VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA: What do growing relations between Russia and Iran mean for US influence in the Middle East? Senior Editor Paul Jay talks with Aijaz Ahmad, Senior News Analyst at the Real News.
October 17, 2007
GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: If those are in fact his comments, I look forward to having him clarify those, because when I visited with him, he understands that it’s in the world’s interest to make sure that Iran does not have the capacity to make a nuclear weapon. And that’s why on the first round at the UN he joined us. In the second round, we joined together to send a message. I mean, if he wasn’t concerned about it, Brett, then why did we have such good progress at the United Nations in round one and round two?
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: So doesn’t President Bush have a point there? Putin did support sanctions at the Security Council. And now, on this recent trip to Tehran at the meeting of Caspian leaders, he seems to have taken a far stronger position in saying hands off Iran and made it very clear he does not think Iran is heading towards a nuclear weapon. So is there a change here? Does Bush have a point?
AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: This is the first time since 1943 that the Russian head of state has visited Tehran. And it’s a deliberate decision to hold the summit of the Caspian Sea states in Tehran at this point. Secondly, twice during his visit, Putin said that Iran has only a peaceful nuclear program, and therefore Russia will continue to build the nuclear facility in Bushehr.
JAY: This is the nuclear facility Russia’s helping Iran build.
AHMAD: Yes. Now, this runs counter to the kind of sanctions he had agreed in the United Nations to a certain extent. Moreover, he also said that Iran has a right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
JAY: Let me play you another segment from that press conference. The same journalist spoke, and differentiating Putin’s position from Bush, he asks Bush, do you actually believe there is a nuclear weapon program in Iran? And I think Bush says something very significant here.
REPORTER: But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb.
BUSH: Until they suspend and/or, you know, make it clear that their statements aren’t real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it’s in the world’s interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.
JAY: He says that in fact even having the knowledge, having the capacity, which means the ability to enrich uranium, is enough, is his line in the sand. It’s not about proof that there’s a nuclear weapons program; it’s that any capacity to even have a nuclear weapons program in the future is enough for the Americans to take a stand on, and again with a veiled threat, even a possible military stand, but certainly a major campaign to isolate Iran at the very least.
AHMAD: Well, I feel very vindicated, because I have been arguing all along that the Americans know very well that there is no weapon program, there is neither intent nor capacity. What they’re working on is a level of enrichment, which would make it possible for them to use nuclear energy for civil purposes. I have always argued that the entire US pressure is to eradicate the nuclear program altogether, denying them even the knowledge, the technology, nuclear technology, at all, which violates the NPT completely. Iran has the right to that knowledge.
JAY: Bush is saying you can’t have a civilian energy program, because inherently that gives you the potential of a weapons program. So you can’t have anything that approaches what you are in fact legally entitled to under the treaty.
AHMAD: There is no contradiction, actually, Paul, because this provision of the treaty, which allows you an enrichment program of your own, is directly tied to IAEA supervision of those reactors.
JAY: Something that Bush doesn’t mention.
AHMAD: Which they never mention, that the IAEA has the right to keep those under supervision and make sure what the level of enrichment is. Iran has not only agreed to IAEA supervision, they even say, why don’t western countries come and invest in these nuclear projects of ours? And then their scientists and engineers and everybody will know exactly what level of enrichment exists.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.