Web Video: 2006 Negotiations Over Iran's Nuclear Program

Jun. 23, 2015 AT 12:42 p.m. EDT
As the June 30 deadline nears for the nuclear talks with Iran, we look back in the Washington Week Vault to June 2006 when the United States joined with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as Germany (the P5+1) to propose discussions with Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program. Bloomberg's Janine Zachariah joined Gwen Ifill to explain the proposal and the Bush administration's shift in U.S. policy towards Iran. Just two months later, Iran rejected the proposal leading to the UN Security Council imposing sanctions on Iran. With the current negotiations in their final days, the U.S. is once again offering to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for a rollback of the country's nuclear program.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

MS. IFILL: Elsewhere in the Middle East, six world powers draw a line in the sand on Iran.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From tape.) If they continue their obstinance, if they continue to say to the world, "We really don't care what your opinion is," then the world is going to act in concert.

MS. IFILL: Will threats and incentives persuade Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions?


MS. IFILL: Well, we are not done with that area of the world yet because just on the other side of Afghanistan's western border lies Iran: the focus of much international concern over nuclear development.

The United States, which has tried to stay arm's length away from Iran for decades, agreed this week to join Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and China in reaching out to Iran. This represented a decided shift in U.S. policy, but what difference will it ultimately make? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke earlier this week with my NewsHour colleague, Margaret Warner.

(Begin video clip.)

MARGARET WARNER: If the Iranians say no, then what?

SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Yes? If the Iranians say no, then we're going to know that they're not serious about negotiation. We're going to know then that the option before the international community is to go to the -- go back to the Security Council, where we've been working and will continue to work, for a resolution and to begin to impose costs on Iran for its bad choice.

(End video clip.)

MS. IFILL: Janine Zachariah is just off the plane with Secretary Rice, who traveled to Vienna to hammer out that agreement. Did this week's pronouncement shift the diplomatic landscape in any fundamental way, Janine?

MS. ZACHARIAH: Well, I think it's important to point out Secretary Rice is not on her way to Tehran and just to step back a little bit and basically, it was that they -- the administration, of course, saying, "It's a continuation of their previous approach.

MS. ZACHARIAH: So we've to date this back a little bit, March 29th the UN Security Council, they passed a presidential statement asking Iran to voluntarily suspend uranium enrichment. Iran two weeks later responds by saying, "Hey, we enriched more uranium." And nothing happened after that. Secretary Rice then sits down and says, "Okay. We have to think about a new approach." She goes in May -- early May to meet with her colleagues from the permanent five members of Security Council and she gets a lot of flak from the Russians and the Chinese, who are unwilling to do any sanctions. So they need a new approach and that's what we had on Wednesday: the U.S. outlining conditionally that they would join these talks led by the Europeans if Iran suspends its uranium enrichment, and the key here is can they verify that and will they actually do it.

MS. IFILL: Well, the key is also the conditions. It seems like every time there has been any kind of approach made to Iran, they say no before the sentence is completed. So how much of this is theater designed to please our allies or real diplomacy designed to bring Iran to anybody's table?

MS. ZACHARIAH: I think there's no doubt that the U.S. -- President Bush, Secretary Rice -- would love to see them take the offer. They have no appetite for a military confrontation with Iran, even though we see reports every once in a while that maybe that's a possibility. Of course, the Pentagon's planning for that, but that's not what they need given what we've been talking about, right? So they want to see it happen, but U.S. officials with Secretary Rice are very skeptical that the Iranians will take the gambit and absolutely this is directed towards the allies because it's a response to the Chinese and the Russians in particular, saying, "We're not ready for sanctions. You guys need to come to the table." And as Secretary Rice just said, "Okay. We'll come to the table and then if they don't join us, we'll have to move to sanctions."

MR. WESSEL: Well, did the U.S. managed to get the moral high ground for once in this negotiation with Iran? Is this what this is all about?

MS. ZACHARIAH: I don't know if it's about moral high ground, but I think it's about really testing them and saying, "For the past 15 months, you, the Europeans -- the EU-3 as it's known: Britain, France and Germany -- who have led the talks, you've been saying you're not at the table -- the United States. You are the guys who can really deliver something the Iranians want. Come to the table." And the U.S. has said, "Every time we've asked them about this. No, we don't need to have to be at the table. We don't want to engage." Why don't they want to engage? They don't want to legitimize this government in Tehran. So now they are saying, "Fine. We'll come; we'll engage." And I think it's probably been a good week for Secretary Rice in terms of taking that kind of moral high ground.

MR. DUFFY: Janine, what are the incentives that we have that the Iranians want and are they going to get them?

MS. ZACHARIAH: The Iranians want to know that we're not going to attack them. That's basically want they want. U.S. officials say there's no so-called security guarantees being discussed right now, but they -- what was interesting was when we were waiting in Vienna, we waiting for them, they talked about a package of incentives and disincentives for Iran. None of them talked about it. They're going to bring it to the Iranians this weekend; probably the Europeans and perhaps the Russians go and deliver it to them. They want to make sure this is a serious offer. Now, some of the things that were reported that we're talking about are WTO membership for Iran, allowing them to buy U.S. aircraft parts, which they haven't been able to, things like that, trade incentives, but it's really not clear whether, as I said, the Iranians are going to take any of this.

MR. MCMANUS: Now, those are the carrots. Let's talk about the stakes as I understand it for this to work, the Iranians have to really believe that if they say no, there are U.S. sanctions on the other side of the door.

MS. ZACHARIAH: Right. And this was the key issue that we were wrestling with U.S. officials until late in the night; they didn't want to talk about it. If you notice the statement released by -- read by the U.K. foreign minister last night, it talks about serious steps, I think, is the word. It doesn't say "sanctions" and that was very deliberate, I think, because they didn't want to give the Iranians the benefit of the doubt. We're not going to talk about sanctions, but they were guiding us, the U.S. officials, in saying, "We got everything we wanted," they said and they wanted sanctions. So it's clear that the Chinese and Russians perhaps have come around on that.


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