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What's Preventing A Nuclear Deal With Iran?


Let's hear now about Iran's view of the negotiations. Hooman Majd is an Iranian-American journalist who has written extensively about that country. He is in Vienna. He has been covering the talks over Iran's nuclear program and joined us. Good morning.

HOOMAN MAJD: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, an interim deal between Iran and Western powers was struck more than a year ago now - seems to many American politicians as rather a long time. What has been preventing a final deal?

MAJD: Well, it seems as though the Iranians want two things. They're a signatory to the nonproliferation treaty - the NPT. And they want to be a normal member of that treaty and a normal member of that organization. So far, they are willing to have a different situation and have limits on their nuclear program that other nations don't have. But they want the term of that deal to be shorter, and they want sanctions that have been posed because of their nuclear program - because of their noncompliance with the NPT - they want those sanctions lifted rather quickly. And the U.S. side has been reluctant to give them either a short term of a deal or sanctions relief in the way that they want it.

MONTAGNE: Although as we've just heard from Michele Kelemen, the U.S. Congress is concerned - many in the Congress - Republicans especially - that Iran is enjoying the way things are. They're not facing worse sanctions this way.

MAJD: That is absolutely true. However, on the other hand, Iran is not enjoying the present situation at all. Their economy is hurting. It continues to get hurt further. They have many, many domestic issues and domestic problems that will be, if not resolved, relaxed after a nuclear deal. And I think that they - they're not enjoying the situation at all. I think that it seems to me and other journalist who are here and have observed these talks from Geneva onwards that the Iranians are eager to make a deal rather quickly. They work through the night. They work with their American counterparts consistently. Six meetings between John Kerry and the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif I think indicates that there is a will to get this done.

MONTAGNE: From Iran, the public face of these negotiations is, as you've just said, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif - fluent in English, Western-educated. He says he wants an agreement. But ultimately, the supreme leader makes the decisions there. And that's a concern in the West - certainly in the U.S.

MAJD: Yes. It's both an advantage and a disadvantage, an advantage that when the supreme leader makes a decision, it is a decision. And therefore he has the authority - a full authority - to say yes. It's actually a different situation in America where there are some question as to whether what Obama, for example, would agree with is something that can pass the obstacles that Congress may put up.

MONTAGNE: Well, this morning there was a Twitter account associated with Iran's supreme leader that contained the, quote, "arrogant Western powers failed to bring Iran to its knees." What's the intended audience for that message?

MAJD: The intended audience is mostly domestic. It's mostly rhetoric that has been traditionally part and parcel of the Islamic Republic's arsenal of propaganda. And it's natural that the Iranians are going to try to portray this as a victory - that they did not bend to Western will. And I don't think the U.S. administration takes statements from the supreme leader as seriously as some other people might.

MONTAGNE: Journalist Hooman Majd joining us from Vienna. Thanks very much.

MAJD: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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