ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, says the United States hopes to “find a way to move forward towards a peaceful and open relationship with Iran.”
He made the remarks in an interview with the Tehran Times in Astana, Kazakhstan in late April.
Gingrich also expressed hope that the interim nuclear deal signed by Iran and the six world powers in Geneva in November 2013 will lead to a final deal.
“I hope that the Geneva agreement actually works out,” the veteran Republican politician said.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: Mr. Gingrich, what is your view of the Geneva nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers?
A: I hope that the Geneva agreement actually works out, I hope at least to an enforceable and transparent lack of any nuclear weapons. And I hope that we can find a way to move forward towards a peaceful and open relationship with Iran. But I do think that it has to be transparent and enforceable, or I think at some point it will be back into the sanctions problem, and there will be a renewed or even more intense effort to isolate the economy and to make things very, very difficult for the government of Iran. So I would much prefer to get to a peaceful solution, and I hope that Secretary of State Kerry’s optimism is justified.
Q: The new Iranian president has said, “I want to prove to the world that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful.” It seems that he has been sincere in his approach because, under his leadership, Iran has been more cooperative and transparent in its nuclear drive. So is there any room for suspicion about Iran’s nuclear program?
A: We will find out over the next 6 months or year. If there is a real transparency, if there is a real inspection, a real accountability, then clearly he will be someone who is really serious. But I don’t have any evidence yet that he is one to fight inside the government, and so we don’t know if this is just nice words or whether they are really working toward a nuclear weapon or whether this is in fact a real change in the policy from the attitude of…
Q: But he has taken some steps. For example, as a goodwill gesture, his administration has diluted some stockpiles of uranium enriched to a purity level of 20 percent and has opened up nuclear facilities to more inspections.
A: If these first steps lead to second, third, and fourth steps, then I think maybe by the end of the year, we may be in a different place beyond the world of sanctions and will be finding a way to live in relative constraint with each other and see each other as not threatening. But I think that requires another series of steps yet beyond the current ones.
Q: Despite the Geneva deal and the steps taken by Iran, some U.S. senators, like Robert Menendez, are still pushing for sanctions against Iran. Why are they doing that?
A: I think what they are pushing for is to put in place sanctions that could then be triggered by the president that would not be imposed unless the president concluded that the current Iranian strategy was just a smoke screen behind the push for a nuclear weapon. So I think the question is whether he strengthens the hands of getting things done by indicating that we are serious about sanctions and that there will be more sanctions if in fact the transparency breaks down. I think the Congress is probably right to say that we want to send a signal to the Iranian government that your words are fine, but we are going to measure one step at a time whether or not we are actually getting the results, not just the words. I think the question is still up in the air.
Q: But the IAEA has confirmed that Iran has taken positive steps.
A: Which is good. I think if there are enough steps taken, then the president will never trigger the sanctions. No one in the Congress is suggesting that we pass sanctions against the president’s will. The question is whether we should arm the president so that if he needs sanctions he has the legal authority to do it. But it will be up to the president, and frankly, if all the agreements are kept, the president will certainly not impose the sanctions.
Q: Some hardliners in the U.S. are calling for a total freeze of uranium enrichment in Iran, which is illegal according to the NPT, to which Iran is a signatory.
A: I think that [former Iranian president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad made it very hard to apply a reasonable standard because of the intensity and harshness of his language. And I think when people think you might be very aggressive, they incline to be much more strict about what they are going to let you do. And I think a lot of the Iranian problem goes back to Ahmadinejad and the kind of language which he used.