tv President Trumps Iran Strategy CSPAN October 22, 2017 11:17am-12:33pm EDT
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on c-span2, book tv. ♪ >> c-span's washington journal live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up monday morning, usa today washington correspondent paul singer and associated press white house reporter darlene supervalu discuss the week in washington. christopher talks about the mortgage interest adoption. be sure to watch c-span's washington journal live at 7:00 a.m. eastern monday morning. join the discussion. look at u.s. policy towards iran after president trump recently decertified the iran nuclear agreement. among the speakers is a former obama administration official who helped negotiate the deal between iran, the u.s. and five other countries. hosted by the national iranian american council. this is one hour and 15 minutes.
>> hello everybody. ok. such a fantastic crowd. and you are all so young. it is freaking me out. seriously. like you're so young. it's terrifying. hi. i go by holly. i cover foreign policy for politico. and i'm really pleased to welcome everyone here today for what i hope will be a fruitful discussion. let me introduce our panelists. doubt i could possibly do justice to all their competence. rob malley, vice president for
policy at the international crisis group. he previously served in the obama administration as special assistant to the president, senior advisor to the president's counter i sold camp -- counter isis campaign. when i first got this beat covering foreign policy, i managed to obtain rob's private e-mail address very early on but for the longest time for some reason i was too shy to reach out to him. and then when i finally did reach out to him, it turns out he's actually a really nice guy. so i don't know why i didn't do it before. sorry. going to the other end, john glaser, director of foreign policy studies at the cato institute, which we in the press often just say the libertarian think-tank, the cato institute. his research interests include grants strategy, u.s. foreign policy in the middle east the , rise of china, and the role of status and prestige
motivations in international politics. that sounds like everything. i never talked to john before so i was doing a bit of research. i also found out there's a john glaser who is an actor and comedian but you're not that guy, right? john: that guy has no h in his name. holly: oh. ok. and the founder of the national iranian american council. he also is the author of several books including most recently "losing an enemy: obama, iran, and the triumph of diplomacy". so before we start the discussion, the national iranian american council has asked me to thank representative david price and his office for helping secure this venue today. also want to thank its partners.
the rockefeller brothers fund. ok. i'm going to sit down. ok. you can hear me? everything ok? all right. so let's set the table a little bit. last week president trump announced that he's going to be decertify the iran nuclear deal . but for now the u.s. remains in the deal unless or until congress reimposes sanctions on iran. the president also has requested the congress look at passing legislation that basically states that if iran takes certain action, including non-nuclear action, that that would automatically trigger a reimposition of sanctions at the same time, the president wants congress to pass legislation that states that the united states considers some parts of the iran nuclear deal that are supposed to be time limited to actually be permanent. the goal is to get the international community and iran back to the table to negotiate
additional agreements that address what the trump administration says are flaws in the nuclear deal. at the same time, the administration is looking at other ways to counter what it calls iran's malign activities in the middle east, which it can be argued are many. from human rights abuses to backing terrorist organizations. so i'm going to ask these guys, like, a couple of rounds of questions and depending on the time, you know, that will factor how many questions i have for them and then we'll open it up for audience questions. feel free to get into the minutia. i know a lot of you are congressional staffers and you want some specifics. so feel free to do that. ok. so john, let's start with you. let's talk about the merits of the administration's argument here. doesn't the administration have a point when it says that the way that the iran deal is structured it will make iran stronger economically and that once certain limits are lifted
on iran that it will be able to return to some sort of nuclear program while being stronger? so why or why not ask congress to step in and address this and that these flaws and then pressure the international community to devise a new approach to a ran? why not? john: it's certainly true that the sanctions that were lifted under the deal will allow iran to build its economy and improve things for itself. but this notion that -- i think there's a bias among i think both sides in american politics that there's this picture of iran of being implacably in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. and i don't think that's actually the case. i think they've actually kind of made a decision here which is that they go the route of greater engagement with the world, they can develop more trade with europe, both east and west actually, they can improve things domestically for themselves, and, you know, get
sanctions lifted and this kind of stuff by not pursuing a nuclear weapon. or, they could go another route which is doggedly pursue a nuclear weapon and be isolated from the world, sanctioned by the entire world the way north korea is, and sure they would have their security guaranteed by a nuclear deterrent but i think they've kind of made a decision that the former route serves their interests more than the latter. that doesn't mean we should give up. we should still have a robust inspections regime and so on. we shouldn't trust that that will always be their determination. but i actually disagree with the notion that we need to constantly have the assumption and the presumption that iran is just doggedly in pursuit of a nuclear weapon and it's only a matter of time and a matter of how you delay it or how you prevent it. i think we have to kind of
recognize their choice. holly: to that i kind of want to a, want as it is in question. i will add this. why should we trust the iranian government? i mean, this is the government that imprisoned americans, you know, executes ridiculous numbers of people, is backing militias and terrorist groups across middle east. i mean, i could go on. why should we trust anything that they say? >> if this deal was built on trust it would never have been a , deal to begin with because the united states -- because it doesn't have trust for the iranian government for some of the reasons you just mentioned. nobody in the iranian government has signed it because they don't have much trust for the u.s. government, and rest assured that mistrust has been significantly deepened over the course of the last week. this was never built on trust. this was built on verification and being in to assess whether
the iranians are living up to their word or not. if anything, we're trusting the inspections regime that the united states itself helped design to ensure that the iranians are not cheating. and we have to remind ourselves particularly because we are within the narrative in which we say we can never trust the iranians. well, part of the test here was for the iranians to prove that they can be trusted. and that's why they lived up to the end of the bargain. eight times in a row now, issued reports saying that the iranians are actually honoring the agreement. the entire premise was that over the course of the next 15 years the iranians would prove that they actually can be a responsible player within the international agreement by living up to the end of the bargain. and as a result then they would come out of the position that they were in before in which they had been in violation of the n.p.t. and they needed to be a path for them to be in good standing again. and that period ended up becoming 15 years, staggered at some point. but the test was, can they
actually live up to their end of the bargain while we are verifying and inspecting their capacity to do so and be able to catch them if they're not? and i have to remind everyone, particularly mindful of the fact that we have this narrative in which we always think they are untrustworthy. i'm not saying that narrative is wrong. but look who it is right now that is actually violating the deal and talking about walking out of it. we have to face the fact that unfortunately if there's going to be a violation right now it's far more likely that that violation would be first committed by the united states rather than by the iranians. holly: so those are interesting points. but if i was a member of congress and i was skeptical of this deal, one of the arguments i would probably make is something that nikki haley has said, which is -- i'm directing this to you. directing this you, rob. that apparently there are like hundreds of sites that the i.e.a. has not been able to get access to in iran and that, you know, there's all sorts of things that we don't know about
that the iranians are doing and the i.e.a. can't get access to them. so what would you tell that member of congress? that's a key piece. it's one thing to tell them, ok, you can access these 10 sites but not these five military sites. why should we trust them? rob: so, thanks. thankful for you coming out. i want to comment on a few of the other questions you asked but i will come to the point you just made because it is at the core of what this debate is about. one of the questions you asked is, well, why should we do this deal the iranians will benefit with, the economy will get greater? of course. the whole point of the sanctions was to pressure iran to get to the point where they would agree to stop or at least put real constraints on the nuclear program. that was why we imposed sanctions so, of course, once they agree to those concessions, the only reason they would do it is because they're going to lift some of the sanctions. so if we're not prepared to give them any economic benefit, we should -- what was the whole argument about imposing the sanctions first place? i think that's number one.
yes, they're going to get some benefit but that's because this was an agreement negotiated, compromised on all sides. what the iranians got out of it was some economic benefits, of which i think so far have been vast exaggerated. they got some benefit but nowhere near claimed. -- near what critics claimed. that's point one. point two, you mentioned the audience is very young and that is quite noticeable. maybe to younger members of days in when the entire western world 2013, 2014 and israel were focused on the issue of iran's nuclear program as the existence -- as being the existential issue. maybe there was hype but that was the issue. and that's the issue that the obama administration was determined to shut down so that we were not faced with that binary option of iran acquiring a nuclear bomb or us bombing iran to prevent them from getting it. that was the focus. yes, there was a price to be paid, the price was lifting some of the sanctions imposed to get
iran to make the concession. now, you ask about are there flaws in the deal about inspection of sites. this is one of those can yards. it's so hard because there are so many to fight back. when i was there, this is one of the issues the most robustly negotiated. there are no military sites that that are off-site that the i.e.a. cannot inspect. if there's some evidence that the united states or somebody else provides to the i.e.a. and says we suspect -- and it's not simply on some kind of whim but we have some information that there's some activity that's taken place in a given military site, the i.e.a. has a means of requiring that iran open it up to them. and there's a whole process for that to happen, much tighter, by the way, than what exists with virtually any other country. so this notion that there are hundreds of sites that the i.e.a. can't inspect, it is true that what the iranians were insistent upon was you can't go on a wild goose chase and say we think there's a nuclear device in the supreme leader's bathroom so we're going to inspect it. that was something they said
they were worried about. they didn't want the i.e.a. to go on a fishing expect decision. -- expedition. but you provide some evidence, which nikki haley was unable to do and by her admission and i.e.a.'s admission, was unable to do. if you have evidence, and then the iranians refuse access or any compromises then that could , be a mature breach and then we're in a different world. we're not there yet. there's not been a single instance of request of a military site by the i.e.a. that -- iran has refused. so this is one of those myths that are hard to combat because there are so many of them but one of them that we're hearing every day. >> thank you for that. john: i wanted to make a quick point. about the premise of your first questions. kind of assume there's a strategic calculus behind trump 's decision and there isn't of -- isn't. part of the reason we know that
is because virtually the entirety of his national security team urged him to certify. there was no strategy behind decertification. all the strategizing that went on was by his national security team to try to figure out a way to placate trump's irrational distaste for the deal but not back out entirely. so it's notable, for example, that trump did not impose sanctions himself which he has the right to do. it's notable that he didn't announce a formal withdrawal from the deal which, again, as the executive he has the right to do. and that's because virtually the entire world, the i.a.e.a., the europeans, the russians, the chinese, the u.s. intelligence community, the chairman of joint chiefs of staff, the head of u.s. strategic command, james mattis, rex tillerson, h.r. mcmaster, again, this was everybody agreed that not only is the deal working and iran is complying but that it's in the u.s. interest to stay in it. he's put us in a position where
we have less leverage than we had when we initially negotiated the deal which means we can't get more punitive arrangements or more concessions out of iran. and they've signaled, they've made clear to congress that they are not asking him to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions which would be the thing that actually constitutes a formal violation or withdrawal from us, not the decertification itself. so that's making explicit that decertification is non-instrumental. it's not supposed to achieve anything other than to broadcast trump's distaste for the deal. and his babysitters in the white house have tried to make it as easy a landing as possible. holly: that actual actually leads into my next question. but i do want to make something very clear. i think a lot of people don't realize this. the public and frankly around the hill, the united states still has numerous sanctions on iran. the only sanctions that were lifted were nuclear-related sanctions so we still have
sanctions related to their ballistic missiles, their human rights violations, and their support for terrorism which means that it's actually very, very difficult if not impossible for most businesses in this country to do business with iran. i think that's an important clarification because i think a lot of people think the u.s. lifted all of its sanctions on iran and it has not. i do want to point that out for people to know. so my next question, john, sticking with you, the president has thrown this into the lap of congress. how is this going to play out? what would you predict will happen? john: well, it's interesting because when he made the announcement and there were rumors floating around about a proposal from tom cotton and bob corker that essentially remove -- moved the goalposts on the deal itself and try to basically unilaterally alter the multi-lateral agreement which is not going to happen and which would constitute a violation of the deal itself.
but before that, itself. -- the main question was, will congress reimpose nuclear-related sanction as they had the opportunity to do within a 60-day window of the deal if it's decertified or will they ignore trump? and it looked like there was increasing momentum in favor of not reimposing nuclear-related sanctions. senator jeff flake came out and said it would be unwise to unburden iran from the deal's restrictions now that they've benefited from economic sanctions senator rand paul said something similar. representative royce, foreign affairs committee, said something similar, that we should enforce the deal. so there seems to be, even among the politicking that occurred during the deal's signing and afterwards, a recognition that now we're in this deal, it is working so long as iran is complying we should not unilaterally back out and isolate ourselves from the world. so it might very well be the case that congress, you know, doesn't reimpose nuclear-related
sanctions but it's going it be a close fight. it's going to be difficult. holly: rob? rob: just a little nuance on that answer. i never thought the president, administration, or congress would re-impose nuclear sanctions because that would be such a blatant violation of the deal, it was so clearly isolate the u.s.. i thought, the administration, and those in congress who want to be tougher on this issue, would not go down that road. i thought and i think that's what's playing out is a different -- which i doo think is dangerous. i wouldn't minimize the risk, which is exactly what the president announced, which is he wants congress to pass legislation that would tie the reimposition of some sanctions, nuclear-related sanctions to action that iran would take that are consistent with the deal. so for example, as you mentioned, under the deal some restrictions get lifted after year 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. the legislation that the administration is pushing, and that some in congress are supporting would say if iran engages in activity after those
constraints had been lifted, which are consistent with the deal, because the constraints would have been lifted, we would consider that unacceptable and impose sanctions. that's a violation of the deal. i think the real test for congress is to make that distinction clear. yes, we could -- legislation that says if iran violates the deal we're going to impose sanctions, of course that should be the case because that's what the deal itself says. but for congress to say we're going to impose sanctions that had been lifted, if iran, either engages in activities outside the deal like ballistic missiles or support for terrorism or if it takes actions in the nuclear field but are permit the by the jcp oh a, that would be a violation of the deal and give every excuse for iran to say you're violating the deal, we could do the same. and all the benefits of the deal as we just heard every expert, including the u.s. government itself, says is working in blocking iran's pathway that would be gone because we're playing with the deal. this argument it's not a violation of the deal because nothing happens today, i mean what would he would say if
tomorrow iran announced we're going to abide by the nuclear restrictions but if in two years the u.s. has not withdrawn from iraq, all bets off, we're going to resume our program. i think we would say that's a violation of the deal. i think we would say that's unacceptable because our deal had nothing to do with our presence in iraq. so for us to now say if they engage in activity permitted, the sanctions are coming back, that would be a violation of the deal would isolate us from , europe, would strengthen the hardliners in iran, and that would put news violation of the deal. holly: trita? trita: very clearly, what trump is working with the senate on right now is a measure that would be a violation of the deal. very specifically looking for things that absolutely ensures that the iranian will say no to it. the idea that you could have permanent punishment of iran and then expecting iran to sign it while you're giving them no sanctions is prepositive truss. -- preposterous. so the path that he's suggesting there is one that will ensure
the deal will be violated, will fall apart. then he also said, very clearly, if congress does not do this, then i will terminate the deal myself. so here you have it. both paths that trump is proposing will lead to the deal being killed. so to then say he hasn't killed it because he didn't do it on friday, is essentially saying is it he only kills it if he does it in one move. he is doing it in two moves but he is still killing it. so what john said, listen to what rex tillerson said over the weekend in one of the interviews. he said the real end game is regime change. ok. so now we are starting to -- holly: don't think that was his exact words. didn't he say, like, the goal in the long run -- to get the iranian government -- people to get their government back. right? that's different. i want to be clear about that. trita: if you're throwing these things out there, expect a negotiation with the same party you're saying, well, we're looking to see that regime gone. this is starting to look like
iraq again in which we have a pretense of diplomacy while we're pursuing regime change a policy that quite likely will end up getting the united states into a military confrontation with iran. you combine that with the fact that as john said, his own opposition to the deal is irrational because everyone else inside his own administration disagrees with the decertification and walking out of the deal. and with the fact that he's presenting congress not with an option to actually have any choices what to do but to ensure that congress becomes complicit in the decision of killing the deal. >> not even 10 seconds. basically what the president is telling congress is let's violate the deal together, i'll violate it alone. i don't think that's a deal that congress should take. holly: i think you can probably tell this panel is a little stacked on one side. right? so let me -- [laughter] let me play devil's advocate, my favorite role.
trump isn't the only one that doesn't like this deal. all right? our friends, the saudis don't like this deal. iratis don'tthe em like to deal. israelis don't like the deal and they are thrilled with the president is doing. shouldn't we care about what our friends think? rob: sure, though it's a little overstatement. when you say our friends the israelis. holly they're not our friends? : rob: no. we have security intelligence officials who say this deal -- you have the former prime minister who used to be the defense minister who said it would be a big mistake for united states to decertify. yes, the prime minister doesn't like it now. i don't think he speaks are israel if that's what you're saying. the security minister has said the alternative to the deal is far worse for security and it
was prime minister netanyahu who stood at the general assembly who had the famous cartoon where he showed that iran was increasing its enrichment capacity and said this is a threat we have to stop. guess what. president obama stopped it. you're right this is a stacked panel but there's a reason -- many others have supported this deal who are not suspected of any sympathy. can i just say in terms of our other allies. correct, the saudis have an agenda against iran which we understand and we have supported them militarily so they could counter iran's activities. it doesn't mean we have to subcontract national security decisions that involve the u.s., matters of war and peace, to their preference. the ones fighting are not saudi arabia. it's the united states. now, are there things not perfect with the deal? absolutely. it's a compromise. if it were not, it's not an active surrender by iran. number two, if there are things we want to still talk about, as there are, terrorism, ballistic missiles, the sunset clause, the
way to address those is not to tell the iranians today by the way the deal is no good if you don't accept these things because then iran may walk away and all of those problems will exist, plus we'll have an iranian nuclear program that will start accelerating today not 15 years but today. the way to do it is let's implement this deal in good faith for a number of years. then you want to talk to the iranians when there's mutual trust. you say, you know what? there are things we still want to address. your ballistic missile program, your support for certain organizations around the world. some of the limitations that expire. you mentioned the embargo. they still want that lifted. so have that negotiation but you can't have it when the ink on the deal that has just been signed is not even dry and when you're sending the message to the iranians our word is not worth the paper it's written on because the next day or the next administration we're going to walk away from it. built on the deal that exists, make sure iran doesn't move
forward on its nuclear program beyond what the jcpoa couldn't -- contemplates. yes there are issues we have to deal with. we know it because we have a pretty hostile relationship. holly: ok. i'm sure you'll get your point in, trita. here's the thing, though. i just have a difficult time envisioning this deal surviving. my question is this. should i go ahead -- i'm going to address this to john but you can all jump in. should i go ahead and write the eulogy for this deal? here's the thing. let's say it holds up, you know, for the next 10 years or whatever, and then, you know, you guys are thinking, all right, maybe now we need to come up with some additional agreements, think in the long term. but the iranians have seen that the united states is willing to elect someone who is willing to completely overthrow the previous administration's decision. so if you're iran, wouldn't you right now be making the calculus
that, look, i don't care if this deal falls apart today or 10 years from now, we are going nuclear because we can't rely on the stability or consistency of the american system. john? john: they would be justified in coming to that conclusion. however, we shouldn't underestimate the extent to which trump has done iowa ran a huge favor -- iran a huge favor. he has driven a wedge between us and our european allies, on road to isolating us from the world. and iran is still at this moment at least able to continue to trade with these countries and engage in robust diplomacy with them and improve relations so iran in a certain sense, i'm sure they're nervous about the extent to which they can trust we'll abide by the deal but they are also in a very -- in an interesting strategic position that we've kind of given to them on a silver platter.
before we talked you said you're going to enforce long answers holly: said i'm going to cut you off. john: throw something sharp at me if i go on too long. i'm going to say something controversial and doesn't win me friends even among my fellow jcpoa supporters. there's this bipartisan consensus that iran's other regional activities are a major threat to the united states. and this is actually one argument in favor of the jcpoa. we have a nuclear issue over here in a box. now we can more ably confront iran on other activities whether it's support for terrorism or ballistic missiles or what have you. the reality is, none of iran's regional behaviors pose a serious threat to the united states. let me say that again for emphasis. none of iran's regional behaviors pose a serious threat to the united states. holly: hold on. john: no. holly: hold on. we have troops in iraq, troops in syria. i'm sorry. i don't buy that. john: i will explain and then
you will buy it. >> [laughter] john: only under the most expansive definition of u.s. national interests can you even pausibly frame these issues as a threat. to put it slightly differently to address your objection, iran's regional behaviors are only a threat to the united states to the extent that we continue to insist on sticking our nose in a region whose strategic importance has been massively overstated for generations. there are essentially three strategic justifications for our excessive over involvement in this region: israel, terrorism, and oil. holly: those are really important things. john: no, they're not. listen. israel, first of all, is powerful and strong enough to defend itself and doesn't needed united states. and, from our perspective, they are more of a liability than an asset, to be blunt about it. secondly, terrorism. it turns out other than terrorism being the most egregiously inflated threat in the history of u.s. foreign policy, it turned out the application of military force is not all that effective a tool in
addressing the problem. we have done more to exacerbate the terrorism problem through our approach in the region post 9/11 than to mitigate it and it hasn't diminished the already extremely low probability threat of an american being killed by a terrorist here in this country. third, oil. many of our four deployed bases in the persian gulf are purposed to deter iran from attempting to close the strait. that is an unlike unlikely -- extremely unlikely scenario. first of all, the export most of their oil through the strait so they would be damaging themselves economically by doing this and all of iran's regional rivals, many of whom have far superior conventional military capabilities than iran does, also think it's a interest the strait stays open and on top of this, we have rapid deployment capabilities that can respond to such unlikely contingencies from offshore. so we can easily take a step back from this region and not damage our interests seriously. so when you hear about how
iran's support for hezbollah and hamas threatens the united states, how? these groups have local concerns and we could easily make that none of our business tomorrow if we wanted to. holly that's definitely the : libertarian in you speaking. >> i've got to jump in. holly: fine two minutes. trita: i am on the panel. we should listen to our friends. i think you are right. that means we should listen to the brits. we should listen to the germans. we should listen to the french. we should listen to the south koreans, indians, oven of our -- everyone of our allies who support the deal. you managed to exhaust the list of opponents and there's three of them. holly: but they support the deal because of business interests. it's about making money. trita: oh, my god. if you think that the europeans are going to sacrifice the american market for the tiny iranian market in comparison and that this is not about security, that they were never actually genuine about trying to prevent proliferation, i think that's an insult to our friends.
you're not listening to them. you're insulting them by saying this. more over, those three nations that you mentioned that are opposed to it -- and rob is quite right. in the case of israel, it is the prime minister and part of the political elite. it is not the security establishment. there also happen to be three countries in which either their government are part of the government have been on record inadvertently at times, , supporting military action against iran. i think it is a bit of a correlation. if you are killing this deal, a deal that prevented both iran from getting a nuclear weapon and prevented war between the united states and iran, took those two options off the table, if you kill the deal, you put those two options back on the table. holly: here's something that maybe both of you and rob can touch on. you made the point that, oh, my gosh, why would the europeans ever pick the iranian market over the american market? but if i was trump, you know, or one of the people who supports what he's doing right now, i would say the same.
i would be like, look, you know, we can decertify, we can impose the sanctions back on, and the europeans in the end will come along with us because they care about our market more than they care about that. trita: if it was just economics, perhaps that would. holly: what do you think? rob: it might work. that's why i am worried about this deal. you asked should you write the eulogy? i hope not. i hope congress will stand up to what is a self-inflicted wound by the administration. i hope others will stand up. is it possible that if the threat -- if the administration really goes through with this and tells the europeans you choose our market or the iranians, who knows what happens but that's not a good scenario and shouldn't be for the administration because that means at that point, and i think the iranians made that as clear as can be -- if they have to live under the constraints of the nuclear deal where they're not getting the economic benefits which are the only benefits of getting out of this deal for now, why would they stick to it? we would be in a position where iran will say thank you very much, inspectors are going home, constraints are forgotten, and
we'll resume the nuclear program that a few years ago we were saying and prime minister net tenyahu was an essential threat. so, sure it might work but that's the worst outcome which would be the end of deal. so this is where, you know -- if the administration's calculation is we are going to try to pressure iran to change the terms of the deal and we could do it through the europeans, others, i guarantee you it won't work. it will not work. the deal will not be changed this way. the only way you could have a supplemental deal is by implementing this one in good faith so i'm not contradicting you. i think that many businesses are going to say, you know, we have this american market, we cannot sacrifice it no matter what our leaders may say about how we need to stand firm. but that for me is a nightmare scenario where you will see iran say goodbye to this deal. and i don't see where we have a better alternative on offer right now. holly: one more question before we open it up to the floor for a while. i guess i want you all to jump in quickly. put yourself in the mind of someone who opposes this deal ok?
say you are advising a member of congress about what to do. what strategy would you give them to follow? you oppose the deal. pretend you're leibowitz. trita: you want us to give advice? holly: i do. trita: i was actually quite surprised that during this debate in 2015 and still today i think one of the arguments that could be used against the deal i don't happen to agree with it but unlike many of the other arguments actually have a basis whereas many of the other , arguments, oh, we don't have access to these sites and things like that frankly are factually incorrect. at the end of the day, this deal ended decades long policies of the u.s. pursuing an all-out isolation and containment of iran. it's a deal that by virtue of striking a deal, the u.s. recognized for better or worse
than iran is a major player in the region and we will have a more effective strategy if we recognize that and try to talk them and make deals with them rather than thinking that an all-out containment strategy could work. from the perspective of the united states, even if you don't take the position john took right now of saying, look, the region carries no strategic value, i would have a variation of that of say willing that i -- saying that i think the strategic value of the region has plummeted for a variety of reasons, not to say that it was never important, combined with the fact that the cost of getting involved in this region has skyrocketed. because there is one thing to be gemon of the region when it's a relatively functioning region of states. it's a completely different proposition to be the hedgemon of a region with three failed states and potentially two additional ones in the next couple of years. you're responsible for security in that region . why would anyone want to be that?
with the fact that ultimately is a superpower, the u.s. global priority has to be to make sure there are no global peer competitors emerging that can challenge the u.s. country like iran might challenge the u.s. regionally, but someone they can challenge in a global scale. there is no country in the region that can do so. iran. about certainly, the hootie will not be a competitor of the united states. that there are countries in asia that can. the more the united states gets bogged down in what is essentially strategically marginal conflicts, the less of a capacity it will have to be able to address these challenges that will be coming in the next decade or two. but from the perspective of some in the region, whether you're saudi arabia or one of the other countries, that doesn't figure in, because you are faced with an iranian rival. you cannot balance iran on your own. so you want the united states to do the job for you. if you're saudi arabia, perhaps
that makes sense, but i'm not seeing the answer being -- the question being answered in washington. what's in it for the united states? two essentially become a proxy -- to essentially become a proxy of saudi arabia in its own rivalries? nahal: you are basically using trump's approach of american first -- dr. parsi: no, he is making it iranian first. nahal: there is this inconsistency in what he says about national interests, so you're using his argument against his position on the iran deal. dr. parsi: of course countries will produce -- pursue their own national. if it is bad for the world, it is good for the u.s., and if it is good for the u.s., it is bad for the rest of the world -- that is not how the world works. there are win-win solutions,
that is why we have allies because we have the capacity of being able to bring about positives. the way you're doing is to say i am for america and i'm against the world. nahal: you didn't really answer my question. i will jump over. there are people who advise congressmen, and some congressmen want to know how can they get out of the deal, you know, and what strategy they can justify it. what would you say? mr. glaser: i want to piggyback off something trita said. and i can try to shoehorn it into your question, which is impossible, because the deal is working and effective. but he touched upon something crucial, which is that, in a way, the real value of this deal is not what it literally accomplishes. what it literally accomplishes is the rollback of iran's nuclear program and the prevention, for at least the foreseeable future, maybe forever, of its weaponization.
but the actual value to the united states is it erects psychological barrier to the united states going to war with iran for utterly imaginary reasons. and conflicts of interest. and this is kind of what i said before. and trita is right to point out that part of our position in the region, part of our overall posture, has been to subordinate our own interests for the sake of other people's interests. so it is true that israel, in private meetings with u.s. officials, urged a more hawkish and perhaps militaristic approach to iran, it is true. it is true that saudi arabia urged us to cut the head off the snake, or what have you. if they want to take that approach, they can, but we should think about our own interests. it is a pity that trump has muddied the waters with sort of different ideas about foreign policy. because first of all, to have ideas about foreign policy, you have to know something about the world, and he doesn't. but, in terms of what
conservatives, who don't like the deal, should be arguing, i think they should take the approach that the extreme right wing hawks that support the deal have taken rice, mattis, mcmaster, the latter two who fought in iraq on the ground -- this isn't code pink in the trump administration. they are arguing that we stay in this deal, because it effectively rolls back iran's nuclear program and that we can fight on other issues that i have unfortunately isolated myself on -- that aren't actually a threat. nahal: rob, i'm sure congress people would like to get your strategy on it, because you are rob. mr. malley: listen. i'll be candid. i have spoken to critics of the deal. i thought the strategy employing now were the right one. in other words, say we're not against the deal, not getting out of the deal, trying to improve on the margin, who could like the sunset clause or we don't like iranian terrorism.
that was the way to do it. they suffer from one major flaw, which comes from the president and from some of the people outside. the cat is out of the bag. they made it clear as can be that they want out of the deal. trump has said it, others have said it -- not just out of the deal, but as trita said, they had hits -- hints of regime change thrown into it. hard not to play the game, we don't want out of the deal, we're trying to improve it, when it is clear, including what the president said when he said, if i don't get my way, we're leaving the deal -- it makes it very hard for a member of congress, who would like to get out of the deal but doesn't want to be viewed -- want the u.s. to be viewed as responsible for it, to play that game anymore. because it is in plain view. the president has made it clear to everyone -- this is the objective, find a way to get out of the deal or take away all the benefits iran get so they walk away. knowing that, you can't unknow that anymore. and so i do not know that you
could really make a clever argument anymore. i think it was the right approach, but it was polluted from the beginning by the admission, very honest admission, that the goal was we hate the deal that was negotiated, and we got to find a way out of it. nahal: okay, anyone with questions? gentleman right there. go ahead. do we have a mic? please. and please tell us your name and who you're with. sonny christopher. i am with senator udall's office. i want to know, in looking at the big picture, if the deal is killed, what effect would that have on renegotiating in terms of the next administration? would that make iran more or less likely to corporate with a greater or lower degree with the next administration if the trump administration does kill it? nahal: how about john, can you take that? mr. glaser: it would make them less likely to negotiate because they see the united states as
less trustworthy. it is also something i have to re-reference something i said in the beginning. if we're trying to renegotiate aspects of the deal, when the rest of the world thinks it is working and we should stay in it, than we have less leverage than we had -- the obama administration did a lot of work, and rob knows a lot about this at a granular level, to bring the world along in the sanction regime to ratchet up the pressure against iran, and they ended up making significant concessions. if we are alone, and we don't have leverage over our allies or over iran that we used to, there is no way you can get more out of iran with less leverage. it doesn't work like that. so yes, a very challenging obstacle for the next administration. how to fix what trump is in the midst of destroying. >> if i could add something. there is an ayatollah somewhere in tehran with a huge smile on
his face. because his narrative that the united states cannot be trusted has, in the eyes of large sector of the iranian politics, been vindicated. the hardliners in iran said go ahead, negotiate, we don't trust it, the united states eventually will kill this deal, they will not be true to their word. and in the view of many people in iran right now, even those who oppose the ayatollah's skepticism of the united states, perhaps paranoia of the united states, that has been vindicated. this has come at the expense of the moderate elements in iran who made the argument, let's strike a deal and see if we can work this out. perhaps there will be additional changes in the policies of both sides. it was tweeted in the last weeks of the negotiation that this could be the floor instead of the ceiling. that this could be the beginning of additional changes rather than making sure this is it and nothing else can happen. well, after this has happened, it will be very difficult for anyone in the iranian political
elite to, in private but decisive meetings, make the argument for negotiations with the united states. something dramatic needs to change on this side before i see anyone over there risking their political career by making that argument. mr. malley: the only point i would make -- and i agree with everything my colleagues said, during the negotiations, what is ironic, when the iranians complained about some of the tough requirements we put in the deal to try to tie them down, they would say -- we would argue that we don't know what is going to happens iran. there could be a change. there could be a new supreme leader. we have to guarantee against future change. they say the same to us, and our argument was, we have a system, in which by tradition, , presidents respect legacy of predecessors, so you don't need to worry about that. of course, they took us at our word. that was the dynamic. in truth, we did not suspect it would be the next administration would come around and tear this
up. as we said earlier, the points my colleagues made. number one, why would iran trust us? why would those in iran who don't want to trust us trust us now? and how can we get a better agreement with less leverage and less coalition, that doesn't compute. nahal: next question. lady right there. she gave me her business card , and i really appreciate it. by the way, that is the price of admission. i need your business cards before you leave. >> my name is erica. i with congressman williams' am office. it is kind of unfair to discount concerns by israel, when even during the deal, there was rhetoric calling for israel to be wiped off the map and calling america "the great satan." and i would just like you all to speak a little bit about that rhetoric. and we know there are sites like "partian," i think that is how you say it, that were, we didn't know about, and we do, so just address those few things, i guess. nahal: rob, can you take that one? mr. malley: sure.
listen. theink it is clear from obama administration that defense of israel, and i know john expressed controversial view. i think it is worth articulating and hearing it, but let's take your question at its face. it is true thatisrael feels iran is a threat to their security. the question is, and this is a question that i think president obama tried to answer, is israel more secure with an iran moving towards a nuclear bomb or one that is not? that is a conversation, so many composition t had with prime minister netanyahu about where he said i get your concerns. but let's agree if we have a deal that at a minimum for the next 10 to 15 years, ensure iran can't move toward a nuclear bomb without us knowing right away, and we will stop it. that is better. much better than the alternative. that is on that point. on partian. not only did we know about it, that was a sticking point in the numerous asian -- in the
negotiation, to make sure the iaea would have access so they could find issues past military dimension of the iran program would be addressed. it was addressed. that is why we were able to move forward with the deal. if there is evidence today, and not only has none has surfaced, but when ambassador nikki haley went to vienna, she said, it is true, we didn't provide evidence of suspicious activity. if that evidence is put forward and goes -- and the iaea demands access and iran says no, no, no, then we face a real problem. if not resolved through the conflict resolution in the jcpoa, we have right to say iran is -- by the way, we have allies with us, let's listen to them. if they agree, which they would, if iran were to bar access in illegitimate way to military sites. that is not what we have today, there is no evidence. there are some echoes of iraq here, and i think we have to be careful of an administration
that is many bleeding or manufacturing evidence and leading us down a path we have seen before. mr. glaser: netanyahu's comments get more attention than the expert community and military establishment in israel. the vast majority of whom have said this is a good deal, because it staves off iranian nuclear weapon. it is better to have a nasty iran that doesn't have nuclear weapons than a break-out time of a few months. nahal: let's take questions from this side. lady right there. >> hi. my name is debra shoeshon, and i director of policy and am government relations at americans for peace now. it is a pro-peace, pro-israel organization, so if any of you are interested in talking about israeli organization, the organization is pro-iran deal, we are working to preserve it.
my question, i want to flip the question on its head, the question being how would you advise opponents of the deal to kill it? my question is, as someone with an organization that's working to save this deal, what advice might you have about ways in which organizations, like mine and like yours, of course, trita, as well, can push covers people who are, perhaps, on the fence about the deal and corker-cotton legislation? to give them i little backbone, such that they might save this deal? what advice do you have? nahal: trita, that is all you. dr. parsi: thank you. thank you so much. thank you for what you have been doing on this issue and many other issues. i would say the first thing is that in order to actually be able to not only save the deal, but most importantly make sure that there isn't a war and there isn't a nuclear weapons program in iran at some the critical point, thing to make sure this deal is protected.
that means don't engage in any type of conversation or negotiation that would try to say, okay, how can we get some form of sanctions in place in the hope that they are not in violation of the deal. that would end up being the death of this deal by paper, by 1000 paper cuts. instead, if you want to strengthen this deal, we should do the one thing that has worked in the last 37 years. there is plenty of concerns on the american side about iran, many of them very legitimate. over the past 37 years, there is only one example in which the united states actually successfully has managed to change or amend an iranian core policy in a significant way, and that is through multilateral negotiation with america's closest allies. that is the only time. everything else has only tended to entract, make the conflicts more difficult -- in fact, if we were so adamantly optimistic
about the effect of our sanctions, why is it we have all the problems today after 38 years of sanctions? shouldn't all sanctions, at some point, have produced some sort of result in which we could say iranian support for hezbollah has lessened, etc. -- it has not. instead iranians are in a , stronger position than they ever have been. nahal: well, the sanctions did bring them to the negotiating table. dr. parsi: i actually strongly disagree with that narrative. and you will see that in my book, about what happened in the secret negotiations. in march 2013, the united states, for the first time in secret talks held by the government of oman, played enrichment card and conveyed to iranians the u.s. is willing to accept some form of enrichment in iranian soil based on very strict limitations and conditions. that is really what truly opened up the negotiations. but i can go into that in greater detail. but the point being, we have one example that work. we have plenty of examples that did not work. why are we, if we want to
strengthen this deal, if truly we want to make sure that israel's security, the issue of hezbollah and other things, are effectively addressed and we get to a better place, why are we choosing the path that, in the last 37 years, has not produced any results? nahal: next question. yes, right here. >> hi. i am with the office of congressman stephen lynch. one of the arguments that the opponents of the deal have been making is that while we are seeing iran continue to do ballistic missile testing, matt -- mischief in the region, etc., and one of the arguments that folks in favor of the deal were making, was, well, if we can get the nuclear issue off the table, we can focus on other things. do you think that there may have been something that we could have done right after this deal went through to start working on these other issues, because then maybe we could have done something to deal with them and we wouldn't have this excuse that the opponents are using to find other ways to kill it. i mean was there an opportunity
, missed to start doing something on some of these other issues? nahal: that's an excellent question. rob. mr. malley: not only did we not deal with them, we did it during the deal. there were two summits that president obama held with gcc colleagues, the state of the gulf corporation counsel. you can go back and look at how much was discussed their in terms of countering iran, whether cyber, ballistic missiles, whether in the gulf, so -- >> not with iran, though. mr. malley: ok i'll get to that , in a second. so we were trying to make sure our allies would be comforted, as you said they were worried , about the deal. so we didn't wait for that. talking to iran about those other issues it is a long story. , some argue why didn't you put it on the table during the talks? i suspect the talks would be ongoing now with a nuclear program ongoing and we would not , have addressed all the issues
because some of them go to the regime. iran's it is a security doctrine. so it will be very tough. it is also not clear to me if -- were here, he would probably disagree. but i don't think iran is ready for that kind of discussion. trita said, as the premier said, first, we want to see if this works, we don't trust americans, if it works, maybe we can have other conversations. secretary kerry tried many times to talk about some of his other issues. he could only go so far, because i don't think the foreign minister in iran had that authority. i wish that had happened. we never banked on it. i think president obama was realistic and clear-eyed. but he didn't expect it by the end of his administration there would be transformation of the relationship. he was hoping we could have discussions on the issues, whether it is syria, ballistic missiles, hezbollah -- i don't think the appetite existed in tehran. truth be told, those are going to be extraordinarily difficult conversations because of how big the gap is.
they -- i do not need to make the iranian argument for them, but they have strong views about their own security doctrine, about why they need to project power forward. i think that will be a very tough discussion that needs to be had. we're not off to a good start, as both trita and john said -- we don't set the stage for more difficult discussion when you renege on the deal that i just a still hard yet nonetheless easier issue to tackle. if i could follow up on her question there is another , issue of the prisoners held in iran. and that in particular, i know, upsets a great deal of members of congress -- either american citizens the iranian government is holding. i believe there are at least four, possibly more some held , for several years now. i know we managed to get a few of them freed, but the iranians get new people or hanging on to one or two. i mean, this is just -- mr. malley: i cannot contradict anything you said. i am in full agreement.
it is an outrage. some of them are people i know trita and i have known for many years. that we know the people does not make it any better or worse. these are people who were unjustifiably detained and being held as pawns. but -- so all that is true, and as you said yourself, there is still many sanctions that are being imposed on iran. our embargo still exists. if iran wants a better relationship with us, they will have to live up to what our international standards are and release the detainees. that doesn't mean we then sacrifice the nuclear deal, because i don't know how that will help get our american citizens back home. nahal: here is the thing driving me crazy about this discussion. is that, you know, you guys keep saying iran, iran, iran. the iranian government is make up of various factions. i mean, who is really in charge? i guess i'm just -- mr. malley: -- mr. glaser: this is exactly the point.
iran has a dynamic domestic political situation, so if you're trying to think to yourself, how do we improve iranian behavior or get them to make concessions on certain things that have to do with our interests, the question is how do you do it? there are some people who believe that only browbeating, sanctions, hostile rhetoric, threats of war are likely to get a positive response. they either capitulate or they continue to be pains in the butt. there are other people who i think are more sober minded that understand that inside of a dynamic domestic political situation, there are hard liners and moderates. and if you do things that concede certain things to the other side when you make compromises, it tends to empower the moderates who have the ability to do those kinds of compromises. now with trump, as trita wisely said, the hard liners in iran are bolstered, because they are proven right. these are the guys that warned
against trusting the united states from the beginning, and we're just satisfying their priors. nahal: but maybe, let me run this by you, one of the arguments that some people on the conservative side of this argument had, is we should right now and power the hardliners in iran. the idea would be that if you make them really in charge, make them be even more hard lined, then it will anger the iranian people enough that they will take their government back. this is -- i've seen white papers. mr. glaser: but this flies in the face of every bit of scholarship known about this kind of situation. because what you do is you encourage a rally around the flag effect. when, you know, sanctions and other types of things that try to do this, what you are talking about, only create this "rally around the flag" effect. and sanctions, on their own, are not actually all that -- they don't have a lot of utility as foreign policy tool. you have to offer people a way out in exchange for improved
actions and behavior. nahal: trita. dr. parsi: thank you. i'm glad you raised that point. this is not a hypothetical that we have to have a theoretical conversation about what would happen and what would the iranian people want. it is actually very clear. because they have gone, in several elections, however flawed those elections are in iran, they have gone there, and they have, every time that they have been given a chance, voted for the least bad, the least hard-lined option on the ballot. precisely because they don't want to go down that route. they want to see a gradual change. they want to see an opening with the united states and the western world. and they believe, and perhaps they are in a better position to write a paper about what they and want they think would work, that with the opening up of iran, it will strengthen the voices inside the country that actually want interaction with the outside world and it will eventually marginalize hard-line elements. in fact, the hardliners in iran strongly agree with that.
that is part of the reason why they are so fearful that this deal would have led to a broader beenat there would have more u.s. businesses coming in. they started arresting people right before the deal was struck in order to terrify people who were thinking okay, now iran is open up for business, let's get into that market and interact with the iranians. and let me tell you something i think we should really keep in mind. just recently, apple and google decided to kick out all of the apps in their store produced by iranian engineers in iran. iran has its own i.t. sector. can find here, you can find it there. they have their own uber and different things. that is a very important part of their economy. now not because of any changes in the law, but because of interpretation of the political context of the sanctions law, both apple and google, with in this van of about two weeks, decided they will kick out these apps from their store. which gave pretty much a death
knell to many of the companies that have become quite successful. now, who do you think we're hurting here? the apps are produced by 20 to 25-year-old kids in iran who are discovering new frontiers, empowering themselves , vis-a-vis the state in many , different ways. if you go to their offices, you will not see pictures of the ayatollah, you will see pictures of steve jobs. they were hit by this tough policy that is hurting them and not at all hurting the hard liners. cahont what the head of said just yesterday. cahon is one of the most hard-line newspapers in iran, like breitbart, pedalling in a lot of fake news. he said trump just gave us a big gift, because this hard-line approach is undercutting the moderate, embarrassing the moderates, because their gamble did not work out, while causing exactly the rally around the flag phenomena that john just mentioned. they are certainly -- quite happy.
mr. malley: can i put a bow on that? eight seconds. we have some experience hard-liner leader leaders in iran. didn't work out awesome. that is the regime we're dealing with now. the reaction to the problem of our excessive meddling in this country. it is a bad route. and it is hard to tell innocent iranians. everyday iranian civilians. that "we are looking out for your interested, but why don't you suffer under a worse dictatorship than you are now for a little while so we can get our bones in." right? nahal: yes. please. hang on. full circle here, we talked about what the u.s. will do, what europe will do. so to take her last question of what would you recommend to conservatives, what would you recommend to iran's leadership? if you were iran and this is
occurring, what steps do you do? do you stick to the deal and say you will stay with your -- excuse me, with your european partners who you have an economic stake in your country? do you -- what do you do? if you are advising iran, what would you advise them to do? nahal: rob, why don't you start with that one, and then trita. mr. malley: not a matter of advising iran, but i think what would be a wise course for them would be to stick to the deal and tried to put the onus on the u.s. and make sure they draw the words between the u.s. and european allies and say, we're the good guys here. we are living by the deal. the u.s. is not. i think they will do that. that is my suspicion. they will hold to that up until the point, as i said earlier, the economic benefits of the deal start drying up, because then those in iran who are in favor of this approach have no argument left. not only is the u.s. not making a deal. it is having an effect on the economy. so i think if i were an iranian
leader, i would stick to it. tried to get the europeans on my side. tried to convince them to continue to do business despite the threat of secondary sanctions. at some point, it may no longer be tenable. but that is what i suspect they should and will continue to do. i don't know if trita agrees. nahal: correct me if i'm wrong, the secondary sanctions -- this is important to understand. a lot of u.s. sanctions that were imposed on iran to get them to talk and which were listed were secondary sanctions which were imposed on companies in other countries or threatened to be imposed on other countries that would do business with iran. so the whole idea with secondary sanctions is not to punish iran, it is punish firms outside of iran that might want to do business with iran. so if congress reimposes those sanctions, that is the stick they hold over companies in europe. is this idea that they will get punished and kept out of the u.s. system if they do business with iran. and that is a really big, significant point.
so i want to make sure people understand that. trita, please go ahead. dr. parsi: thank you. this is not about giving a recommendation. i will just share with you what i think they are likely to do. part of it i think is perhaps good in the sense of making sure the deal doesn't get killed. ultimately, i think that would be bad if it was. right now, notice they are keeping relatively low profile. i think that is because of their calculation that trump is shooting himself in the foot, isolating the united states and, as a result, they have no interest in interfering while he's doing that. but the area that i really worry about is that, particularly when combined with these suggestions, some of them quite explicit about regime change, that will lead to much, much tougher position of iran in the region, rather than seeing a rollback, etc., on the contrary, we will see them become more aggressive in the region as a result of this. that is my big worry. nahal: rob, can i ask you one thing? i know a lot of your concern is , like, you know, about preventing nuclear war and those types of things.
but what is it like, on a personal level, to see something that you worked on so hard in the previous administration, like, all these things you helped build, come under threat of being thrown out? like, how is it personally to watch this play out in the white house? mr. malley: my wife works on health care, so you can imagine our dinner conversations. [laughter] mr. malley: i try not to personalize it, although i admit i probably get more passionate about this than other issues. obviously, not great. but i do think there are issues , including legacy issues, in which i'm ambivalent. you told me a policy about this or that, well, i may not have gotten it entirely, i feel personally vested. i feel this is a rare no-brainers. i don't understand -- other than those who think we shouldn't be dealing with iran because we should really try to squeeze
them and hope that the regime will change, but those who think we can get a better deal this genuinelyerally -- don't understand that argument. it is not i don't think it is a matter of personal feeling, even though, as you said, it is never good to see several years of work -- but others will suffer more than i would if there is confrontation in the region, if, in fact, the regime, as trita said hard liners use this to crack down. a lot of -- if the iranians retaliate in iraq or syria, our troops, men and women in uniform, will suffer. my personal feelings, i won't deny exist, are not the primary thing. it is a case -- i try to have an open mind. i work at international crisis group whose motto is put ourselves in other people's shoes. that is what we do for a living. it is very hard to understand the argument -- not of those who think iran is a bad actor and we should never make concessions with them, but for those who think this is way to improve the deal. because every bone in my body tells me, that will not work.
i ask all of you to put yourself in the shoes of an iranian. why would they accept, with a gun to their head, if you don't agreed to more concessions, unilateral concessions, then you have agreed to so far, we will take away the deal. now, come to the negotiating table. that makes no sense whether iranian, russian, chinese -- that is not the way you do business. that is why i am alarmed. we are presenting this choice to the iranians, which basically they could only say no to. it is an offer they can only refuse. nahal: i think we have time for one more question. >> i am still confused with all of this. there are nuclear-related sanctions which are secondary sanctions. there are nonnuclear related sanctions that are primary sanctions. trita, you said if -- that either of those would be bad. but yet, if there is nothing, then trump says he is going to
undo the deal through these nuclear related sanctions. isn't it better to have nonnuclear-related sanctions, or can congress do nothing in the next 60 days? and how do we secure that congress does nothing? i have heard that we should try to push mccarthy and mcconnell that nothing goes to the floor. could you be specific about 60 days? nahal: this is really fascinating -- someone urging congress to do nothing. [laughter] go ahead. dr. parsi: i think it is important to keep in mind -- it is not just so if you have nuclear based sanctions, nothing bad being imposed, that that would be a violation. if you have sanctions, even if they are on the basis of any other issue -- terrorism, human rights -- but it is actually targeting iran's trade, rather than being targeted, that is violation of the deal. essentially we have broad-based sanctions and -- and immediately after they are done, we reimpose those sanctions in a different form with a