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Deputy Secretary Of State Blinken Praises Iran Nuclear Agreement


The many voices we're hearing on the nuclear agreement with Iran include Tony Blinken. He is John Kerry's deputy at the State Department and a long-time adviser to President Obama. He's been on this program a number of times as well. Welcome back to the program.

TONY BLINKEN: Thanks very much, Steve.

INSKEEP: And good morning. So I should mention regarding this deal, which we've been describing on the program, Iran has not formally signed it. The foreign minister, Javad Zarif, is already questioning the U.S. description of it. Do you have a real deal here?

BLINKEN: We do, but we have to dot the i's and cross the t's, and that's exactly what we're going to do over the next couple of months. You'll recall that we have until June 30 under the extension of the interim agreement to see if we can complete the comprehensive deal. And what we have now in place is the foundation for that deal - agreement on the basic core elements. And it will now take a couple of months to see if we can put this in a comprehensive document that has all the details in it, and that's going to take some work.

INSKEEP: I - we can't go through all the details here, but I want to ask about one. We should mention that for a decade, Iran's breakout time - the time that it would need to make a bomb - will be extended. There will be inspections for well over a decade. There are many other provisions, sanctions are listed. There's a provision, though, that reduces the amount of uranium - enriched uranium - that Iran will have on hand. It's not clear to me, though, if uranium is being taken out of Iran or left in Iran. What's happening to it?

BLINKEN: Well, you're exactly right, Steve. And that aspect of the deal is critical. Right now, Iran has about 10,000 kilograms of up to 5 percent low-enriched uranium. It is committed to reduce that stockpile to 300 kilograms - in other words, a cut of about 98 percent of its stockpile. What happens to the remainder of that stockpile is still up for decision. It could be shipped out of the country; it could be diluted. But the bottom line is that that stockpile goes way, way, way, way, way down. And as a result, the breakout time - the time it would take Iran to rush to enough material for a bomb goes way up to a year or more.

INSKEEP: But the stockpile might remain in Iran somewhere, you're saying.

BLINKEN: Well, it's possible that it could, but diluted so that it can't be used to make material for a bomb.

INSKEEP: OK, so now the next question, which of course is on the minds of Israel and many critics of this deal is that at the end of 10 years, Iran would be poised to resume its nuclear activities. Is that the case?

BLINKEN: Well, first of all, if there's no deal Iran, could that tomorrow and indeed probably would do that tomorrow. If the deal collapsed for whatever reason, there's a good chance that Iran would rush to build more and more centrifuges and get its capacity up to industrial-strength. What happens under this deal, assuming it gets completed over the next couple of months, is that for at least 10 years, Iran does not do that. The various limitations on its program, many of them will extend beyond 10 years - for example, 15 years to cap its stockpile. It won't enrich above 3.5 percent. No new enrichment facility, so everything would be at this Natanz facility. Meanwhile, the extraordinary and intrusive inspections that are part of this deal would continue for 20 or 25 years, so this is phased over an extensive period of time.

INSKEEP: OK, so at the end of 10 years, it's not like everything stops. That's your argument.

BLINKEN: That's correct. And indeed the inspection piece is absolutely critical. And as the president described it yesterday, what we've achieved with the inspections, with the access is unprecedented.

INSKEEP: If Iran violates this deal - next year, two years from now - would the sanctions automatically snap back, the sanctions that are going to be lifted?

BLINKEN: Yes. There is going to to be automaticity in the so-called snapback. That is, if there's a violation, if Iran reneges on its commitments, what we'd be doing is suspending - not ending - the sanctions. And they would only be suspended, first of all, if Iran makes good on its commitments under the deal. And then because they'd be suspended and not ended, if Iran violated the deal, they could be snapped back.

INSKEEP: OK, Tony Blinken is deputy secretary of state and I think the first person ever to use the word automaticity on MORNING EDITION. Mr. Blinken, thanks very much as always.

BLINKEN: Thanks a lot, Steve. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.