and dismantle the installation at Fordow.
Close the installation at Fordow?
Close and dismantle it. I would expect the P5 + 1 — this is now the third meeting in Moscow. There was a meeting in Baghdad and Istanbul before this. By the third meeting in a negotiation, you know whether the other party intends to reach an agreement or, alternatively, whether he is trying to play for time to avoid a decision. It seems to me that the Iranians keep defying and deceiving the whole world. But it’s up to the participants in the negotiations to reach this conclusion. We cannot afford to spend another three rounds of this nature just to allow the Iranians to keep maneuvering.
How much more time can you allow?
I don’t want to pretend to set timelines for the world. But we have said loud and clear that it cannot be a matter of weeks but it [also] cannot be a matter of years.
Do you know when the Iranian nuclear program will have gone too far to be able to do anything about it?
Everyone knows that the Iranians are trying to reach nuclear military capability. We all know that, until now, [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei did not order the actual building of weapons or explosive devices. Because they think that if they try to break out toward nuclear military capability, probably America or Israel or someone else will contemplate what to do about stopping it. They are trying to reach a certain kind of physical immunity against surgical attacks by burying [facilities] deep into the ground, spreading the sites over different parts of the country, producing more and more centrifuges, and accumulating more low-enriched uranium. So they are trying to reach a certain redundancy, or what I call the “zone of immunity.”
What do you mean by zone of immunity?
It means they reach a situation where, through redundancies, neither Israel and probably not even America can do anything surgically to block it. Once Khamenei reaches this kind of situation, he can be practically assured that he [has] crossed the point of no return and will end up more like North Korea or Pakistan, rather than like Iraq or Syria.
Are you worried that a third nuclear site may be discovered?
If you wait long enough, probably you will find a third or fourth or fifth site. I don’t see any imminent sign of it. But they probably don’t need it.
I saw one report speculating that Iran can produce highly enriched uranium at Fordow.
The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] reported that they found certain materials enriched to 27 percent [at Fordow]. There are more actions taken by the Iranians to move toward nuclear military capability than we probably know about. We are not on the inside. They are very deliberate and determined to defy the whole world the way that Pakistan and North Korea did. We have to be open-eyed. We’re living in a tough neighborhood.
Can Israel launch a military strike against Iran, and can it succeed?
ou can’t expect me to answer directly. We [the United States and Israel] are using the same rhetoric when we say that we are all determined to prevent Iran from turning into a nuclear military power, and we both say that all options are on the table. We mean it and we recommend to them to mean it.
And you feel the U.S. means it?
At least on a technical level, there are a lot of preparations. But it’s not a secret that America prefers that it will be solved through diplomacy. We all hope that [diplomacy] will be successful, but time is not unlimited in this regard. Iran is not just a challenge for Israel — it remains a major challenge for whoever is willing to look reality in the eyes. Iran is a radical Muslim theocracy that is trying to reach nuclear military power. It also tries to hegemonize the whole [Persian] Gulf. Talk to the leaders of the Gulf. They are terrified by the possibility that Iran will turn nuclear. A nuclear Iran will be the end of the nonproliferation regime: Saudi Arabia will turn nuclear immediately, Turkey within several years, and probably the new Egypt will start moving to do it. Not to mention the potential of weapons-grade material leaking into the hands of terrorist groups from Iran.
Then comes the issue of terror. The Iranians are sponsoring terror among the Baluchi tribe in Afghanistan, among the insurgents in Iraq — they are everywhere. They are trying to raise their profile in Cuba, in Nicaragua and Venezuela, of course. They have a global aspiration, and the world won’t be the same place once they turn nuclear. Whoever thinks that it’s complicated to deal with Iran right now, as some think-tank leaders are writing: Just close your eyes and think what it will mean to deal with these very same issues once Iran turns nuclear as a result of an absence of political will. It will be much more dangerous, much more costly in terms of human lives and financial resources. And it will become nuclear if the world will not be tough enough to stop it.
Do you think it is up to Israel to stop it?
We always hope it will be solved by the free will of the ayatollahs, by the effectiveness of the sanctions, by the creativity of diplomacy or by any other miracle. When we say that we are determined to prevent them, and we should all be determined, including the American leadership, the European leadership, the Russians, the Chinese, we mean what we say and that is all I can say. We have another neighbor. . . .
Yes, Bashar al-Assad is living proof of the paralysis that sometimes takes over the world, even when there is no need for any further proof that something totally unacceptable that costs human life is happening.
You mean the world is just standing by?
Basically, [Assad] is slaughtering his own people, and using every form of crime. Here you have real-time pictures of the actual crimes, the rows of buried children. Even when there is no need for any further proof, however tangible and visible the nature of the crimes, it doesn’t mean the world can mobilize the will to do something about it. It’s a fact of life that we should bear in mind when we look at the overall picture around us. We are living in a tough neighborhood — no mercy for the weak, no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves. We have to be able to defend ourselves. We are extremely thankful to this administration: It is doing more than the past to back the security of Israel.
What is the administration doing?
They are giving us support, despite economic pressure there, in keeping up the qualitative military edge of Israel. They helped us with our multilayered interception systems against missiles and rockets, starting with Iron Dome and continuing with Arrow. But we understand that we have to be able to protect ourselves against any foreseeable threat.
Going back to Syria, do you think the West should arm the opposition?
I think many steps should be taken. Russia has invested a lot of political capital and money in the [Assad] regime. They should have a certain role if we want to succeed. The whole structure of the Syrian state should not be blamed — it is a family and certain individuals [who are responsible]. I believe that if America and Russia talk[ed] together about who can use what leverage, that could be extremely effective. And of course Turkey, the most important neighbor of Syria. What can we do in order to remove this family from power without destroying Syria as a state? Not repeat the mistakes that were made in Iraq, where everything from the Baath Party to the military was dismantled. There’s no need to do that [and increase] the chances that they will end up with a chaotic civil war, where the bad guys will be more prominent. It’s time for the world to dictate to Mr. Assad to move out of power or else. But the “or else” can be convincing only if America and Russia will join hands.
But Russia is still sending weapons to Syria.
Yes, but they should be convinced in an honest, frank discussion. They could have a major role in helping to solve the Syrian issue.
You’re not worried about the Muslim Brotherhood or others who could come to power?
I feel the longer the world is paralyzed and lets this massacre keep going by the Assad family, the more chaotic the situation will end up being.
U.S. officials are very concerned about Syria’s huge pile of chemical weapons and what to do to secure them if the Assad regime goes and the chemical weapons are let loose.
We [are] also. [Assad] now is supported by Hezbollah and Iran. They are the only ones who are actually supporting him physically: sending materials, sending people, providing ideas based on their experience in Lebanon about how to brutalize your own people. When Assad falls, there is a certain risk that Hezbollah will try to grab some weapons systems, some anti-aircraft systems or some long-range missiles from the falling Syrian regime. Some people even raise the risk that they will try to grab some chemical materials. We still prefer to see [Assad] fall, even with all those risks. We are watching and following it carefully.
Do you believe that one good thing about the downfall of Assad would be that it could break the axis between Syria and Iran?
Yes, Iran and Hezbollah are the main supporters [of Syria], and it will be a blow to both the ayatollahs in Tehran and to [Hezbollah’s Hasan] Nasrallah and his people in Beirut.
Do you believe that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has lost a lot of power?
The real leader is Khamenei. I heard he is going to retire next year. Basically, [Iran’s leadership] is a collective — sometimes American newspapers describe [certain leaders] as either radical or moderate. Don’t delude yourself that the moderate ayatollahs are not ayatollahs. All are ayatollahs.
Do you feel this U.S. administration has been supportive of Israel?
In terms of our security? Yes, this administration was really supportive of Israel.
Do you think the U.S. administration understands that you have a difficult choice to make about Iran?
Yes, I think so. The discussions between us and the White House are honest and frank, with a clear understanding of the differences between our point of view and theirs with regard to Iran. We can fully understand the fact that we look at things a different way. I believe that the State Department, Pentagon and White House understand that when it comes to the vital security interests of Israel, only the government of Israel has to make the decisions.
I would not be surprised if in [the nuclear talks], the Iranians will come with some gambit, trying to blur the picture. They want very much to delay any kind of clear conclusion about their intentions for the next half a year so they can [wait for] the American election and for a better time for them.
You think they want to delay until after the American election?
Because they want to continue with the program. They are afraid that if they are exposed now, at a certain point, the P5 + 1 will say there is no way to deal with them and who knows what will follow. If they gain another half a year, they will have more time.
And then a new administration might come into office.
They waited 4,000 years to have a nuclear bomb, so they can wait another four months. They want to see how the new president, be it Obama or Romney, sees it. In the meantime, they can enrich another [batch of] low-enriched uranium. They want to delay.
Are you worried about the Americans making a bad deal?
We hope for the best. We are realistic and skeptical. We are not part of the P5 + 1, and we do not pretend to run the world. But we shared honestly and clearly with our colleagues in both Europe and America our thought that the Iranians will probably try to gain time by [making] some gestures that will be misread as forthcoming. But if you look at the details, you will see that it really does not block them from moving toward a nuclear weapons program.
In the middle of this, you have a new government here. What do you think will happen to the peace process?
Yes, we have a new government here — a very big one. I believe it is a great opportunity right now.
Recently you spoke about unilateral gestures on the part of Israel.
I didn’t say unilateral. I think we should use this opportunity to reactivate the peace process. If it is possible to have a breakthrough toward an agreement — it should be done. I don’t want to relieve Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] or the international community from their responsibility for the deadlock we are in now. But I think there is an inherent Israeli interest in reviving the peace process with the Palestinians, and probably with the moderate parts of this region.
What do you mean by “moderate parts of the region”?
I mean both with the Palestinians and with every moderate country in the region from Morocco to the Gulf. We have an interest to find a way to talk with them about how to move [the peace process forward].
Will the talks resume?
I don’t know because it takes two.
Is the prime minister interested? Are you?
I am interested, but the real news is not me. I was interested to start with. It’s the entrance of [Shaul] Mofaz and Kadima [to the coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], which is the biggest party in the Knesset. We delayed the election by a year and a quarter, and that is enough time to try to leave an imprint. Mofaz is a strong proponent of the idea of resuming the peace process with the Palestinians. It takes two to tango. We cannot impose it upon Abu Mazen. I hope that they will understand the uniqueness of this opportunity, instead of going to [seek recognition from the U.N.] General Assembly. We better start to move forward. If something complete cannot be achieved, probably [there can be] interim agreements. If nothing works, even unilateral steps might be a possibility.
What did you mean by that?
I just meant we have to think about all options. We have such a wide government that the coalition has no dissonance when we decide to move forward with the peace process. Based on this opportunity, we should try to push it. Mofaz and myself and the prime minister are committed to try and do it.
By Washington Post Staff, Updated: Friday, September 27, 3:08 PM
Just now I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York. While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.
I’ve directed Secretary Kerry to continue pursuing this diplomatic effort with the Iranian government. We had constructive discussions yesterday in New York with our partners, the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, together with the Iranian foreign minister. Going forward, President Rouhani and I have directed our teams to continue working expeditiously, in cooperation with the P-5 plus one, to pursue an agreement. And throughout this process, we’ll stay in close touch with our friends and allies in the region, including Israel.
Now, we’re mindful of all the challenges ahead. The very fact that this was the first communication between an American and Iranian president since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history.
I do believe that there is a basis for resolution. Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. President Rouhani has indicated that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons. I’ve made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations.
So the test will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place.
Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect. It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community as well as others in the region, one that would help the Iranian people fulfill their extraordinary potential but also help us address other concerns that could bring greater peace and stability in the Middle East.
A path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult. And at this point both sides have significant concerns that will have to be overcome. But I believe we’ve got a responsibility to pursue diplomacy and that we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran.
I also communicated to President Rouhani my deep respect for the Iranian people.
Now, as I said before, this comes on the same day that we can accomplish a major diplomatic breakthrough on Syria as the United Nations Security Council will vote on a resolution that would require the Assad regime to put its chemical weapons under international control so they can ultimately be destroyed. This binding resolution will ensure that the Assad regime must keep its commitments or face consequences. We’ll have to be vigilant about following through, but this could be a significant victory for the international community and demonstrate how strong diplomacy can allow us to secure our country and pursue a better world.
Now, America’s security and leadership don’t just depend on our military strength or our alliances or our diplomacy. First and foremost, America’s strength depends on a strong economy, where our middle class is growing and everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead.
So far, the Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to move forward. And here’s the thing: Unlike the last time they threatened this course of action, this debate isn’t really about deficits. In fact, our deficits are falling at the fastest pace that they have in 60 years. By the end of this year, we will have cut our deficits by more than half since I took office. So that’s not what this is about. And in fact, if you’ve been following the discussion, the Republicans in the House don’t even make a pretense that that’s what this is about. Instead, the House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the Tea Party that they’ve threatened a government shutdown or worse unless I gut or repeal the Affordable Care Act.
I said this yesterday; let me repeat it. That’s not going to happen. More than 100 million Americans currently already have new benefits and protections under the law.
On Tuesday about 40 million more Americans will be able to finally buy quality affordable health care, just like anybody else. Those marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday, no matter what, even if there’s a government shutdown. That’s a done deal.
As I said before, if Republicans have specific ideas on how to genuinely improve the law, rather than gut it, rather than delay it, rather than repeal it, I’m happy to work with them on that through the normal democratic processes. But that will not happen under the threat of a shutdown.
So over the next three days House Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open or shut it down because they can’t get their way on an issue that has nothing to do with the deficit.
I realize that a lot of what’s taking place is political grandstanding, but this grandstanding has real effects on real people. If the government shuts down on Tuesday, military personnel, including those risking their lives overseas for us right now, will not get paid on time. Federal loans for rural communities, small business owners, families buying a home will be frozen. I’m already starting to get letters from people worried that this will have an impact on them directly. Critical research into lifesaving discoveries will be immediately halted. Federal government has a large role across the country and touches the lives of millions of people, and those people will be harmed.
Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy, and this shutdown would as well. It would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction. And that’s why many Republican senators and many Republican governors have urged Republicans to knock it off, pass a budget and move on. Let’s get this done.
And this brings me to Congress’s second responsibility. Once they vote to keep the government open, they also have to vote within the next couple of weeks to allow the Treasury to pay the bills for the money that Congress has already spent. I want to repeat: Raising the debt ceiling is simply authorizing the Treasury to pay for what Congress has already authorized.
Failure to meet this responsibility would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown. It would effectively be an economic shutdown, with impacts not just here but around the world. We don’t fully understand what might happen, the dangers involved, because no Congress has ever actually threatened default. But we know it would have a profound destabilizing effect on the entire economy, on the world economy, because America is the bedrock of world investment.
The dollar is the reserve currency. The debt that is issued by the Treasury is the foundation for our capital markets. That’s why you don’t fool with it.
Some Republicans have suggested that unless I agree to an even longer list of demands, not just gutting the health care law but cutting taxes for millionaires or rolling back rules on big banks and polluters or other pet projects that they’d like to see, and they’ve been trying to get past over the last couple years, that they would push the button, throw America into default for the first time in history and risk throwing us back into a recession.
Now, I am willing to work with anybody who wants to have a serious conversation about our fiscal future. I’ve demonstrated that by putting forward serious reforms to tax and entitlement programs that would bring down our long-term deficits. I have said in the past, and I will continue to say, that I’m willing to make a whole bunch of tough decisions, ones that may not be entirely welcome by my own party.
But we’re not going to do this under the threat of blowing up the entire economy. I will not negotiate over Congress’ responsibility to pay the bills that have already been racked up.
Voting for the Treasury to pay America’s bills is not a concession to me. That — that — that — that’s not doing me a favor. That’s simply carrying out the solemn responsibilities that come with holding office up there.
I don’t know how I can be more clear about this: Nobody gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States just to extract political concessions. No one gets to hurt our economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a couple of laws that you do not like. It has not been done in the past. We’re not going to start doing it now.
I’m not going to start setting a precedent, not just for me, but for future presidents, where one chamber in Congress can basically say each time there needs to be a vote to make sure Treasury pays its bills, we’re not going to sign it unless our particular hobby horse gets advanced.
Imagine if you had a Republican president and a Democratic speaker, and the Democratic speaker said, well, we’re not going to pass the debt ceiling unless we raise corporate taxes by 40 percent or unless we pass background checks on guns or whatever other list of agenda items Democrats were interested in. Does anybody actually think that we would be hearing from Republicans that that was acceptable behavior? That’s not how our constitutional system is designed. We are not going to do it.
The American people have worked too hard to recover from a bunch of crises — several of them now, over the last couple of years, inflicted by some of the same folks in Congress that we’re talking about now — to see extremists in Congress cause another crisis. And keep in mind, by the way — this whole thing has to do with keeping the government open for a few months.
The continuing resolution, the — the bill that’s designed to avert a government shutdown, basically just funds the government for another couple months, so we could be doing this all over again. I’m sure the American people are thrilled about that. And that’s why we’ve got to break this cycle.
My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time. Pay our bills on time. Refocus on the everyday concerns of the American people. There will be differences between Democrats and Republicans. We can have all kinds of conversations about how to resolve those differences. There will be areas where we can work together. There will be areas where we disagree. But do not threaten to burn the house down simply because you haven’t gotten a hundred percent of your way. That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work.
Every day that this goes on is another day that we’re not focused on doing what we need to be focused on, which is rebuilding this great country of ours so that our middle class is growing and everybody’s got opportunity if they’re willing to work hard. That’s what I’m focused on. That’s what Congress should be focused on as well.
All right, thank you very much, everybody.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the full interview and accompanying transcript of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour’s conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Mr. President, welcome. Welcome to the program. Thank you for joining us.
PRES. HASSAN ROUHANI, IRAN (through translator): I thank your program and you for preparing this interview.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you what it feels like to be what some people have called the “it” man of this UNGA? Highly anticipated. You seem to be the focus of attention, and unusually, for Iranian presidents, people are looking at you with some, at least cautious optimism. What does it feel like to be in this position?
ROUHANI: Before beginning to respond to your question, I would like to actually say my greetings to the people of America, who are very dear and near to the hearts of the Iranian people and to wish them a good time and good times ahead. Now, for any president, in order to use an opportunity to the benefit of others, would require him to use the platform given by his people to project that in places such as specifically the United Nations. Therefore, I am glad that this opportunity has been presented to me to transport the views of my people to the representatives of other governments and other nations who have gathered here.
AMANPOUR: There was a lot of expectation, maybe too high expectations, that you and President Obama might at least shake hands today at the United Nations. Nobody thought there was going to be a formal meeting, but perhaps that you would at least say hello, shake hands, break the ice. But you didn’t. Why didn’t you?
ROUHANI: There were some talks about it, in fact, to perhaps have – arrange for a meeting between President Obama and myself, so that given the opportunity, we can talk with each other. And the preparation for the work was done a bit, as well. The United States declared its interest in having such a meeting. And in principle, Iran could have, under certain circumstances, allowed for it to happen. But I believe that we didn’t have sufficient time to really coordinate the meeting to the full extent that we needed to. But speaking of the ice-breaking that you mentioned, in my opinion, the rift is already there. It’s already beginning to break, because the environment is changing. And that has come about as a result of the will of the people of Iran to create a new era of relations between the people of Iran and the rest of the world. Our hope, our expectation, in fact, indeed is that all nations, and in this nation, as well, will response positively to the people of Iran.
AMANPOUR: Are you authorized to start talking, negotiating, with the United States? Are you authorized by the supreme leader back in Iran?
ROUHANI: I think that the president of Iran has the authority wherever which – where – wherever the national interests of the country are involved and when it is necessary and expedient and required to speak and talk with others in order to promote the rights of its nation that the president can take that initiative.
Now, we have to remember that when it comes to the United States, for 35 years, there has been no relations between the two countries, between Iran and the United States. The – the higher officials of the two countries have never spoken with one another, especially at a level of president. You know, they have for two presidents to sit down, this has not happened for 35 years. So necessarily, we must give time for diplomacy to – to work itself, for dialogue to come about, to – for circumstances to be laid properly. The supreme leader of Iran has said that should negotiations be necessary for the national interests of the country that he, in fact, is not opposed to it. He has specifically mentioned in a recent talk that he is not optimistic regarding the issue of talks with the United States, but when it comes to specific issues that, um, government officials may speak with their American counterparts.
Now, if an opportunity was created today, had risen today, and the prep work for that had been done, most possibly the talks would have shaped and taken place, primarily focused on the nuclear issue or on developments on the Middle East. And therefore, the supreme leader has, I can tell you, given the permission for my government to freely negotiate on these issues.
AMANPOUR: So you do have that authorization?
AMANPOUR: President Obama, today, in his speech to the United Nations, said that he had authorized and placed Secretary John Kerry at the head of the negotiating team. They’re going to meet with your foreign minister, Mr. Zarif, in terms of the nuclear issue.
Are there other issues, too, bilateral issues, that you can start discussing, or your representatives, with the United States, or is it just nuclear, and, as you said, other Middle Eastern issues?
ROUHANI: There are numerous issues that could be discussed by the two governments. But my principle has been from the outset that the nuclear issue can be an important test for the two governments to fulfill their negotiations and – and to reap the benefits of it. So for the benefit of both nations, I believe that both our priority and perhaps possibly the priority of the other side, the United States, is the nuclear issue. If the nuclear issue is settled conclusively, I believe that that will pave the way for numerous other issues that can be discussed based on a priority basis by the two sides.
AMANPOUR: You spoke in your address to the General Assembly about a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue.
Can you give me the framework, the principles of what you would see as the possibility of a deal?
ROUHANI: On the nuclear issue, the first point is that the entire world must recognize that Iran does not seek a nuclear weapon, nor shall it seek a nuclear weapon. Iran rejects weapons of mass destruction based on its belief system, its religious belief system, as well as well as its ethical standpoint. And you’re well aware that the supreme leader has, in fact, issued a decree that bans the production and the stockpiling of any weapons of mass destruction, specifically the nuclear weapon, as being haram.
Therefore, it is our position that the world must understand that there has been a lot of negative propaganda, in fact, in this area, that has pointed fingers at us. But Iran does not seek nuclear weapons. But at the same time, it would insist that it will seek its rights like any other nation within the framework of international law and exert an – you know, exert its will to fulfill those rights for its nation.
Therefore, as long as it is under the preamble of international law, then, well, I believe such understanding can be achieved between us and the rest of the world. But not under pressure or sanctions.
AMANPOUR: You say – and you’ve said many times, and every Iranian president has said it, and so has the supreme leader said it, that Iran does not want nuclear weapons.
However, you know the issue is a confidence issue and that, frankly, many people don’t believe it. They want to know what you can do to raise the confidence level. As you know, sir, every U.N. resolution uses the word confidence. It’s all about confidence.
So what can you specifically do?
What is Iran prepared to do to inspire confidence in its nuclear program?
You say that you want to retain the right to enrichment.
What can you do for transparency?
Are you prepared to go even further than what the NPT demands and go to even further transparency under that?
ROUHANI: You see, confidence is possible through two ways. The first path is the legal path, which means a recognition of international rules and laws and to follow those.
Why was the agency or the IAEA created?
It was created to build confidence to – for the world community based on its supervisory system. You are aware that all of Iran’s nuclear materials are calculated by the milligram under the auspices of the IAEA. And this is the first step to gain world confidence is to recognize that the IAEA should be fully in control of the nuclear material of all countries.
We have actually signed the safeguards agreement and that was concluded and enforced and is being enforced on an ongoing basis with the IAEA, because their inspectors are routinely coming to Iran and checking our facilities and their cameras are all over and they record all the activities.
So the legal confidence path, so to say, is really the path of the NPT and the safeguards and the promotion of those to allow the countries of the world to engage in peaceful nuclear activities, while, at the same time, building confidence and assuring that there is no deviation.
The IAEA, after hundreds of hours of numerous inspections and continual work, did, in 2004, issue a clear resolution clearly stating that there was no evidence, with regards to Iran’s nuclear program, of a deviation to that program. And that resolution was actually endorsed and approved by all members of the board of directors of the IAEA, including the United States of America.
So the agency felt that its inspections were sufficient and strong enough that it could say that it had no evidence that there was any deviation.
Now, the second path for confidence is – is really a political path, when there are no ties between two countries, where the two countries are not talking and negotiating with one another, it’s possible that some lack of confidence could emerge.
Our discussions with the P5-plus-1 has actually aimed to look into the details of the issues and through the agreements that Iran and the P5-plus-1 can attain, create not only a legal, but also a political confidence.
Therefore, talking with and negotiating with the IAEA is certainly the best confidence we can give to the world and to the world’s public opinion. And remember, this comes from a country that was the victim of weapons of mass destruction itself.
AMANPOUR: Will you freeze enrichment at 20 percent?
Will you trade your existing 20 percent enriched fuel for – for buying it or accessing it from outside the country?
ROUHANI: These are talks that countries will engage with through negotiations. What we can announce through the press to the world, is that Iran, like all countries, believes in its rights for peaceful nuclear pursuits. And therefore, whatever prerogative or authority that any other country has in this realm, so does Iran. And there should be no difference or discrimination in this regard.
Now, what – as to what we would do on a temporary basis or later, these are the issues that need to be placed on the table for negotiations and an agreement for – over them.
AMANPOUR: One of the confidence issues is the, uh, the facility at Fordow near Qom. One of the reasons that the world is very suspicious is because it was a fait accompli before it was declared.
So the question is, would you close the Fordow plant?
ROUHANI: What difference is there between the Fordow plant with other enrichment plants?
Fordow is one of other – many other centers in which enrichment does take place, such as Natanz. In Natanz, enrichment takes place. In Fordow there is an enrichment program, as well.
So why is there such sensitivity on the question of Fordow?
I believe that was – may have perhaps allowed – let to Fordow to become activated along with Natanz. And I would urge you to recall that over a year ago Iran also announced that 10 other sites, such as Natanz and Fordow, would be built.
Um, so what now is creating pressure over Fordow is really the threats that have culminated into this question over Fordow. When threat happens it actually violates any principle of negotiation which says come to the table because we want to talk.
There’s only one issue on the table as far as Iran is concerned, and it reflects the same confidence that you spoke of. That is to come to the negotiating table to negotiate every – to negotiate.
But there shouldn’t be any prerequisite to build that confidence, to sit at the table. If that prerequisite is a threat of military action, that, to us, implies that the negotiations are not for real.
So if we speak of confidence, confidence must be mutual for certainty. This is the foundation of confidence building. It’s foundation to be created by both sides. And it should be built by both sides. The building of confidence cannot be built unilaterally.
Therefore, there’s no difference between our various enrichment sites. The key issue is to negotiate and to see how we can build confidence through negotiations and that should be mutual, to see what confidence they can give us and what confidence we can give them.
AMANPOUR: What about the Arak heavy water facility where people are worried that you could start extracting plutonium. That’s yet another danger and a – a worry for the – for the rest of the world. It’s due to come online perhaps in the spring.
Will you delay putting it online, the Arak facility?
ROUHANI: You are aware that the Arak site is there to meet the medicinal needs of our country and that was the case, and from the outset, when we announced the site. Therefore, as long as Arak becomes operational, there is still a significant amount of time left until it actually becomes fully operational.
Now, it is possible that in the future, such talks could take place between Iran and the P5-plus-1 on such issues. But so far, the issue of Arak – Arak was never on the negotiating table.
AMANPOUR: But it could be?
ROUHANI: Anything is possible in negotiations. We can – it’s possible to talk about anything.
AMANPOUR: In – in – in broad, what is it that you’re willing to do to inspire confidence?
I know I’ve asked you this already, but I don’t hear you saying – I don’t – maybe I don’t understand, but clearly what people want is full transparency.
So is Iran, yes or no, willing to give that level of confidence, that there is no doubt that what you say you’re doing, you’re actually doing?
ROUHANI: Over 40 countries have enrichment capacities. And many of them have ongoing enrichment operations.
What is the difference between Iran and those countries?
There are countries that have not even accepted the NPT or even agreed to work with the IAEA.
But Iran has accepted and is committed to the NPT. Iran has accepted and committed itself to the safeguards agreement. All of its activities are under the supervision of the IAEA.
Therefore this issue of confidence and if Iran is a threat or not falls into two categories: propaganda in – in that category, when some decide to say that Iran is a threat or a danger, they’ll keep on saying it no matter.
And on the second level, there are regional concerns. We are willing to allay some of those regional concerns, not suspicions in the name of concerns.
there is – there are suspicions of concerns that the press and the propaganda around it talks about. And it has no value to us.
But if a regional country, within the region, has concerns, the P5-plus-1 is a venue able to alleviate those concerns. And we are very committed in those talks and have told the other parties that we will be very serious in those talks. I have given the authority for those talks to the foreign ministry, and headed by the foreign minister himself as the chief negotiator, to handle those talks.
Therefore, our foreign ministry is responsible for those talks. And the P5-plus-1 will be – can consider sending its senior authorities, such as their own foreign ministers, just as it was the case when I led the negotiating team, if you recall my, um my team was met with the foreign ministers of the three other parties at the time.
So we believe that the negotiations have to quickly start, seriously be pursued and very quickly be resolved and settled because the current circumstances are not to the benefit of anyone. It is a loose, loose situation for all. Therefore, we need to create a win-win situation for everyone to benefit.
Under the current circumstances of the world, given the economic debacle surrounding us, given the serious issues in our own region that confront us, it is necessary to settle such issues to boost the world economy, regional economy and regional security, as well.
AMANPOUR: And what are you looking for in return?
I know you want sanctions lifted.
Do you think you’ll get them all at once or what are the most important things you want?
ROUHANI: Nothing except law. We seek the law to be enforced. International law must be enforced. And that will – is what we require.
We believe that unilateral sanctions violate international law, in fact. They violate free trade. They violate human growth and development, human development, and that when you actually sanction a bank of a country, the meaning of it is quite clear. You’re sanctioning medicine for the people. You’re sanctioning medical needs and tools for the people and you’re even sanctioning food supplies for the people.
This is inhumane. This violates all principles and rules and regulations of the international legal system or international law.
And therefore, all we want in return is the enforcement of international law. And we seek to invite anyone who’s deviated from that enforcement of international law to return to the path of enforcing it. For them to understand that with pressures on a nation, there will be no results.
We tell them that the pressure – pressures are pressure on the people of Iran. They are inhumane in our eyes. They are incorrect and the results are to create hatred in the hearts of that nation toward those who sanction it. The more hatred there is, the conditions become ripe – less ripe for creating peace, for creating security and friendship among nations.
Therefore, what we seek is the enforcement of international law. We believe sanctions is illegal and inhumane and therefore, we certainly believe that the sanctions must be removed. We believe sanctions have no effect. The goal of the – who sanction us, whatever it may be, they will not reach that goal.
The only path ahead is negotiations. We must sit down and talk and settle this for once and finally.
AMANPOUR: You have presented a different face of Iran, a different face than we’d had, certainly, for the last eight years. You came here saying you wanted to present the true face of Iran.
You have been busy Tweeting – at least your office has. You have been giving interviews. You’ve been giving statements, a real media blitz. Some might call it a P.R. blitz, a spin job.
Um, what is – what is your answer to Tweeting and posting on social media when the people of Iran don’t have access to that?
You have said that you would work to reduce censorship inside Iran.
Will you do that?
ROUHANI: All my efforts are geared to ensure that the people of Iran will comfortably be able to access all information globally and to use it. There are large social networks at a global level around today. And I believe that all human beings have a right, and all nations have a right to use them.
Now, it is possible that a country might – a certain country might have a framework, an ethical and moral concern. And many countries do, in fact, have that, that they try to follow. And in Iran, there are certainly such frameworks in place, as well.
ROUHANI: But at the same time, my efforts are geared, for the next few months, to deliver all the promises that I did during my election campaign, to make them happen and, as you say, of course, in doing the election campaign, these networks, my supporters actually used them, um, a great deal. And today, those supporters, and even those who criticized me, are still on the same social networks and use them. And I always welcome their views on these networks, as well as those who criticize me, because the government does need to be open to criticism.
So one of my plans is to reduce the problems that people face currently on these issues, so that within those sort of moral frameworks that we have for ourselves, that we are able to access these social network sites.
AMANPOUR: One of the things you did, and also your foreign minister did, was to Tweet new year greetings to Jews in Iran and around the world, Rash Hashanah greetings.
You also brought with you on this delegation the only Jewish member of the Iranian parliament.
Why was it important for you to bring him here?
ROUHANI: Our effort here is to tell the world public opinion that Iran is not only not anti-Semitic, but rather that it respects the customs and beliefs of the Jewish people. You will know that we respect the divine book of the Jewish people. We respect their prophet, Moses. And you are aware that in the Iranian parliament, given that the number of Jews in Iran are very small, that they still retain a representative in – in the parliament. And that representative, uh, can use the platforms given to him to speak for him – his views and the views of the minority that he represents in Iran.
And therefore, this Jewish representation can actually speak of the reality of the lives of the Jewish people in Iran. We are proud of peaceful – our history of peaceful coexistence with followers of all belief systems. You know that many of the worshipping places of minority religions, uh, have – have their base in Iran. And they are located in different parts of Iran. And people who follow them , those worshippers – those worshipping sites have not only representatives in the parliament, but are allowed to freely practice their creed and belief system.
AMANPOUR: One of the things your predecessor used to do from this very platform was deny the Holocaust and pretend that it was a myth. I want to know you, your position on the Holocaust.
Do you accept what it was?
And what was it?
ROUHANI: I have said before that I am not a historian personally and that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust as such, it is the historians that should reflect on it.
But in general, I can tell you that any crime or – that happens in history against humanity, including the crime that the Nazis committed towards the Jews, as well as non-Jewish people, is reprehensible and condemnable, as far as we are concerned.
And just as even such crimes are – if they are to happen today against any creed or belief system or human being as such, we shall again condemn it.
So what the Nazis did is condemnable. The dimensions of whatever it is, the historians have to understand what it is. I am not a historian myself, but we – it must be clear here, is that when there is an atrocity, a crime that happens, it should not become a cover to work against the interests or – or justify the crimes against another nation or another group of people.
So if the Nazis, however criminal they were, we condemn them, whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn, because genocide, the taking of the human life, is condemnable and it makes no difference whether that life is a Jewish life, a Christian or a Muslim or what.
For us, it’s the same. It’s the taking of a human life and an innocent human life is (INAUDIBLE) in Islam. It’s actually something that we condemn and our religion also rejects.
But this does not mean that, on the other hand, you can say, well, the Nazis committed crimes against, you know, a certain group, now, therefore, they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it. This, too, is an act that should be condemned, in our view.
So there should be an even-handed discussion of this.
AMANPOUR: Another thing that your predecessor used to do – and, in fact, President Obama referred to it today in his speech – was threaten Israel with destruction. He used the word wipe Israel off the map. The president of the United States today said we cannot allow any country to threaten our ally with destruction.
Is it the policy of Iran to threaten Israel with destruction?
ROUHANI: You are aware that not only in these past 35 years, but in the past 200 years or so, Iran has never attacked another country. We have no intention of attacking any country or getting into a war with any country.
Even if our armed forces are built up, it is for defense purposes alone. You are fully aware that there was an eight year war between Iran and Iraq during which Saddam Hussein attacked us and we were forced to defend ourself. And we learned how important defense is, and, therefore, how important it is not to wage war.
When it comes to the issue of Palestine, we believe in the public vote, the ballot in a sense, is that vote for the people of that region that has to happen to settle the dispute that’s been lingering for 60 years there.
We believe that all the Muslims, Palestinians that have been displaced or are refugees must have an opportunity to come and live where they like, alongside other people there. They should refer to the ballots and see what people say.
And we will submit to that will and to that ballot and accept it. Therefore, what I’d like to say here is that when it comes to the settlement and resolution of regional issues, we believe that the only path is through the ballot box, through democracy. And we believe that war is not an answer for any of our problems.
AMANPOUR: On the issue of human rights, just before you came, there was an announcement that 80 prominent human rights activists were released from jail in Tehran, many of them having been taken into jail in the dispute in 2009 after the reelection of – of President Ahmadinejad.
One of them was Nasrin Soutedh. I spoke to her. And she said to me, it’s great that I’m free, but how about all the others that are still in jail.
What is your – what are you going to do?
What is your government going to do to release prisoners of conscience, and particularly two politicians, opposition politicians, Mahdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, who are still being held?
What will your government do to work for their freedom and to enable them to continue their political activities?
ROUHANI: You know that in the election campaign that recently took place, I insisted on an issue which I called the citizenship charter. I promised the people to put together and publicize a citizenship charter which I would then present as a bill to legislate on and to allow our society to settle many of the problems that it faces right now.
You know that our constitution has a very high capacity in restoring the rights of the Iranian people, by language and wording. One of the prerogatives of the president of Iran is the enforcement of the constitution.
So I have actually authorized the legal department that works under me to create a committee working on this issue in specific. And I believe that very soon this, uh, charter, citizen charter, will be ready, which I can present to the public opinion. And there’s a team that’s putting it together.
I will publicize it and we’ll allow the people an opportunity to criticize it, to debate it, to work on it with us. We’ll gather the viewpoints of anyone, and experts included, on this issue. And I am hopeful that in the next few months, that this sort of collection of citizenship rights will be created in the form of a tri – a charter and presented and actually enforced.
And it should a law need to be created to, uh, submit as a bill to the Islamic Office of Assembly, our parliament.
So basically I’m very sensitive about the question of citizenship rights, of the rights of minorities, the rights of the ethnic groups. I am glad that when every prisoner leaves the jail – the prison, I rejoice in that. I hope the day will come when our prisons will be empty, but knowing – recognizing that every country will still have its prisons and will have its criminals. But the fewer, the better. Uh, people in – in prison, it is better to have fewer. And that allows our government to rejoice in it, as well.
So I will spare no effort to ensure that those who are currently in prison will see an opening door.
AMANPOUR: Secretary of State John Kerry has made a specific appeal to you and to the Iranian government, asking you to help three – free three Americans who have been detained for many, many years. And their families are desperate for news of them. They’ve given us interviews. They’ve spoken to us. They really are desperate for news of these people – Bob Levinson, who’s been disappeared since March of 2007; Amir Hekmati, who’s a 30-year-old jailed since 2011 and says on – on a coerced false confession; and Saeed Abedini, who’s 33 years old and was jailed a year ago on religion-related charges.
What can you say to, uh, the secretary of State, or to the American people and the families of these people?
Will you do something to finally unlock these cases?
ROUHANI: You see, there are two issues.
First, you mentioned a person that I’ve never heard of. Mr. Levinson, we don’t know where he is, who he is. Sometimes you are speaking of people who come before a court of trial and other times, there are people who disappear. It’s not a clear question to put these two categories side by side.
He is an American who has disappeared. We have no news of him. We do not know where he is. We are willing to help and all the intelligence services in the region can come together to gather information about him to find his whereabouts. And we’re willing to cooperate on that.
But if somebody has been arrested, the second category, you know that there’s a trial system. There is the judiciary that has to handle the case. Our constitution accepts the separation of our three powers, one being the judiciary, and it has to act independently.
So when someone is in prison and there is a case against him, he has the right to an attorney and representation. And we have numerous courts. We have different levels and this case can go through multiple levels.
But as to what governments can do, perhaps, on this issue, I think it’s a very positive gesture for any government to do what it can to help. But I would like to say that we also have people who are in prison here in the United States. And we have all – this is a sort of a mutual request. Um, the U.S. government, who must assist those Iranians, those people who are of Iranian citizenship who are in prison here, as we should assist those people who have American citizenships that are incarcerated in Iran.
But having said that, our judiciary is independent and based on the constitution, the government has no right to interfere in the judicial process.
AMANPOUR: You don’t think that it would be a gesture, as a new president who’s talked quite warmly about trying to make better relations, that maybe Amir Hekmati, for instance, might get some attention?
ROUHANI: I’ve said governments should – if they decided to render any help, it is a very good thing to do. But at the same time, I’m trying to say that we cannot interfere in the judicial process. Not even the head of the judiciary can interfere in the decision of a court. And, um, there’s a process, a due process that has to be completed.
But having said that, governments can assist. They can step in when it comes to the enforcement of laws and they can step in to facilitate the process. And I believe any government should do that. And if the U.S. government does that, the Iran – and if the Iranian government does that well, that would be a very good thing.
And, again, we have prisoners here in the United States. We have for a long time sought to see what help and assistance they can receive to be freed. And without speaking of their, you know, charges, whether they’re real or not, I don’t think this is the platform for it, I would conclude by saying that it’s just good to help a human being.
I would be glad to help a human being. And American authorities, I hope, will also rejoice in assisting our – the Iranian citizens here in prison, as well.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about Syria. You have said that you’ve exchanged letters with President Obama on the issue of Syria. Today, the French president, Hollande, told me that Iran would be welcome in any peace conference regarding Syria, but under certain conditions, that you would accept the parameters of the conference. For instance, in this regard, Geneva 2, a transition that would see President Bashar al-Assad step aside for a political resolution.
Are you willing to accept that?
ROUHANI: We cannot accept any preconditions. We are ready to help in any international gathering if we can be of help. We believe it’s our duty to help the Syrian people. I have told Mr. Hollande that we are prepared to cooperate with any country so that the civil war in Syria comes quickly to an end.
I have exclusively said to Mr. Hollande. And he agreed with me, in fact, that when it comes to the issue of Syria, the sole decision-makers are the people of Syria. No foreign power has the right to decide for the Syrian people or for the future of Syria.
We must all try to put an end to the civil war – there. We must all pave the way to allow people to participate in an election in Syria.
Now, having said that, where Syria is today, until where it can be when an election does take place, there is a clear distance where everyone must step in and shorten that distance.
At the same time, when it comes to Syria, a key issue that has to be taken into account is the presence of terrorists there. This should create concern by all. Clearly, the more al Qaeda terrorists or other terrorist groups that were around the region, the hard – it seems that all of them have actually gathered in Syria right now.
So this should be a cause of concern for everyone. It looks like they’re all there. No action should be taken that assists terrorists. Assisting terrorists will be to the disadvantage of all of us. You know that there is a conflict in Syria. There are groups that are opposed to the gov – the Syrian government. The war in Syria today is not a war between the opposition and the government. It is a war between the terrorists and the Syrian government. And this is an issue that we must try to do, meaning silence that war, the flames of war have to be put out. We need to facilitate a Syrian-Syrian dialogue between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian government that could lead eventually to an election.
AMANPOUR: I know the Syrian position and yours, obviously, you’ve just stated it, is that all the opposition are terrorists. Many dispute that, as you know, because they believe that they are people who want to have a different kind of life.
Isn’t Iran a direct player?
ROUHANI: I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that all the opposition in Syria are terrorists. I said that those who are fighting the government are the terrorists. Those who are the opposition are not fighting. The opposition isn’t the opposition. We are in touch with the opposition. We have contacts with the opposition. We are saying that the opposition and the Syrian government must negotiate. That negotiation must be materialized.
But what I am saying is that there are terrorists that have gathered from all around the region and the Syria – are a danger to Syria. I didn’t say that the entire oppositions are terrorists. There are – there’s the opposition and there are terrorists.
AMANPOUR: OK. But isn’t Iran a direct participant in this war?
A key commander, General Suleimani, is in there. He’s got his men in there. There’s many, many men – maybe more than thousands of Iranians in there fighting on the side of Bashar Al-Assad.
You have written an op-ed saying that you want to use your government to try to resolve this issue.
But isn’t one of the resolutions also to take out your fighting men?
ROUHANI: When you say thousands from Iran are there, I don’t know where you get that information. Even hundreds. You can say hundreds. You can say 10s.
But where do you gather that information?
AMANPOUR: Are there any?
ROUHANI: We’ll get there. We’ll get there. If you let me just com – complete my answer and then if you have other questions, I’m glad to take them.
The thousands that you speak of is an incorrect figure. Even if you say hundreds it’s an incorrect figure. It is not what is correct as far – as far as the reality on the ground is concerned. We have close relations with Syria from a long time ago. We have had defense agreements with the Syrian government. Some of our army and officials – military officials have assisted Syria in – or helped in the upkeep, actually, or repair of the weapons that we had from years ago given to Syria. We have people who are military attaches and military experts who are stationed there. They are the liaisons, the military liaison between our country and Syria that – a liaison that has existed from years ago. But – but to speak of hundreds…
AMANPOUR: However many …
ROUHANI: – or tens of hundreds of these…
AMANPOUR: – however many it is…
ROUHANI: – that’s not incorrect.
AMANPOUR: They appear to be directing the war on behalf of President Assad. People do say, very serious military people, diplomatic people say that if it wasn’t for your military help, planes bringing weapons and personnel, flying over Iraq, members of the Revolutionary Guard there, that President Assad’s regime would have fallen already.
Do you agree?
ROUHANI: You see that you say that we are assisting militarily Syria.
Could you clarify what you mean?
AMANPOUR: – Weapons, plane loads of them.
ROUHANI: Well, I understand but what you are saying. What is – what I’m really questioning is the source of it. Again, there’s a level of propaganda involved that I would caution you about that is baseless here. You are aware that there are planes that left Tehran to Damascus were actually forced to land in Baghdad, not only once or twice, but on numerous occasions, under pressure by the Americans and they – they couldn’t find anything on those planes. As you say, we have loads – weapons on those planes now.
There are governments that are officially – saying that we are giving weapons to the Syrian fighters. And they are just saying it. I would say yes, we are providing those arms into Syria. And yet, there seems to be two treatments here.
What we are get – assisting Syria with is some food programs, medicine. We offer medicine on an ongoing basis. And even though we have such shortages in our own country, we consider this an obligation.
Now, if there a forces going from Iraq or elsewhere into Syria?
We are not the government of Iraq, we are not the government of Syria, we are the government of Iran. We speak for our actions and that alone.
But I want to bring to your attention the fact that there are many problems in Syria. And I believe that all governments have to step in responsibly and fix the situation.
You know very well where the terrorists are coming from. You know where the crossings are. You know who is supplying them quite well. You know where they’re getting their training. You may not know personally, but many governments, Western governments or non-Western governments, are cognizant of this flow of arms into Syria and such.
Rather than pointing the finger at each other, rather than speaking of this government or that government, we must all collectively try to end the civil war in Syria.
Secondly, the terrorist groups are the real threat here – the real danger here to the entire region, even to Western governments. These will present, these terrorists, threats in the future.
How is it that their threat is talked about much less, in a certain way, when the finger-pointing comes to us?
You know that months ago, we informed the American officials that the Syrian terrorists have been equipped with different weapons…
ROUHANI: – including chemical weapons.
It’s important to be sensitive enough to the dilemma, the problem in Syria. Now, talking about weapons of mass destruction, the chemical weapons, anyone who may have used it, anyone, a country or anyone, we categorically condemn it. And I have said this on numerous occasions in my interviews, as well, because we have been a victim of chemical weapons ourselves. We know the dangers.
All these years after the Iran-Iraq War, we are still treating the chemically wounded in our hospitals, almost after two decades have passed. They – suffering is a daily problem for our eyes.
So rather than talking in propaganda terms again for the Syrian crisis, it’s better to understand and recognize that Syria is a serious problem. It’s a country in the region where we are and we are all responsible to this – for – to find a settlement to the problem. And we are ready as much as we can to solve these problems.
AMANPOUR: Just briefly, are you encouraging the regime to give up its chemical weapons as the deal between the U.S. and Russia says?
ROUHANI: We believe in general that the entire region of the Middle East has, as far as that region is concerned, all weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, have to be eradicated from the region. We are glad that Syria has submitted to the Convention for the prohibition of chemical weapons, committed itself to that Convention. And we actually encourage everyone to submit to this, actually, the governments, to the decisions of such – as laid down by governments as such through these conventions in the hope that our region will be a region free of, uh, weapons of mass destruction.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, we end where we began.
Can you give me a sentence in English that you would like to say to the American people?
This is your first interview here in the United States.
ROUHANI: Well, I have to begin by saying that I have not spoken English for years now. I’m talking about a long many years that I have not practiced my English.
I would like to say to American people, I bring peace and friendship from Iranians to Americans.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, thank you very much.
Thank you for joining us.
ROUHANI: I thank you, as well, and your group, your team here. As for the questions that you raised, that are questions of concern, I hope that it will help the American public opinion in shaping their views, as they should on world matters.
AMANPOUR: Thank you very much, indeed.
ROUHANI: Thank you