United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Zarif Interview with Charlie Rose

In a wide-ranging interview with Charlie Rose, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed nuclear talks, ISIS, U.S.-Iran relations, jailed journalists in Iran and other issues. The following are video clips from the interview, which aired in two parts, followed by key excerpts.



Nuclear Talks

Charlie Rose: Have you changed your mind about the United States? You guys have been sitting there. You both want this to work for individual reasons, I mean, for reasons reflecting of your country's wishes.
Mohammad Javad Zarif: No, we both want this to work because we know that the other approach is counterproductive, that the other approach does not produce results. I mean, confrontation harms us. It harms U.S. interests. And it doesn't advance any objective. That is a realization that has been key to everybody sitting and trying to resolve this. So we have tested something that was not conducive to an outcome that either side believed to be in its interests. Now we're testing another option, an option that we always preferred. We prefer that option in early 2000 … when we made suggestions.
Now, I want you to understand, and I want the American public to understand that it's not the sanctions that has brought Iran here. We were always at the negotiating table. We were always prepared to reach a negotiated solution. It was, unfortunately, segments of the United States administration who believes and, unfortunately, continue to believe that they can impose their views on the rest of the world. They can't. And the sooner they realize that, the better off -- the better we all will be.
“Breakout” Time
Zarif: Breakout is the time that is required for a country to build and test a bomb, to build a nuclear weapon, a single nuclear weapon. Now, the calculation for that is something that requires first to have the fissile material, then to convey that fissile material into an explosive device for a bomb and to build a bomb and then to build a warhead and all of that to be able to explode the bomb. Now, what they're talking about, when it comes to Iran, they're talking about the time that is required for Iran to build necessary fissile material for one bomb. This is not to build a bomb.
So this is where the hype comes.
For the past eight years, Iran has suffered all these sanctions, and we had enough material to build eight bombs.
Rose: Eight bombs.
Zarif: Eight bombs. And we never did. So the break --
Rose: How much material is that?

Zarif: Eight thousand kilograms of enriched uranium. During the -- during president Ahmadinejad's time, where the United States and the rest of the world put all the pressure on him, demonized him, tried to create a security threat out of a country that never posed a threat against anybody, eight years, 8,000 kilograms, eight bombs, not a single bomb. Nobody even can test this argument. So -- breakout is a hysteria, is a hype. But Iran doesn't want to build nuclear weapons. We are prepared to create the atmosphere of confidence. That will be done through certain measures that we have accepted. It doesn't -- it doesn't mean that I accept breakout because I believe breakout is a hype.
Journalists Jailed in Iran
Zarif: We do not jail people for their opinions. The government has a plan to improve, enhance human rights in the country, as every government should. And I believe we have an obligation as a government to our own people to do that. But people who commit crimes, who violate the laws of a country, cannot hide behind being a journalist or being a political activist. People have to observe the law. I have to observe the law. When I'm asked to go to the parliament, I may not like it, but I have to go to the parliament and to respond to their questions. And I believe it is important for everybody to respect the rule of law and to allow the political process, the judicial process in Iran to run its course. And I believe at the end of the day, everybody will be best served by that.

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