Transcript of the Interview with Ambassador Eric Edelman and Elahe
Mohtasham by the BBC Radio 4, Today Programme, Broadcast at 7:33a.m.,
London Time, on Tuesday 27 February 2007 on the Subject of the
UN Security Council and Iran’s Nuclear Programme:
Following Elahe Mohtasham's trip
to Iran, she had an interview with the BBC in which Ambassador
Eric Edelman who is the United States' Under Secretary of Defence
for Policy, and a senior member of the Pentagon was also interviewed.
They both had important points to raise on Iran's nuclear programme
and the UN Security Council resolutions on Iran. The link to hear
the interview in the Audio Archive of the Today Programme is
Please see the section under 'The UN Security Council will meet
to work out a response to Iran's nuclear programme,' which was
at 7:33 a.m.
BBC (Edward Stourton): This week, the big powers on the
UN Security Council, will try to work out how to respond to the
latest chapter, in the saga of Iran’s nuclear programme.
They met in London yesterday, and will re-convene in New York
later in the week. We are joined by Elahe Mohtasham, a London
based academic who has just returned from Iran and is researching
on the question of that country’s nuclear ambitions. And
in our radio car we have Ambassador Eric Edelman, a senior official
of the Pentagon. Good morning to you both.
Elahe Mohtasham: Good morning.
Ambassador Edelman: Good morning.
BBC (Edward Stourton): Elahe Mohtasham, our diplomatic
correspondent, Bridget Kendall, was talking to us, earlier in
the programme and was suggesting that some was seeing signs that
pressure on Iran is making a difference. Just signs, no more than
that, but signs none-the-less, does that square with what you
Elahe Mohtasham: Absolutely, when I recently visited
Iran both at top-decision-makers, officials and also at public
level, people really feel the squeeze. Now, at top level, officials
in Iran, always seek respectability, legitimacy of revolution,
of the government, so any hint within the United Nations or Security
Council, of Iran doing wrong, would definitely have pressure on
BBC (Edward Stourton): And yet, we hear President Ahmadinejad
tell us that the programme has no reverse gear and so forth.
Elahe Mohtasham: Well, the main problem is that,
there was a unanimous agreement amongst all officials that Iran’s
technological ability to enrich uranium has advanced to such an
extent that even if the current politicians or negotiators wished
to do so, they are not truly able to reverse the scientific momentum
or the scientific knowledge of Iran having this technology. They
cannot really pressurise the scientists or those involved to reverse
back. I mean the main problem is
BBC (Edward Stourton): Can’t they just tell them
to stop doing it?
Elahe Mohtasham: Well, the problem is that the Security
Council resolution 1737, paragraph 2, specifically says that Iran
should not enrich uranium, even at level of research and development.
Now this phrase, “research and development” should
be interpreted, what does that mean? Does it mean that even Iran
is not allowed to have the knowledge or some basic research and
development. Now, I should emphasise, that the top decision-makers,
people I talked to, they are looking for some way out of this
dead-lock. They are debating for some face-saving situation if,
for example, if Iran’s right to have some limited, limited
enrichment at basic level, if Iran is allowed, if the permanent
members of the Security Council allow this, then, the moderates
within the Iranian system, would be able to some-how negotiate
BBC (Edward Stourton): Well, let me put that to Ambassador
Edelman, because it is an interesting idea, I suppose at least
on the suggestion that the pressure is making itself felt and
having an impact, Ambassador Edelman, you would be encouraged
Ambassador Edelman: I think we are encouraged to have
an opportunity to talk yesterday evening with my colleague, Ambassador
Nick Burns, who was here yesterday for the P5+1 discussion, and
it was a very constructive discussion and I believe that we are
likely to see further resolution in the not too distant future,
and I think what I have just heard from the other guest this morning
is encouraging in the sense that we very much want to see a diplomatic
solution to this problem. The problem presented by Iran developing
potentially nuclear weapons.
BBC (Edward Stourton): Is there room for movement of
the kind Elahe Mohtasham has just suggested might provide a key?
Just some moderating of the United Nations’ position that
might give the moderates in Tehran the chance to say well, we
got this deal and now we can stop and save our face.
Ambassador Edelman: Well, as with all diplomatic negotiations
of this type, the devil is in the details and I wouldn’t
want to speculate about specific details in terms of what the
Security Council might or might not agree to and the permanent
five nations. I think the outcome though that we are looking for
is clear, which is Iran has every right to have civilian nuclear
power, no one disputes that. They are signatory to the NPT, that
is one of the things that they get as a result of that. But we
do not want to see them develop a nuclear weapons programme or
to have the capacity to develop a nuclear weapons programme because
of the threat that that would represent not just to the region
but more broadly to the security of the rest of the world.
BBC (Edward Stourton): Let me just ask Elahe Mohtasham
about that point. What is your interpretation of Iran’s
ambition? Do you think, put it bluntly, do you think they want
Elahe Mohtasham: I believe that Iran is making a very
strong infrastructure to have the option to have nuclear weapons
in future, if uncertain regional and international situation make
the situation for Iran so that for example, what happens if the
NPT collapses all together (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty),
or because Iran is a neighbour to Pakistan which has a nuclear
weapon. I was struck by how much Iranian officials have been worried
about Pakistani’s nuclear weapons, in case they fall into
the hands of Al-Qaeda or Taleban type people because as you know,
Al- Qaeda, the Wahabi, Sunni extremists do not recognise Iranian
Shi’a as even a Muslim. They believe Shi’a are heretics.
So they are very worried about the Taleban type, Al-Qaeda type.
I felt, they were worried less about Israel than Pakistan, honestly.
And also there is India. Iran has a neighbourhood with Russia,
and they are all nuclear powers. So Iran is, basically wants to
have the basic knowledge, basic technology to go nuclear in future,
in uncertain situation, that is my own analyses.
BBC (Edward Stourton): That is very interesting.
I just want to ask Ambassador Edelman one further thing about
the pressure that is being put on Tehran. To what extent are these
signs, I know there are controversial in questions, but the signs
of America preparing for some kind of military action against
Iran, to what extent are these part of the broader diplomatic
Ambassador Edelman: Well, I think, the military steps
that people have observed, which is the dispatch of a second carrier
group to the Gulf, and some other steps, are essentially a reaction
to the concerns we heard expressed by the neighbouring states
who are concerned by Iranian military activities and exercises
and build up and tests, and are meant to assure our allies, to
dissuade Iran from taking any risky or provocative steps, and
ultimately to deter them from doing any thing that would damage
the security of the region.
BBC (Edward Stourton): And we must leave it there.
Ambassador Edelman and Elahe Mohtasham, thank you both very much
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