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Gap in Iran talks bridgeable, says veteran American diplomat

November 21st, 2014
05:48 PM ET

By Henry Hullah, CNN

Failing to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program would create a very difficult situation for the United States, former U.S. diplomat Frank Wisner told Christiane Amanpour Thursday, but remained optimistic that the gaps could be bridged.

"Both sides are negotiating very seriously, The negotiators are extremely skillful; they've made progress on a number of vitally important points, so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed because the alternative is very difficult for all of us."

A seasoned negotiator, Wisner has been engaging with Iranians on what's called "Track Two" diplomacy in the latest attempts to broker a deal on sanctions and Iran’s nuclear capability.

Many have argued that no deal is better than anything but a very good deal; the Israeli Intelligence Minister told Amanpour that failure to reach a deal would be preferable to many alternatives.

“There is enormous value in keeping up the momentum and seeing if we can get a deal," Wisner said. "If we don't get a deal we have to be concerned about the effects.”

“We would lose the ability to follow Iran's nuclear preparations. The IAEA would be less engaged.”

"We would have to worry as well about what would come apart between us and Iran. If there was no trust resulting from an agreement, that would affect vital American interests throughout the Middle East, where there is, for the moment, a coincidence of views between ourselves and Iran."

"Third, if we walked away from the deal... it's going to be increasingly difficult to maintain the sanctions regimes."

There are high stakes for the negotiators sitting at the table, but Wisner seemed positive that a successful deal between world powers and Iran would be worth the strenuous efforts of the negotiators on both sides.

"It would deal with one of the most vexing issues in the global non-proliferation issue, we'd be able to say a nuclear threat has been managed. That's important."

“I think equally the region would benefit enormously from the de-escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran, given the coincidence of interests in seeing a stable Afghanistan, a recovering Iraq, a defeated ISIS, a peaceful way out of the Syrian crisis.”

"All of these issues would be reinforced if there was an agreement on the nuclear question."

Amanpour asked what the United States and Iran could do halt ISIS's march across the region.

“These are brutal people in a very brutal cause and they must be defeated. It's interesting that we and Iran have exactly the same objective.

“But it's going to take more than just the United States and Iran, but a coalition of regional powers the Saudis the Jordanians, the Turks, together with ourselves and Iran, have to contain the ISIS threat and then build up strength inside of Iraq to defeat it on the battlefield.”

"I'd like to think that there is a gap that could be bridged”

Throughout the interview the former diplomat remained optimistic about the pivotal deal being hammered out. As the Monday deadline approaches, Christiane Amanpour asked if this deal could break from the tradition of previous unsuccessful negotiations that have gone down to the last minute.

“I believe it's possible, I believe substantial progress has been made on issues of great importance; the facilities in Fordow, Arak. I also believe there has even been progress on the tricky issue of enrichment and the number of centrifuges.”

“There remains a gap on the question of sanctions, that appears to be the case too but I'd like to think that there is a gap that could be bridged and it's worth putting everything in to it."

Do the Iranians want to see a deal as much as the United States?

“Iran would like to see a deal - there isn’t any doubt in my mind.”​

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iran • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics
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