Former Iranian Nuclear Negotiator Weighs In On U.S. Decision To Leave Nuclear Deal

May 9, 2018
Originally published on May 9, 2018 6:52 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Speaking of next steps - after President Trump's move to pull out of the nuclear deal, we wondered what Iran's next move might be. The political reaction was swift. On the floor of Iran's Parliament, lawmakers lit an American flag on fire and chanted death to America while it burned. The long-term consequences for Iran are harder to predict.

To help us understand the fallout, we are joined now by Seyed Hossein Mousavian. He's a former Iranian lawmaker and diplomat, a former spokesman for Iran's nuclear negotiations from 2003 to 2005. And he is now at Princeton University. Welcome.

SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: Thank you.

KELLY: I would like to start with Iran's immediate next moves. President Trump, as you know, says he can cut a better deal with Iran. And my question to you is, do you think he can? Do you see Iran sitting back down at the negotiating table?

MOUSAVIAN: I don't believe so because I believe President Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal practically killed any trust from the Iranian side on any further negotiation with the U.S. We have been facing for decades a political domestic dialogue in Iran. One school of thought always have been saying, you cannot trust the U.S.; negotiation with the U.S. is baseless, and the U.S. would never stick to its commitments. And the other school of thought have been defending dialogue and negotiation with the U.S. in order to overcome the many disputes between Iran and the U.S.

I think what happened - Iran and the U.S., after decades, had very high-level talks at the level of foreign ministers. And after 18 months of intensive negotiations, they agreed on the nuclear deal. This deal was backed by all world powers, five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. This deal was backed by U.N. Security Council resolution. And this was a - unanimous support from international community, especially the U.S.-allied Europeans. And now...

KELLY: And you're saying that the decision by President Trump this week, in your view, will prove the people in that first camp correct...

MOUSAVIAN: Yes.

KELLY: ...The people who say the U.S. can't be trusted.

MOUSAVIAN: Yes, exactly. This is what I'm going to say. From now on, no one will be able to defend negotiating with the U.S. on any other issue because the most important negotiation and agreement has been violated from the U.S. side while Iran fully implemented the deal. The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, since January 2016, the implementation day of the nuclear deal - 11 times they have confirmed Iran's full compliance with the deal. Now the U.S. practically pulled out, and nobody in Iran will be able to defend any further negotiation with the U.S.

KELLY: Let me turn you to the economy. This decision by the U.S. means U.S. sanctions will be reimposed. Can Iran's economy handle that?

MOUSAVIAN: I think Iranians - they have been subjected to U.S. sanctions for about four decades. This is not something new. Every president of the United States since 1979 have imposed multiple sanctions. And this...

KELLY: But people watching Iran's currency will watch that it was already dropping rapidly since the start of this year. Yesterday it fell again.

MOUSAVIAN: It has. Yeah, you are right. Iranian currency has dropped since the revolution in 1979. And this is not something new. And - however, Iranians are used to sanctions. Iranians - they have been able to resist with the U.S. sanctions for four decades. And despite...

KELLY: And we will see how it goes in the decades to come. Mr. Mousavian, thank you.

MOUSAVIAN: Thank you.

KELLY: That's Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator. Now he teaches at Princeton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.