tv Nuclear Negotiations with Iran CSPAN November 16, 2014 2:02am-3:20am EST
>> our next presenter leads the largest component of the department of homeland security. to present the award for the 2014 uso coast guardsmen of the year, please welcome the 25th commandant of the coast guard, admiral paul s. zuchoonst. >> all right, you have heard it from a-z. aisha, i'm not sure which is more difficult your name or my. i have the not cool name. my last name means future and the future of the coast guard is very bright. [applause]
in two months, the u.s. coast guard, the shallow water service, will cover all seven continents on the globe. today, we are in afghanistan, iran, africa, liberia, in south america, china, we are everywhere and i could not be more proud to serve the service but i cannot be more proud to have a seat that chairman dempsey has afforded me to be a guest on the chairman of the joint chiefs as we deal with many challenges that face us and the world ahead. really what people ask -- why do you give to come to work every day? what causes you to get up to work every day is the people we are proud to serve. first of all, we are an all volunteer service and how appropriate we are here with the uso, an all volunteer service as well. i'm just delighted to say that my wife fran is one of those 29,000 volunteers.
[applause] she kept her maiden name because no one can pronounce zukunft so people would come through reagan national air force -- airport at the uso office and asked what her husband does. all of a sudden, they laid down alms but fran is anything but that. she is very proud to be part of this great organization that we call the uso that serves our members and not just our members but our families as well. there's a family i will call out tonight and that is the family of petty officer brett bates, joined tonight by his wife leanne and joined by his mother and father lisa and mark and his grandfather doyle. [applause] why are we calling out --
brett tonight? many of you may have seen the movie "the guardian." brett bates is one of the guardians of the coast guard. he jumps out of perfectly good helicopters and he did so. it was back in april of 2013, launching over 100 miles south of galveston, texas and there is a fishing vessel foundering in 15 foot seas. normally you lower your rescue down by a hoist and it was too rough to lower him down so he jumps out of a perfectly good aircraft. he swims up to a life raft. then he not only comes up to the life raft but he says," it's ok, i'm here to give you a lift." that's exactly what he did but if we could do the same with ebola that he did with this mariner in distress, and then he hooked up, and then we lifted this mariner out and all thanks
to brett bates for doing that. if that was not enough, he also is an emt. on a tennis court, somebody playing tennis suffers cardiac arrest and he happened to have an id kit and administered cpr and saves another life. he has done that again and again. and so he is truly a lifesaver. the biggest challenge for me as i call ourselves the silent service because we never talk about what we do. brett bates is one of the many in our service that time and again, they save lives and that's what i'm trained to do. what you heard before his many heroes who have come before them and i will call another one out but that's what he is trained to do, to serve our nation as a volunteer. so brett bates, please come
i'll never forget it again. i will remember it when i am crying alone in my hotel room. it's all good. the national guard provides a vital role in the nation's defense -- hold it together -- [laughter] both at home and overseas. in his civilian life to merit presented pursued a career with the u.s. army corps of engineers to present our national guardsmen of the year, please welcome the 27th chief, national guard bureau general frank j graff. [applause] >> good evening, everyone and i think if i checked the schedule, i am the last military presenter. i've got the simplest last name. i got to tell you when i went to basic training i went to ocs, that name did not give me any benefit whatsoever.
[laughter] i was thinking as i was standing there listening to general dempsey throw me under a bus a few times and i'm the last military presenter, we've got a great chairman, no doubt. you should here this guy sing frank sinatra. for pat and i it's a real pleasure to be here and so many places we have been, what a great organization that takes care of the men and women. you don't ask for anything. you walk in over and over, i have seen it, and i have to tell you that no matter where i have been on the map, there's always a friendly smile and sometimes you really need that especially if you're going to dover or going somewhere to meet family and you need that smile to build your endurance up and do what you have to do when you have to notify someone. whenever you go in there and the family has been taken care of by the uso, it makes our jobs much easier. for everyone involved with the
uso, thank you so much. before i introduce our award winner tonight, i want to introduce sergeant andrew multredder's family, his daughter cora, his parents are here, his brother al, sister-in-law emily, sister amy, and brother-in-law charlie. thank you so much for supporting this great warrior. [applause] andrew, as any guardsmen who has done his training is an active duty training on the weekend. at the end of his training, he was heading home and back to lexington, his training was and shelby, kentucky. on the 12th of january, 2014, on his way home, he came upon an overturned suv on fire. with no regard for his personal safety, he went to the vehicle.
he saw the driver who was unconscious and still strapped in. assisted by two of his kentucky army national guard and army veteran that stopped to help, sergeant mehltretter took charge of the situation and went into action to extract the driver from the vehicle even while it was burning. he wanted to make sure there were no more injuries caused. so he began to organize the effort at the crash site. the driver who was a canadian citizen, as he came out of the vehicle, this combat medic, sergeant andrew mehltretter, uses combat skills and stabilize the patient and he stayed with that patient until the ambulance arrived. when the driver came back to consciousness, he looked up and
andrew said you are ok emma we are here with you. many folks especially the first responders say that andrew. save that gentleman's life anders commander said his dedication to duty and selfless service warrants recognition. his extraordinary here was him -- heroism establishes him as a professional, as a leader, as a mentor of soldiers. ladies and gentlemen, the 2012 -- the 2014 uso national guardsmen of the year, sergeant andrew mehltretter. [applause] ♪ ♪ ♪
>> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back asiha tyler and the vice president of monster, steve coker. [applause] >> i just want to say if i have not made it clear what an honor it's been to share this night with you. all night, people have thanked me for being here. i keep telling them how much of an honor it is for me and how grateful i am.
that's not have lump. that's not casual conversation. i said yes immediately when i was asked. the best part of my job is all the close and the carpets and bowl - bull you read about -- the best part of this job is to give back and it's incredibly high honor to serve that there is no higher honor than to be of service to those who serve. i am so, so grateful to be here with you. as an incredible night for may. thank you. [applause] >> thank you and great job. >> except for the zumkunft thing - that was that. >> is that the only thing? >> that was the only thing. >> on behalf of monster military.com i want to thank you all for attending this evening.
it is truly an honor to support the uso and their mission to lift the spirit of american troops and families and to jd and the uso staff, what an inspiring program you put together tonight. thank you for creating such an extraordinary event. to those who are honored this evening, i am in in all. i spake for everyone in this room when i say we are humbled by your stories. your courage and dedication in the service makes me proud to be american. you are what makes our country great. you have my sincere thanks and appreciation. [applause] >> we have come to the end of a remarkable evening. as i've said, it's been -- yes, there is always something afterwards a hold on. [laughter] it's in a real pleasure to serve as your mistress of ceremonies tonight and hear the stories of these incredible service man
women and their families. you are incredible and we are so grateful for everything you do. i think -- there is one other thing -- >> there is one other thing. >> it feels like we did not lannett. [laughter] >> the after party is getting started upstairs in the international terrace. general spencer is still here? i hear we might have a wrap. [applause] it may just motivate everyone to go. he's given us the thumbs up so we will see you upstairs, thank you. >> thank you for joining us, good night and god bless the united states of america. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> why that 7:00 your calls on
"washington journal." a look at the affordable care ilipicth an f runs a nonprofit organization. we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. on the one hand, we need to get word out to millions of people who did not enroll the first time. that is a harder to reach population. on the other hand, we have to help those to make sure they have the facts they need. think it is easy when you are doing this work to stumble on that. to think why does our messaging need to be different?
from enroll america's perspective, it does need to be different. we want to use a simple framework to help all consumers no matter what category they are in. the comes down to information that is available to you. it is important for people who are renewing their coverage. changed,income has they may be eligible for a different kind of financing. that is the first cap -- step you should take. you can shop around for plans. that is true for americans that are enrolling for the first time that also for people who are renewing. increase in the number of insurance companies that are on the market. you might find a better option. the third step is to choose your
plan and enroll. the plan happy with you have, you have the chance to enrollment. way, thatme it that helps people understand that we can talk about this very similarly in a way that does not confuse consumers or complicate things. that is a complicated policy issue on the backhand. how we share the information with consumers is straightforward. >> you can see that entire interview at 10:00 and 6:00 on sunday. >> thank you for your comments about our programming. iswashington journal wonderful. very informative and i
appreciate you letting people inh as myself actually call and talk to people who are running our country. i would like to make a suggestion. instead of dividing the country between democrats and republicans and independents, c-span the shed asked the question and have colors call in and agree or disagree. this would save a lot of partisanship. >> this is the best show i've seen. please have more shows like the one today.
georgetown home. though he was clearly ill, his eyes gleamed. he had on a starched shirt, and he served as a full breakfast, a little bit of which he ate. he was optimistic about the future. that is how i think we should remember him. whatever happens and we hit the november 24 deadline for the iran nuclear deal, some of my own interested in it has dimmed, because michael won't be telling me about it and because i won't be able to share his excitement. the wilson center has had many scholars, and has many, but whether because of his talent, his personality, or the incredible impact of his expertise, michael stood out. we honor his legacy today.
more specifically, we wanted to do something else, so we will be putting up a plaque to the library where michael spent countless hours, to commemorate more permanently his contributions to the center and to his beloved subject, the iran nuclear deal. there is also a picture of michael hanging in the library, located in the gallery to the left of the library entrance. staff will be on hand to direct you to the space. we have the perfect panel here today to celebrate michael. rob, the vice president for scholars, and one of our featured panelists, will say more about mark and david in a moment. but i will say that, yeah, they are smart and well known, but just remember -- they wrote some
of their best books right here at the wilson center. and they are going to write their next best books right here at the wilson center. rob served on the national security council, as director of nonproliferation in the clinton administration. that was in another century, folks. he just put out a very important monograph on iran's nuclear chest. i can think of no better tribute to michael than the conversation we will have today. only one thing is missing in that conversation -- michael. at the close of our discussion, join us for a reception in the dining room, which is right here on the sixth floor. let me say just one more time how much we love michael, and i will turn the program over. thank you for coming. [applause]
>> thank you, jane. it is fitting that we honor michael today by addressing the vital issue on which he worked with such passion and determination in his final years. michael is missed for so many reasons, his friendship and collegial presence, the integrity of his work, his clarity of thought. this panel includes two journalists -- on my left, david sanger of "the new york times," and a national security correspondent. david was a public policy scholar. he more recently wrote "the way of the knife." not long ago, a meeting on
iran's nuclear challenges would have focused on the possibility of u.s. airstrikes on iran. now nuclear diplomacy is playing out against the backdrops of u.s. airstrikes against isis, in tacit alignment with iran. negotiators just meant in oman to narrow the gap between the two sides. before hand, president obama wrote to the supreme leader, urging him not to miss a historic opportunity. so what are the prospects for a nuclear deal? the division of labor on this panel is that i will frame the nuclear issue within the broader context of u.s.-iranian relations. david sager will follow with a more detailed assessment of the nuclear diplomacy.
mark zandi will conclude to assess how the tumultuous regional developments, particularly the war against isis, will affect nuclear negotiations. after these initial presentations we will have an exchange among the three of us and open the floor to questions. it should be a straightforward trade-off between technology and transparency. iran would retain a limited nuclear program under international safeguards, in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. technical details, such as numbers of permissible centrifuges, the scope of international inspections, and a timetable of sanctions based on iranian compliance, could be worked out. on technical grounds, such an agreement would fall within the declared u.s. and iranian position. iran's nuclear program is
determined and incremental, but it is not the manhattan project. it is a crash program to acquire a weapon in the face of an existential threat. the dilemma is that iran has mastered uranium enrichment. centrifuges that can spend to produce low enriched uranium for power reactors can keep spending to yield highly enriched uranium for bombs. any country that has attained this level of technological advancement is a virtual nuclear weapon state. from a national security perspective, a nuclear hedge is iran's strategic sweet spot, maintaining the potential of the nuclear option, while avoiding the regional and international cost of international weaponization. "as long as we can enrich uranium and master the nuclear fuel cycle we don't need to do anything else.
our neighbors will be able to draw the proper conclusions." president obama has declared that the u.s. objective is to prevent iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. by drawing this redline and preventing weaponization, the president has signaled that the united states would not launch a preventive military action to deny iran any nuclear hedge options. this is the main point of contention between president obama his congressional critics and president netanyahu, who want a full rollback, to deny iran any hedge. since the nuclear diplomacy is focused on founding, not eliminating, the enrichment program, the regime will retain the option, a hedge for a nuclear weapon. the major stumbling block in the negotiation has been the scale of the uranium enrichment
program that iran would retain. the number of centrifuges and their sophistication, as we will hear from david, are key to extending the timeline for a potential breakout. that is the number of montserrat would need to enrich weapons grade material, if the regime made the strategic decision to weaponize. the u.s. position is that this breakout. for converting a hedge into a weapon should be long enough, at least 12 months, for the united states to have sufficient strategic warning to mobilize an international response. in other words, an agreement should not leave iran one screwdriver turn away from a bomb. between these two points on the technology continuum, hedge versus weapon, there ran and the united states should be able to
work out an agreement. the hard reality is that the nuclear impasse as so far proved intractable because of its quintessentially political character. for both iran and the united states, the nuclear issue is a proxy for a more fundamental debate. this embedded status remains the key determinant of whether nuclear diplomacy can prove successful. in iran, the nuclear issue is a surrogate for the defining debate of the future relationship with the outside world. whether "the islamic republic is a revolutionary state or an ordinary country." in america, and france nuclear challenge has also been a proxy for more fundamental debate about the threat posed by rogue states in the post-9/11 era. the obama administration dropped the term rogue state used by the bush of ministration, and instead called iran an outlier.
essentially irredeemable, that they're threatening behavior was inextricably linked to the character of their regime. this argument was central to the bush administration's case for preventive war in iraq. by contrast, the outlier rubric was explicitly intended to suggest it was ready for it around to rejoin the community of nations, if the tehran regime complied with the treaty. yet the tension between the competing ejections of regina change in behavior change continues to churn the debate, has a major criticism of obama posner nuclear policy is that it does not address other threatening behavior such as state sponsorship of terrorism that derives from the character of the tehran regime.
conclusion was the finding that tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon, irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. this analysis countered the depiction of the rent as an under, irrational, rogue state. president obama has questioned whether "the there any regime's ideological commitment is such that they are not making a simple cost-benefit analysis." when asked whether the regime was messianic or rational, president obama said that "iranian decision-making indicates that they care about the regime's survival." obama has further argued that the crippling pressure of sanctions, granting the iranian economy to a halt, prevents the tehran regime with the opportunity to make a strategic calculation to defer a decision
to weaponize. the paradox of nuclear diplomacy with iran regime is captured and an anonymous quip about the economy -- your rent is not respond to pressure, that without pressure iran does not respond. -- the punishing international sanctions that it weakens the economy. while acquiescing to the nuclear diplomacy in the wake of his june, 2013 electoral mandate, the supreme leader remains the final arbiter of any respective agreement. his decision will hinge on how he manages the unresolved tension and around competing identities. economic sanctions, whose effects are now compounded by the drop in the price of oil, brought around to the
negotiating table. it will crucially affect the supreme leaders decision to accept or reject terms for a comprehensive agreement that meaningfully bounds iran's nuclear infrastructure. that strategic calculation will be based on whether the economic benefits of the agreement, for sanctions relief, outweigh the political costs of alienating the core, hard-line interest groups, especially the revolutionary guard upon which the regime's revival depends. so here we are as the deadline approaches. there are three possible outcomes. breakthrough, breakdown, or muddling through. a breakthrough that strikes the right balance i hedging -- by hedging and give each side a winning narrative.
the tehran regime said he could stand up to bullying, thereby preserving its hedge, and fended off efforts to link the nuclear issues to other issues. the obama administration could claim that it has capped a latent iranian capability latent by extending the breakup period for potential weaponization. they could put them on a slippery slope of demands for the west for additional policy changes, and for that reason, he may balk. a breakdown in negotiations with not inherently push iran into a nuclear breakout. iran has no immediate national security imperative to acquire nuclear weapons. the tehran regime would maintain a hedge, keeping the weapons option open while avoiding the international and regional all-out of weaponization. in the event of a diplomatic breakdown, the possibility of
military action would invariably come to the fore. obama's redline on weaponization pushes off the decision on the use of force, and is a reflection on how unattractive that option would be. that would be the most telegraphed punch in history and it runs up against major liability. it would not end the program but merely delay. "you can't bomb knowledge." even a so-called limited strike could escalate into a general war. he has warned that military action would lead to a iranian retaliation against u.s. interests worldwide. in addition, bombing active nuclear installations carry a significant risk of spewing radioactive toxins into the environment and causing civilian casualties. finally, a military strike could well generate a national
backlash within iran with a perverse consequence of bolstering the regime. increasingly plausible is the outcome of neither breakthrough nor breakdown but muddling through. another agreement which would incorporate what progress has been made and extend the talks. this is plausible given the major political investment both sides have made a nuclear diplomacy and their mutual interest in averting a breakdown with all its uncertain escalatory potential. iran would be willing to work with united states against isis if is the obama administration would be more flexible in the nuclear negotiations. by attempting to link the regional conflict with isis, it risks overplaying its hand. the campaign against the islamic state offers the tehran regime leverage in the nuclear
negotiations, nor a reason to hold out. the united states has given way to diplomatic realities and fallen off it maximalist position of zero enrichment centrifuges spinning. the p5+1 are now offering around a straightforward trade-off between technology, a program, and transparency. assurances that a civil nuclear program is not a masquerade for weapons program. that tehran regime should take the deal and not miss a historic opportunity. let me turn to david sanger, who will provide more details of the negotiation. >> thank you.
i think michael would have been extremely pleased to see this room completely jammed in a session that is much more about him than about anything we can say. i was lucky enough to be working on finishing up the inheritance here when michael first joined as a fellow. at the end of the day, he would come by, my office or his office, and his endless curiosity for how all this would play out -- his love of the wonderfully ambiguous nature of dealing with the iranians, the questions of whether or not the specifics of the deal led to a much greater political reconciliation, a subject that my colleague will take up in a moment, really fascinated him. but he was also wonderfully competitive, in that way that
someone who has been a reporter all his life can be. when i reported in the book i wrote after i had done the inheritance that the united states had been involved in a lengthy cyber sabotage effort against the iranian nuclear program, one that was really the first use of a cyber weapon by the united states against another state, i think michael was probably the first person who called me the day we ran the excerpt in the paper. his mind had already moved three steps out to have the iranians would respond, whether or not they would have to set up their own cyber capability, whether we have set back our efforts, whether the publication of this story would help or hurt the negotiation. he was completely wrapped in all of this.
so i am sorry he is not here today because i am sure that he would stand up and heartily disagree with several things i'm about to say. make sure that you discount my comments to that end. as rob suggested, there are two ways to look at this deal. one way, a way that many in iran look at, and many in congress look at, is as a political deal. don't bother me with the details -- i don't want to count centrifuges, i don't want to know how many tons of enriched uranium the iranians have -- i want to know if we have a political will on both sides to make a decision that will end 35 years of enmity between these two countries and begin to move us into a different place. that is one way to look at the deal. the second way to look at it is -- the way i think the israelis look at it, people at the weapons labs look at it, and the
way president obama has to look at it given the things the united states has said about an outlier state. in any case -- and that is to say, look, it would be wonderful to have a changed relationship with iran. but in the end, this is as much about physics as it is about politics. in the end, we have to have the assurance that if they did break out for a bomb or tried to sneak out for a bomb and breakout in sneak out are two different things, that we would have sufficient notice, that we would have time to react. our difficulty here, as rob suggested, is that president
obama's vision of what our ultimate goal is here, to stop iran from having the ability to produce nuclear weapons, is slightly different from the israeli's definition, which is stopping iran from becoming a threshold state. in that same interview, where he used "outlier state," we asked the president if he was prepared to let iran be a screwdriver step away. he thought about it and said i will not parse that issue. it has been important with the administration not to parse it, because once they start doing that, you end up getting into an argument with congress, with israel, with the saudis, with everybody else, about how close is too close.
if i had one safe prediction, it is if there is a deal, it won't be perfect by any means. it will start that argument that the administration has tried to delay about how close is too close? what are you willing to live with? would you have time to respond? would you have the political will to respond? that is why it is important that if there is a deal, it is strong enough that it can withstand all of those kinds of questions. it is not really a choice between a political deal and a technical deal, you are going to have to have both. let me look briefly at what it would take to get there.
wendy sherman and secretary kerry have both used the same phrase in the past month or two, which is that iran has four pathways to a bomb in the united states has cut off each one. the first two are essentially the same pathway from different places. they are enriching uranium, either in a plant or in the deep underground plant that iran had hidden, widget informed the iaea about. that pathway is really one about mathematics.
if there is more fuel on hand in iran, you need to have fewer centrifuges so that fuel would take longer to produce that fuel. if you have less fuel in iran, you can have more centrifuges. and so the story that we ran with 10 days ago that described an interesting, temporary agreement that has been reached between iran, russia, and the united states, to ship out much of its fuel -- we don't know yet exactly how much -- so it could be turned into fuel for the nuclear reactor at bashir, could be the key to unlock this. they could be one of the technical solutions that unlocks the political equations, where those two circles meet. but it leaves many things open. first of all, there are some in congress and some in the arab
states and certainly many in israel, who will go back to the original position, which is you can't afford to have any centrifuges are any new rear fuel in iran. that was the position of the bush of ministration. unfortunately, they turned down the deal in which they might conceivably have frozen a few hundred centrifuges. now we are in a negotiation with iran at a moment where they have 19,000, which are actually running. as rob suggested, we are going to have a deal in which they have something spending, and the question is, can you limit that enough? the politics of this, as a matter of national pride. the supreme leader declared over the summer several times that iran would eventually have to have a capacity that is roughly 10 times the existing centrifuge
capacity. he actually talked about having 190,000 swu, separated work units, and michael could describe to you much better than i could what those are. you had the supreme leader talking about the throughput of centrifuges, i don't think i have ever heard a national leader do that, certainly never president obama. the difficulty this creates is that the negotiators have to find a way to strike a deal that ultimately, at some point in the future, doesn't get in the way of a supreme leader's ultimate goals still being the national goal out here. if he had simply said a number around the existing capacity that would have been possible. by setting a number that was so high, he has made this difficult. fortunately, he didn't say when.
one of the big arguments is how long will this deal last, and when it is over, does iran become like japan? essentially lifted of any sanctions. so that is one big issue. pathway one and pathway two. the united states has one weapon the united states believe could get added. you have got a slightly different technical problem about having the ultimate deterrent. the third pathway to a bomb is producing plutonium, that would be through the iraqi reactor. a heavy water reactor. it looked like they had come up with a space-saving idea,
turning it into a research and development plans -- i don't think the americans particularly care if it was a bowling alley. they just wanted it to be something where you could not be producing plutonium. that deal was beginning to crack a bit come the fall, and we will have to see on the 24th whether or not they have come up with a solution. the essential element there is that the israelis so far have never liked one of their adversaries fuel one of these reactants. the iraqis were about to a 1981, they lost the reactor. the syrians were preparing to in 2007, that reactor disappeared one night. it is important here that they get to a point where they are not actually fueling it. the last element, the last pathway to a bomb, is the one that the fewest people in
congress discuss. that gets almost no discussion in the political realm, and yet if you went out to los alamos or the complex in tennessee, it is the one that captivates everybody who has got technical knowledge. the covert pathway to a bomb. it is much harder to design a negotiated settlement that puts restrictions on a facility that may not exist now, that whether it exists or not you don't know about it, or may exist at some point in the future. two of the biggest elements of the deal to look at is if they actually get to one in two weeks is if it provides enough insurance that inspectors can crack back to the earliest elements of nuclear material.
this was something that fascinated michael. making sure that you will never gets diverted to a place we don't know about. secondly, whether you could have very invasive inspection and all the little spots around iran, where they produce the centrifuges. thirdly, and this would be the hardest one for the iranians, because it would get so much into an issue of national pride, whether the iaea can answer a list of 12 questions about pre-2003 to the current day about what work was done, if any, on what they delicately called the possible military dimensions, which means work on the design of a weapon.
you all read about the laptop in 2005. the arabians have said it is all fabrications -- but the fact of the matter is that this creates a division between those who say this agreement is all about the future. what we need is to forget what the iranians have done in the past, this is not a reconciliation process, this is about stopping them in the future. and those who say, if you don't understand the full past then you don't understand how long it would take them once they have the fuel to actually make a weapon. the united states has never declared itself fully on this issue. it is said it is up to the iaea, for these guys to come clean, but they never say how much they are going to press that. you should be looking for that because it gets to the question of how invasive the inspections will be, how embarrassing,
whether the answers that iran provides would be provided in public. so -- that is the nuts and bolts. to back off just a bit -- what are the options if this is, as rob suggests, a model through? and i would never go against rob. it would, i think, be just short of miraculous to have a full agreement by the 24th. with all of the details ready to publish, to hand everybody out. maybe it will happen. nobody would be happier than me. i would like to write about something else. but the fact of the matter is i think it is unlikely. my guess is that there will be some enunciation in which they have come to some agreements, some areas where they can't
agree yet, another extension, more discussion, and this becomes a little bit like the mideast peace process, where you try to resolve a few issues and come back and try to add on and you hope you are not back flipping on the ones you have already agreed on. there is some riskier that the same thing will happen in a smaller agreement, where everybody stood in front of the camera and said we have an accord. it involves fuel for the tehran research reactor. then the supreme leader killed it. will the supreme leader have endorsed it prior to that announcement? the same question could be asked here because the president clearly believes he can do the sanction lifting by his own authority. there are many in congress, including the newly elected
republican majority, who want to take a vote on this. that could have a big effect on the outcome. if the iranians do not believe in their hearts that the house and senate could permanently lift the sanctions, they might well hesitate to sign a deal. and we would blame them if we were in their position -- we might well take the same position. if on the other hand the president tried to get that lifting early on in the agreement, it would probably fail. and he would not be in a position to have his fingers on sanctions. he wants to lift sanctions as the iranians perform. that does not lend itself well to congressional votes.
do not look at it as a deadline, look at it as the end of a quarter in all of this, because in the political process in iran and in the united states, there will be a lot left. i often say to people that getting this deal doesn't require having one deal, it require having one deal, it requires having three deals. it is a deal between the u.s. negotiators and the iranian negotiators, the easiest of the three. the deal between the president and the foreign minister. and the supreme leader and the irgc. there is a deal that has to be struck between our president and our congress, that is an equally tough deal. so -- the 24th is a fascinating marker and i'm sorry michael
won't be around to have it in his books. i think we have a long way to go. >> thank you, david. nuclear negotiations are playing out against the backdrop of war in syria and iraq which threaten the viability in the states, the campaign against isis to explore how this regional tunnel is affecting the negotiations. we turn now to mark. >> thanks for depressing everyone thoroughly by comparing it to the middle east peace process. it is a real honor to be here. when rob asked me to be on the panel and said they were doing it in honor of michael, of course i said yes, although i
said the iran nuclear negotiation and the details and intricacies are not a primary topic of my coverage, and there are people far more expert who could be with us today. he said, there are other aspects of this that you are more familiar with, so at the risk of violating, we will let you get up and talk even though you don't know what you're talking about. i figured i would definitely stick to what i was more familiar with, which i think is a critical part of everything we have just discussed, which is how what is happening now in the middle east really is central to these negotiations. i just want to say that i spent 15 months at the wilson center. some of the 15 of the best months i have had professionally, working on my book. i can't think of my time at the wilson center without also
thinking of michael. he is an integral part of my memories of this place. we started out sharing offices close by, and then we would meet for lunch, and then we also shared a terrific research assistant, who is here. we fought over her time. she was that good. and just the conversations i had with him about these ongoing, endless negotiations -- how to incorporate them into his book, and the memories i have would be there would be another round of negotiation that was announced, whether it be in vienna or moscow, and michael was so torn. he would say, i have to stay and finish this book -- but i really want to be there. i think i can go, i think i can go.
michael, you could really get access -- he said no, they're not going to talk to anybody -- we are going to be shut out. but he realized that being there was important. he was a reporter. that is, i think, the first rule of being a reporter -- you have to be there to find the story. michael truly believed that and he couldn't imagine -- this was a topic that was so central to his coverage. not being there for whatever was happening critically at that time -- he just felt like he always had to be where the action was. that is a really strong memory for me. on the issue of isis, iran, how all of the recent events in the middle east play into what they just discussed -- i think the last six months, to put it
mildly, just made everything a lot more complicated. rob said at the outset that it would be hard to imagine months ago or year ago having a discussion on this topic without the prospect of a possible airstrike or a military action in iran. i think, equally implausible, was the idea that we could have a discussion on this topic and one central part of it would be that iran and the united states are working fundamentally close with very common interest on a critical issue in the middle east, isis. if you backup for a second, you had before the last six months, before this summer, you have this calcified set of issues on iran, iraq, syria.
things were pretty intractable and weren't going to move. you had a bloody civil war in syria that went on and on with abhorrent loss of life. iran was directly invested in it. but clearly, the obama administration was not. the obama administration -- president obama said time and time again that this was not a fight that the united states could make an appreciable difference in. it was his role to keep the united states out of it. we heard in so many interviews that he would compare the syrian conflict to an african civil war or something that was really marginal win the u.s. looked at its own interests. that was the civil war against assad.
we wrote however many stories about how there was this debate within the administration, but fundamentally president obama never really believed it. he didn't believe that it was that important. on the other hand, you had iran, which was clearly heavily invested in supporting the assad regime. flowing money, personnel, troops, weapons to the assad regime, because it was about keeping the assad regime, central to iran's interest. there was this real mismatch of interest. in some ways, that allowed, at least from the united states point of view, to
compartmentalize the issue. you could compartmentalize the nuclear negotiations from the broader issue of syria, the violence in the middle east, because the united states was not all that invested. the priority of the administration was getting a deal with iran. it was going to be part of president obama's legacy, maybe the linchpin of his foreign-policy legacy, dealing with the iranian program. the lack of interest in other aspects of the middle east, i think, allowed the administration to be so singularly focused. but then june and july happened and what we saw was the push by isis to go into northern iraq, to take over mosul, to make a march on baghdad. already they had carved out large parts of syria, but that was not really on the radar and the senior levels of the administration, because it was all part of the messy syrian civil war that the united states was determined to stay out of. but then it became an iraqi problem, and it became a
question of isis threats in baghdad? we now see the united states once again militarily involved in iraq and also with airstrikes in syria. this has totally changed the landscape of how we deal with these various partners. you now have instead of assad being the enemy, you now have a common enemy that everyone is lined up against. it is the one enemy that you -- iran, israel, saudi arabia, the pope, the united states -- it sounds like a joke -- they had all come out against isis because isis as seen -- is seen by so many as a significant threat. that is a scrambled picture.
it changed the calculus for the various parties. it is no longer as simple as it was. for that reason, i think it is going to have at least a tangential impact on the negotiations that rob and david talked about, because the u.s. interests have shifted. the u.s. now has as much of an interest in the perception of the obama administration, as much of an interest in beating back isis, as it does in denuclearizing iran. there was very little attention comparatively compared to what it is today. so how does iran interpret that?
it could be interpreted in a couple different ways. jay solomon wrote a great story last week about obama's letter. a discussion about how the war against isis would impact the ongoing negotiations. iranians have indicated -- this is leverage. ok, the united states is now invested in this region in a way it wasn't before. it now needs iran. it considers isis such a fundamental threat to the region, it knows that it would need iran toss help in order to beat back isis. the united states does need them to some degree.
i don't see any direct military cooperation between the united states and iran, but i would certainly guess that there would be some indirect intelligence discussions going on. because that is what intelligence officials do. they tried to figure out what the other side is up to, especially when there is some common ground. a little bit of speculation on my part but it wouldn't be surprised at all. there is this common interest that iran might interpret as leverage and could overplay. they could think -- this is their chance to get the most of what they can get because the united states needs them against isis. but there is a risk here as well. the danger that faces iran,
completely misplaying its own strength. not only do they have a regime in syria to prop up, they now have to deal with the isis threat in iraq. there have been reports that they don't have the manpower to do what it does in iraq, and they are relying on conventional military activity to fight isis. iran does not have limitless military resources and they had already got this regime in syria to support. they presumably do not see the prospects of having to fight a year's long war against isis as something that they relish because of their own limitation.
the other reason that time is not necessarily on the side of iran is the price of oil. so, the price of oil is sinking. this is putting pressure on iran because the more it would feel the grip of the sanctions. that would be another reason why iran shouldn't take it just because the united states need them for isis -- they could play out the clock longer and longer. just a couple points to close. as president obama has indicated, this war against isis is going to be long. it is going to be something that
will be low-grade for some period of time. on the bright side, it looks like the united states and iran may have common interests on a very significant subject for a long time to come, as long as this war is fighting to stop as long as isis is a threat, the united states and iran will have common interests. i don't think anyone is dealing with this had on because we don't know the future of assad. it wants to train rebel forces in syria to fight and somewhere down the road we will deal with the assad problem. whenever that happens, that is what will put the united states and iran on a collision course, because once again their interests will come head-on. hopefully before that happens there will be a nuclear deal. >> thank you. i wanted to thread the discussion.
einstein famously said that politics is more difficult than physics. in the case of the iranian nuclear challenges, how do you view the leakage issue? i argued that compartmentalizing the agreement may be the way of finessing this gap. there is space on the technological continuing to region nuclear agreement. that workout does suggest a political narrative that is not unattractive for both sides. iran could say they stood up to bullying and got sanctions relief, we have preserved iran's rights. america could say they are not a screwdriver turn away.
do you see that coming to some sort of resolution? >> i do think that is a narrative that will bring to some kind of resolution. whether it will be by november 24 is another question. i thought it was interesting at the united nations in september that both foreign minister an secretary kerry were saying these issues are not linked. we are not going to do a trade-off of the nuclear deal for cooperation on isis. i think that was the right approach. it was the right approach for
the united states because a deal in dealing with isis is a temporary thing. but the half-life of a deal on isis is a lot shorter than a half-life on uranium or plutonium. they need something that is long-lasting on the nuclear side. that doesn't mean they are completely unrelated, but to trade-off the nuclear for uncertain gains elsewhere i think would have been unwise for the u.s. i think it would have been unwise for the iranians. they are stretched extremely thin. oil prices are dropping. if you believe the projections they will drop some more. it is dropping fast enough that you even wonder whether the russians want this deal to happen because the last thing they might want to happen is for the iranians to come back on the market with more oil and bring
the price down even faster. if you are the supreme leader and you are playing this out, i think that you want to keep possibility of a cooperation against isis out there in the hopes that it will give you some advantage. but you don't want that to be explicit. if you had a model here, think of president kennedy removing the missiles in turkey. they were separate announcementix