U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed cautious hope about engaging with Iran over its nuclear program, but says the country must take concrete steps to prove its sincerity.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is continuing a “vast and feverish” effort to acquire nuclear arms and that his country is ready to stand alone in defending itself against Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The Israeli leader urged the international community not to let up the pressure on Iran and accused President Hassan Rouhani of masterminding a strategy to advance Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, calling him “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Iran’s U.N. envoy, in a rebuttal, called Netanyahu’s speech “inflammatory.”
To what extent can Iran be trusted? We posed the question to Alireza Nader, a senior international policy analyst with the RAND Corporation and author of the publication Coping with a Nuclearizing Iran. He spoke to VOA’s Susan Yackee.
Below please find select highlights of his remarks. For the full interview, click on the audio player on the bottom of this post.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of trust. My advice would be to distrust Islamic Republic, but to verify their intent. With President Rouhani’s election in June we are seeing a change in Iran’s approach to the nuclear issue… very different than the policies pursued by the former president.”
What is important is testing Iran’s intentions, “coming to an agreement on the nuclear program in which Iran limits its nuclear pursuits and is rewarded with sanctions relief and allows us to verify it as not moving toward a nuclear weapons capability. So, for me, I find it is not so much of an issue of trust but getting to a negotiated settlement that can be verified and implemented.”
“One of the reasons I believe that Iran is changing its approach is due to the dire economic situation in Iran brought on by sanctions to a certain extent.”
“There’s an opportunity here to reach a deal with Iran which limits its nuclear program, stops uranium enrichment up to 20 percent which can then be used for a nuclear weapon, opens up some of its facilities that we suspect have been used for weapons experimentation. So while Iran may still keep aspects of its uranium enrichment program, I think the United States and its partners have an opportunity to make sure Iran does not move toward a nuclear weapons break-out capability.”
Listen to our full interview with Alireza Nader:
Susan Yackee is anchor of VOA's International Edition radio show. She has been a reporter in the Washington area for more than 35 years and regularly interviews newsmakers and analysts in DC and around the world. Susan works in television, radio and social media.