Interview with Iran expert Trita ParsiA nuclear deal would benefit all parties
Nuclear talks in Vienna are continuing. Do you think there will be a comprehensive deal between the P5+1 and Iran?
Trita Parsi: At this point, it does look quite likely that there will be a deal. The signs so far have all been positive. There's no guarantee, of course. But they're very close, they're closer than they've ever been before, and we haven't really seen any particularly negative signs coming out.
The fact that the 30 June deadline was missed is frankly expected, and it didn't seem like too many people were even taking that deadline very seriously. The real practical deadline is 7 or 8 July, mindful of the Congressional deadline that has been imposed through the Corker Bill.
Who will benefit from a deal?
Parsi: I think everyone will benefit from a deal. The West will definitely benefit, because this will close off Iran's path to a nuclear bomb. It will pacify this issue. The Iranians will benefit because their nuclear programme will end up becoming normalised, they will have sanctions lifted and there will be an opportunity to be able to restore relations on a much better footing with the West, which is critical for both sides.
At the end of the day, the Middle East is in complete turmoil, there's a significant spread of radicalism and Iran is an extremely important player that can – in many ways – effectively work against this radicalism, particularly the Sunni Salafist radicalism that is coming out of Saudi Arabia, and we're seeing what's happening in Syria and Iraq right now.
For a stable Middle East, Iran is needed. If the West wants a stable Middle East, it needs to resolve this issue, and the Iranians need to resolve this issue in order to be able to attend to other issues.
You said the deal will close off Iran's path to a nuclear bomb. Critics, however, doubt that the deal will keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the long run. Some think that Iran is being handed a massive programme with virtually undetectable nuclear breakout.
Parsi: The science behind that completely contradicts that assessment. The entire world wants the additional protocol. It's the best instrument we have to make sure that inspections are so intrusive that it virtually eliminates the chance of any country breaking out. That's exactly the solution that's going to be accepted by the Iranians for their nuclear programme.
This is far superior to any other proposal that has been put forward, including, of course, the military option. One has to keep in mind that the critics have been critical of this from the very beginning. They thought there would never be any negotiations. They thought the Iranians would never agree to the JPOA [Joint Plan of Action]. They thought the Iranians would never uphold the JPOA. They have been wrong on absolutely everything so far, and they're also wrong on this.
Some fear that sanctions relief might actually strengthen Iran to the point that it would become more resilient to re-imposed sanctions. Would that diminish Western influence on Iran?
Parsi: The thinking behind that is that the only way to make sure that the Iranians don't build a nuclear weapon – and that they don't cheat on this deal – is to constantly put pressure on them. That's a completely erroneous way of looking at it.
Once you have the deal, the way you need to make sure that there is isn't any cheating is to provide them with no incentives for cheating. Make sure that the deal is sufficiently positive for everyone so that no one wants to cheat, so that no one wants to be outside of the deal, so that no one wants to risk losing the benefits of the deal by taking the risk of cheating. That's how any deal is made sustainable. That's how any deal survives the test of time. And there's no difference with this deal.
Would a deal only help Iran's elite, the hardliners, or do you think a deal could actually help to unleash Iran's moderate society?
Parsi: It is the moderates in Iran who are pushing for this deal. It is the pro-democracy movement that is overwhelmingly in favour of this deal. The critics don't seem to have any understanding of Iran or even contact with Iran. If they did, they would know that it is the civil society and it is the pro-democracy movement that is firmly behind this deal.
Just recently, there was a report that came out with massive interviews with leaders of the civil society, of the pro-democracy movement, and they were overwhelming in their support of this. They think that this is a good thing, and the critics, again, think it's not.
The critics are using any argument they can, in a very desperate way, to prevent, what in essence is something that would close off the chance – the risk – of a military confrontation with Iran. And the media, in my view, should ask more questions of what alternative the critics are proposing? And do the critics actually want a war or not?
Interview conducted by Sven Pohle
© Deutsche Welle 2015
Trita Parsi is the founder and current president of the National Iranian American Council, a non-profit organisation based in Washington, DC, with the stated mission of "advancing the interest of the Iranian-American community".