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FULL TRANSCRIPT: Ali Larijani

October 15th, 2014
09:41 AM ET

What follows is a transcript of Christiane Amanpour's full conversation with Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Mr. Larijani, welcome to the program.

ALI LARIJANI, CHAIRMAN, PARLIAMENT OF IRAN (through interpreter): Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Let me first start by asking you about the threat of ISIS. There are many reports that the group is very close to Baghdad, could threaten the Baghdad airport. What is Iran doing to defend itself and Baghdad from ISIS?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): You know, ISIS was not a group that was created on its own. We have to get to the root causes and we have to know that big powers, the responsible for its creation and also some countries of the region. But it seems that right now some of the big powers have come to the conclusion that what they did was wrong. But those countries of my region that used to support them, give them money and provide weapons and ammunition to them, it seems that they say that they do not accept this group anymore and they are now part of the coalition. But it seems that they aren't really serious about ISIS. And it seems that they have not come to the belief that they are going to be a problem to them, too. And I think it is very unlikely to destroy guerilla fighters by just dropping bombs on their heads. I have also heard that the Americans are going to find two places, two bases in the region in which people will be trained for ground operations. Our assessment is telling us that this is not going to solve the problem. This itself is going to be a new problem in the future. But us, I mean, Iran went to the side of the Iraqis very early when the crisis broke out. We don't really want to broadcast it. We don't want to go to the media and talk about what they did for the Iraqis, but in practice, we defended them.

AMANPOUR: My question was: is Iran satisfied that it can defend itself and Baghdad against ISIS?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): We have to accept that terrorism is an international issue and is very important. It is not just about one country. You know that in the first place the big powers tried to create some forces in Afghanistan to stand against the occupiers and by that I mean the former Soviet Union. But as time went on, they did not, or they could not, manage these groups. And this is something which has happened in the last two decades in my region. The Americans start something but after some time, they fail to control and contain it.

AMANPOUR: OK, so -

LARIJANI (through interpreter): But they are not the only ones to blame; there are countries in my region who contributed to them. And those countries that are supporting the terrorists are actually opposed to democracy. So they're going to use this tool, this instrument that is terrorism. Of course, we know the solution. Terrorists cannot be destroyed by bombing them. You cannot solve terrorism by occupation. And in order to fight them effectively, you have to choose another method. And you know that we have good experience in that because we have actively fought against them.

AMANPOUR: So can you spell out the other method? And are you talking about politics?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): I don't think that something which has to do with security can be solved through politics. Of course, politics and political things can be helpful. But there is a security related solution to this problem.

AMANPOUR: Could you spell out the security related solution to this problem that you have in mind?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): Yes, I can spell it out to you. But in that case, you will be helping the ISIS.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me assure you, Mr. Larijani, that none of us want to help ISIS. So as you yourself have said, there is no solution by air bombardment alone. Many inside Iraq are calling for American troops to help them. In Hit, in the Anbar province, where they're losing their towns, they are calling for American troops to help them. What would - what would you say if American troops or other boots went in on the ground to stop Daish, which is also your enemy?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): You know, in order to fight ISIS effectively, you have to come up with a very good security solution. Part of it can be a ground operation. And the people who are going to be there on the ground should be skillful enough. And these people should not be like mercenaries. They need to have enough motivation to do that. And they need to get the training or be equipped according to the area or the territory in which they're going to fight. So we have to come up with appropriate designs and plans for this kind of operation.

AMANPOUR: So you mean the mostly Shiite militia that you and Qasem Soleimani and the Revolutionary Guard are helping now in Iraq? Is that correct?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): Not necessarily. I think people - I mean, Iraqis and Syrians themselves are capable enough to carry out such operations themselves. We know these people, whether Shias or Sunnis or Kurds in those two countries, they have what it takes to be successful on the ground. I think the best thing that the U.S. can do is to prevent its allies, its friends in the region, from sending arms and money to these groups. It is not a child's play. I mean, fighting terrorism is not a child's play. It can be very costly. On this there are ulterior motives involved in this.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Larijani, the United States has asked its allies to stop doing that. We will see what happens. But as you said, part of this is political. When it was absolutely necessary in Iraq, Iran allowed Prime Minister Maliki to move out of power. The same is being asked about Syria. Are you ready to see a situation where President Assad moves aside in order to have a reunited, comprehensive political solution for Syria, where Daish also is very active?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): I think Syria's case is not that simple. Suppose that someone else replaces Mr. Assad. So what is this person going to do when most of the country is under the control of ISIS? In Iraq, there is this democratic structure in place. So why is it that the ISIS is still there? This phenomenon is a security problem. And the solution has to be a security one too. It is like a person is so hungry and is famished and he needs to eat food, but you ask him to go and have some air outside. Yes, fresh air is good too. But right now, this person needs food. We do definitely support democratic structure to be established in Syria. In Syria we just had an election, yes, we can say that some parts were being controlled by ISIS. But again, we can have another election. But first we have to solve the security problem. I'm telling you very clearly that if we just satisfy ourselves with these types of solutions that some countries are offering, then very soon Syria will - Syria will be in a situation that is going to be much worse than Libya.

AMANPOUR: OK. Mr. Larijani, I want to move on to the nuclear negotiations, which are about to have a new round of discussions in Europe this week. The president of Iran, Mr. Rouhani, said that he believes a deal is possible by the November 24th deadline. Do you believe that that is possible? And would the Iranian parliament - you are the speaker of the parliament - accept the deal that is being worked out now?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): I think it is quite possible. Of course, this providing that both sides are serious enough about reaching a deal. I think the remaining issues or the outstanding issues can be resolved by the - that deadline, November 24th. But I think it will be unlike to achieve a deal if both sides keep bargaining over small things.

AMANPOUR: Are you satisfied with the interim deal so far?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): It has its own advantages and disadvantages. It was a small step.

AMANPOUR: So if there is no possibility of reaching a final deal by November 24th, would you accept a continuation, an extension of the talks under the current deal, maybe locking in some of the progress made under the interim deal?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): We have to discuss about this internally. We don't want to do something to just keep us busy for a while. We have to sit down and talk about the possibility you just talked about.

AMANPOUR: What do you think the results will be if there is a total breakdown and no extension?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): I don't think that is going to be very much in favor of the U.S. Because it means that they have lost the opportunity to achieve something diplomatically. Of course, it is going to be a loss to others as well. We are going to do whatever we have been doing. We do not want to develop a nuclear bomb. But we insist on having access to nuclear technology and know-how. And we are ready to be transparent enough about it. You know, it makes me surprised that why is it that in these negotiations there is just talk about the number of centrifuges? Or how they can limit our R&D aspects of the nuclear technology? I think that is not really important, the number of centrifuges. The important thing is that Iran is trying to be transparent and Iran is going to be clear about its program.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Larijani, you said that if no deal is reached by November 24th, you'd have to go back and discuss whether there would be an extension. But my question to you is as speaker of the parliament, the very powerful position in Iran, would you support an extension? Do you think an extension is better than a total collapse and to go back to the situation of one year ago?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): I don’t think there is need to get back to the past or to one year ago, as you said. I mean, a step has been already taken. The important point is that is 5+1 willing to take only smaller steps, even if it takes 10 years? Or is it better to solve the whole matter in one go? I think the latter is beneficial to both sides. I mean, this can positively affect other areas. Maybe the others want to prolong this process and favor smaller steps.

AMANPOUR: Can I move on to the internal situation inside Iran? We have been monitoring very closely the number of Iranian Americans, Iranian English people who have been jailed over the last several months. Let me first ask you about a young girl, Ghoncheh Ghavami, who is Anglo Iranian and she's in jail since June, I believe. Will she be released? What do you say her crime is? She has not been charged.

LARIJANI (through interpreter): Of course, I can’t confirm that the number of these people jailed is rising. These are very rare cases and this is very natural for these cases to happen, because Iran is a very big, large country, with a population of 80 million people. They have - might have done something wrong or committed an offence and the judiciary has to look into it. There should be no doubt that we don't want to send anybody to jail with no good reason. As far as I know, there has been an investigation opened into the case. And I hope that this will come to an end and be concluded as soon as possible.

AMANPOUR: Well, she is on hunger strike now, so her health may be in jeopardy. And obviously many, many people outside of Iran are watching what happens with these young people. And as I say, no charges have been filed against Ms. Ghavami. Let me ask you about a colleague of mine, a fellow journalist, Jason Rezaian, who is also in jail. Recently his wife was released. We are very grateful for that. Jason Rezaian has had no charges put against him. We would like to know why he's in jail and will that case be expedited?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): It seems that I don't have as much information as you do, because you say that no charges have been -

AMANPOUR: Well, there's -

LARIJANI (through interpreter): - leveled against him.

AMANPOUR: - nothing public has been said.

LARIJANI (through interpreter): You're right. You know, according to the rules and the laws in Iran, the charges cannot be publicly announced before an investigation is done. Of course, laws are different in different countries. As far as I know, there are some charges against this person, but they have not yet been made public because of those laws I told you about. But this case is being processed as we speak.

AMANPOUR: I just want to tell you a story and wonder whether you might take something from this. Of course, your brother is the head of the judiciary in Iran. And we had a colleague, Maziar Bahari, who was jailed after the 2009 elections in Iran. He spent four months, 118 days, in solitary confinement. It turns out that the principle charge against him was a comedy show in the United States. He was involved in a comedy show - nothing real, but a comedy show. And therefore I wonder whether we need to explain to the judiciary in Iran that some of these things that they may think are real are not actually real so that they don't keep targeting journalists.

LARIJANI (through interpreter): These are the questions you have to put to the judiciary people because I don't really know much about these cases. Maybe there are other things involved in these cases that you don't know about. I cannot give you a straight answer right now because I am not in charge of matters like this. But let me tell you that the judiciary in Iran is totally independent and the judges have enough power and authority to judge independently. Not even the head of the judiciary can issue an order to a judge and force him to do something against his will, because this is also mentioned in the constitution.

AMANPOUR: But would you agree that these cases should be expedited?

LARIJANI (through interpreter): Definitely expediting is good. Even explaining about them as much as the law allows us. But we should not really put - force the judiciary to rush things.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, thank you very much for joining me from Geneva.

LARIJANI (through interpreter): Wish you all the best, all of you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

LARIJANI: Thank-you.


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