the british prime minister, borisjohnson, has insisted he will fight any challenge to his leadership of the conservative party. he's been under mounting pressure over social gatherings involving his staff during lockdowns. an inquiry is due to report next week. president biden has said he thinks russia will invade ukraine, but has warned that the united states will impose severe costs and significant harm on moscow in response. moscow has about 100,000 troops on the ukrainian border but denies it's planning an invasion. the first flights carrying aid to tonga following saturday's volcanic eruption and tsunami have taken off from new zealand and australia. the new zealand air force hercules landed at the same —— tongan airport. the runway had to be cleared of large
quantities of volcanic ash. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. time is running out for negotiators trying to break the impasse between the united states and iran and revive the deal curbing tehran�*s nuclear ambitions. iran is still enriching uranium. the biden administration is talking of giving up on the current diplomatic track. my guest is an adviser to iran's negotiators in vienna, mohammad marandi. if a nuclear deal can't be done, how real is the danger of a catastrophic war in the middle east?
mohammad marandi in vienna, welcome to hardtalk. thank you for having me. it's a pleasure to have you on the show. now, you are in the austrian capital with the iranian negotiating team, us negotiators are there too, but it does look as though efforts to revive the international deal on your country's nuclear programme are running out of road. why is that? the americans are dragging theirfeet, and so are the europeans. they left the deal. from the very beginning, they violated the deal, then they left and tore up the deal. they imposed maximum pressure sanctions on citizens in iran, killing people — intentionally — and that's basically waging war by other means. and now the iranians want the sanctions removed, and in orderfor the deal
to work, the other side has to accept removing sanctions. they can't have their cake and eat it, too. so what we're seeing is that the americans and the europeans are resisting. they want to keep sanctions in place, they don't want the proper verification mechanism and they don't want to give proper guarantees to the iranians. and that's simply not acceptable. let's talk about the sanctions. your contention — you've just given it to me — is that "the sanctions are killing people". and yet elsewhere, i've seen you quoted as saying, "you know what? we don't really care about these sanctions — cos even if the americans continue to impose them, we will survive. life will continue in iran." so which is it? are they desperately affecting your country or not? no, that is actually a misrepresentation, an intentional misrepresentation of what i said by pro—western iranian media.
and i should point out that we have a very large pro—western media in iran, even though they're the minority in iran, but they have a loud voice. unlike in western countries — where people like myself have been removed from facebook, removed from instagram, iranian tv is sanctioned, so western audiences cannot hear iranian voices — western voices can be heard loud and clear in tehran. what i said was that the united states has imposed maximum pressure sanctions and threatening iran when they've imposed already all that they can impose. trump, if he could have hurt ordinary iranians more than he did, he would have done so. so, basically, what i'm saying is that they are hurting iran as much as possible, so they should stop threatening iran. they know they cannot do more, so they should be serious, sit at the negotiating table and accept the nuclear
deal as it was written, thejcpoa in 2015. if they want iran to go back to 2015, they have to come back with iran too. they can't keep sanctions that were imposed after 2015, and they cannot have a verification process for iran yet have no verification process for their actions. they say that you must accept the rules as they were in 2015. they say that, right now, iran is demanding guarantees that if a new deal or a revived deal is agreed upon, that it has to be forever. and that, of course, is not realistic under the american political system because no president can guarantee that a future administration would stick to the deal. that's precisely why trump reversed course after 0bama had signed the deal. you can't expect the americans to deliver you something that is simply impossible.
stephen, when the sanctions were imposed under 0bama, and they were also maximum pressure sanctions, targeting women and children, it was a means of war. ultimately, when the united states was forced to accept iran's right to enrich uranium, the iranians came to the negotiating table with the americans and the p5+1. an agreement was signed, good or bad. in that agreement, iran agreed to do a number of things, and they did them. the international atomic energy agency verified every act of iran and verified that iran was in complete compliance of its obligations, whereas the united states from day one, from day one under 0bama, began violating the deal. on paper, the united states was supposed to allow the iranian banking sector to reconnect to the international banking system. but what we saw in reality was that 0bama told his treasury to threaten banks, to threaten financial
institutions, to threaten shipping companies and insurance companies not to work with iran. that was a clear violation of the deal. so it wasn't iran that was violating the deal. they are in no position to complain about iran's actions. and then when trump came, he simply tore up the deal, and the europeans... please, if you would, just address my specific point. are you prepared to accept that if a deal is signed, if you and the americans can find common ground, you will have to live with the fact that it can't be defined as a forever treaty? it is going to be a deal which exists as long as the will is there in the american political system to keep to the deal. you can't have a guarantee. the american system will not deliver. stephen, that's not even the only problem. the americans want to keep many of the sanctions right now. they don't want to give up the sanctions. guarantees aside — that's something they can negotiate — how about verification?
the americans and the europeans will say on paper, "we've removed the sanctions." but when the banking sector, when the insurance companies, when the shipping companies don't work with iran because, behind closed doors, they're telling them something else, then what does iran do? 0k, you've made the point. but in essence, what you're saying is you do not have one shred of faith or trust in what the americans are bringing to the table. and i think it's also true to point out that you on the iranian side refuse to talk face—to—face with the americans anyway. it all has to be done through third parties. so if that's the case, i'm just wondering why you're bothering wasting your time and everybody else�*s by going through this charade in vienna. without a shred of trust or good faith, it's a waste of time. well, first of all, the iranians negotiated extensively with the united states, and then we had thejcpoa, the nuclear deal. and what happened?
the americans violated the deal under 0bama. under trump, they tore up the deal. under biden, they continue to implement trump's policies. so if the americans want to talk to the iranians, first, the americans have to go and implement what they agreed to do when they negotiated with the iranians previously. the iranian leader ayatollah khamenei said around the time when the nuclear deal was being negotiated that if the americans implement the nuclear deal in good faith, and the europeans by extension, then we can think about discussing other issues. but the americans and the europeans never did that at all under 0bama. forget trump. but trust cuts both ways, professor marandi. there is a trust problem in the united states precisely because they see what iran has been doing since 2018, in terms of ramping up the uranium enrichment programme, and you've gone far beyond even your previous capability of enriching to 20%. you've now got systems in place which allow you substantial
enrichment capacity, all the way up to 60%. why on earth are you doing that? why shouldn't iran do that? iran has every right to do so within the framework of international law... i'll tell you why, i'll tell you why. because it's quite simple. because you say your nuclear programme is completely civilian—oriented — it's all about developing your power infrastructure — you simply don't need to enrich uranium to that level to have the power capacity you want. it's quite clear, and i think you know this as well as i, that iran has expanded its peaceful nuclear programme because the only way to force the americans and the europeans to abide by their commitments is for the iranians to gain leverage. you know this as well as i — the americans and the europeans are brutal. the sanctions that they impose on ordinary women and children
are crimes against humanity. these are people that have no sense of morality, just like what we saw what they did to venezuela, and your government steals venezuelan gold, or the destruction of libya or yemen. iran looks around and sees what's going on, the destruction of syria through a dirty war. the iranians need to protect themselves. so the iranians, therefore... so the iranians, therefore, they have to use leverage to force the americans and the europeans... well, look, you call it leverage. many people watching and listening to this might call it a threat. what you seem to be saying is, "we're going to enrich uranium, develop our capacity to 60%, and — who knows — maybe beyond it, to the 95% you need to develop a nuclear weapon, simply as a threat to hang over the united states and its allies, to tell them that if they don't do what we want in tehran, we will pursue a nuclear weapon." is that what you mean by leverage? stephen, you know as well as
i that if iran wanted to pursue a nuclear weapon, iran would have had it many years ago. the only countries that have gone beyond threatening are western countries. they've tried to crush iranian society through sanctions, just like what they're doing in afghanistan, just like what they're doing in a host of other countries. they're trying to crush women and children through sanctions. so these are not threats. these are actions by western regimes that try to gain leverage through the suffering of ordinary people. the iranians are quite willing to go back to the nuclear deal, but the other side has to come back with iran as well. iran won't appease the europeans. right, but this is where it gets complicated, because you've been very candid with me about what iran is up to right now and the degree to which you are seeking leverage. and the fact is that between 2018 and now, you have acquired a whole host of new capacity in your uranium enrichment facilities. as i understand it from the latest iaea report, you now have a stockpile of uranium enriched to 60% that's at least 17 kilograms —
might be significantly more. you now have 400 installed so—called ir—6 centrifuges, which are all about this maximum enrichment capacity. so things have changed since 2018. if you are going back to seek a deal with the united states, are you saying to the americans, "we will hand over all of this 60% enriched uranium? we won't keep it, we'll give it up. we'll also give up the capacity, the scientific knowledge and also the equipment that we've acquired in the last three years." is that what you're saying? look, stephen, you're speaking from a very eurocentric position. i find it very disturbing when i speak here... and the only thing that cannot go back is for us to go back and have the women and children who died as a result
of the sanctions be revived. we can't bring them back to life. and they're much more important than anything that the europeans and the americans want from iran. and it's absolutely disgusting that western countries would do this to ordinary iranians... but, professor marandi... you make that point with passion and with power, but you're not addressing my question. if there is to be a deal, there has to be some compromise. and, of course, i'll be quizzing us officials about the compromises they're prepared to make, but i'm quizzing you about the compromises iran is prepared to make. and my question directly to you is, "what are you going to do with all of this 60% enriched uranium if you're to do a deal with the international community and, in particular, the americans?" stephen, that's for the negotiators to talk about, but the iranians are willing to go back to 2015. it's the other side that is not willing to go
back to the 2015 deal. the iranians are willing to do everything that it was supposed to do when thejcpoa was signed, and it did that, and it did so back then. it would be also good to remind your viewers that when the united states violated the deal under 0bama, the iranians continued to abide by their commitments. when the united states and the europeans violated all of their commitments under trump and the united states tore up the deal, the iranians continued to abide by all of their commitments. for a full year, iran was the only side abiding by its commitments, and then only after that, in five stages, which took a year itself — a second year — did the iranians gradually decrease their commitments to put pressure on the europeans to do something about these violations. yeah, i think we've gone through the detail and i'm not sensing much movement, and it's fair to say that there isn't much apparent movement in the us position or in the iranian position. do you accept that 2022
could be an extremely dangerous year in the middle east because the americans are convinced you are now, in the words of antony blinken, are convinced you are now, in the words of anthony blinken, the secretary of state, "a very, very short time away from iran getting enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon." and we know the israelis are watching this very closely. and their prime minister, naftali bennett, has reserved the right quite explicitly to not be bound by anything that comes out of the talks in vienna. he says, "we are not and will not be a party to any agreement." so there could be this long—dreaded conflict in 2022 over your nuclear programme, couldn't there? well, we know about western conflicts and how they destroy country after country. but iran is not iraq. iran is not even vietnam. iran and its allies in this region are far more powerful than anything the americans have confronted before. the israeli regime is too puny and small to do anything
significant to iran, and if it attacks iran, the retaliation will be something disproportionate and crushing. so i don't think the israelis would be that foolish. but the americans know quite well that if they attack iran, all those bases in the region and all those countries that are hosting those bases will pay a heavy price and it will bring about the destruction of the global economy. so there is a balance of terror here, and the iranians don't believe that the united states will be foolish enough to engage in war. so the smart thing is for the americans to negotiate. the smart thing is for... the iranians have already compromised. thejcpoa was the compromise. and as we speak, the iranians are willing — more than willing — to go back to the compromise because the iranians want the sanctions that are targeting women and children to end, but the europeans and the americans are behaving just like trump did.
the biden regime and european regimes are behaving exactly like trump, even though they pretend to be otherwise. but if i may say so, the problem with all the rhetoric you're giving me is that you're making it harder and harderforjoe biden to actually develop a different strategy toward iran. when you talk of bringing down a reign of violence on us targets across the middle east — and, of course, we know your relationship with hezbollah, with militias in iraq and, of course, with the houthis in yemen — you're going to make it impossible for biden to do a deal with iran. stephen, you were the one who was talking about war and violence and "israel is not waiting for anyone." the iranians are not going to initiate any conflict. the iranians have been... your government supported saddam hussein. your government gave saddam hussein chemical weapons — your government, western governments — to use against our country. i survived two chemical attacks.
many of my friends didn't. iran never retaliated with chemical weapons. that's the difference between us and your governments. 0ur government does not initiate conflict. all right, to be clear — cos, again, ijust want to try to be as specific and as brief as i can be — you're saying that, right now, tehran sees no difference between the biden administration and its strategy toward your country and that of donald trump? let's look at the evidence. the biden administration is using maximum pressure sanctions, the same sanctions that trump was using. why is he doing that? to get concessions from iran. that's exactly what trump wanted. trump imposed this array of sanctions under different labels called the "maximum pressure" campaign in order to force iran to change thejcpoa. that is exactly what biden is doing. otherwise, the deal is very clearfor all sides. the europeans know... all right. but it's not all about the nuclear deal anyway, is it,
when it comes to sanctions? you might wish it to pin it all on that deal, but actually some of the us sanctions, very significant sanctions, are connected to iran's human rights abuses and other abuses, not actually specifically to the nuclear programme. when the world looks at what iran is doing, in terms of its political prisoners and, in particular, its treatment of foreign nationals inside your country, it doesn't see a tehran government which appears to want to improve its human rights record. please, let's not talk about human rights. 0therwise, we'll have to talk about assange and solitary confinement and many other people. let's not talk about human rights when your government, and western governments, in the united states are imposing maximum pressure on ordinary women and children, killing people. let's not talk about human rights when afghanistan, iraq, lebanon, syria, yemen, libya, venezuela, cuba are all suffering
under western sanctions. there's nothing that the west can talk about when it comes to human rights. they are the enemy of human rights when it comes to our region and other parts of the world. what is important... what is important, though, is that all of these sanctions that were imposed under the trump regime, whatever the labels, they were explicitly, they were explicit, the trump regime, about using these sanctions under different labels to force iran to renegotiate thejcpoa. that is appeasement, and the iranians will not have that. so the intention of all these sanctions was to get concessions from iran. iran won't accept that. if the europeans and americans want, or if they're serious about the deal, they cannot continue to hold the throat of ordinary iranians and expect iran to go back to 2015. we both go to 2015 or
no—one goes to 2015. i take it from that answer, then, you're not even interested in discussing the plight of nazanin zaghari—ratcliffe, the british citizen who is still facing detention in iran? she's been in detention since 2016 under the notion that she was plotting to topple the iranian government, a charge which she and herfamily say is utterly ridiculous. you've also, i notice, put back in detention a french national, fariba adelkhah — again, under charges which the french government described as ridiculous. it looks to the outside world as though you're doing this simply because you're not getting what you want from the international community. is that it? well, western countries are not the international community. that era has finished. western countries are a handful of countries and their clout is decreasing. you should go and ask your prime minister, who, at the time when he was
the foreign secretary, went to parliament and said that she violated iranian laws. so he said that... no, he didn't actually say that. yes, he did. he didn't say she had violated any iranian law. he didn't say that. but i do find what you've just said interesting, in the sense... ..behaving illegally... well, let's not... let's not misquote. let's not misquote anybody. but let us also stick to the point you just made about iran not really caring very much about "the western powers" any more. is that because you've made a strategic decision to put all of your faith in, for example, a 25—year—long economic agreement you've just signed with china? you're looking eastward and you think, do you, that you can survive without the dollar economy, without the us lifting its sanctions? i just wonder whether this faith you have — you can outlast the american pressure on your country — whether it's justified.
well, i think what is not justified is the americans trying to strangle ordinary people. that's what's notjustified. that's sickening and ugly. and the iranians will look everywhere for cooperation. the americans, if they don't... if the europeans and the americans don't want to abide by their commitments in thejcpoa, should the iranians just sit there? the iranians will improve their relationship with the global south, they'll improve their relationship with neighbouring countries and they'll improve their relationship with those countries that don't want ordinary iranians to suffer. so if you don't want iran to have greater relations with the chinese, if you don't want iran to improve their relations with the russians, then start behaving normally, start behaving like normal countries, instead of being exceptional and calling your countries "the international community" and expecting iran to abide by its commitments whereas your countries do not have to abide by theirs. the greatest human rights violation, stephen, is making
ordinary people suffer, and that is what western governments do. mohammad marandi, sadly, we're out of time, but i thank you very much indeed forjoining me from vienna. thank you for having me. hello there. we've got a much colder day of weather coming up today. it was yesterday that we had a cold front bring a bit of patchy rain southwards. as that cleared, we had a fine end to the day in hampshire — a lovely sunset here. for northern scotland, though, it was quite a turbulent day. gusty winds, and those winds have been bringing in some snow
showers to shetland, we've seen some in 0rkney and, more recently, across the north of the mainland as well. that will leave a risk of some icy patches here as we get into the first part of thursday morning with the frost otherwise pretty widespread. for many of us, though, the skies will be clear. now, any showers in northern scotland very quickly will lose their wintriness and turn back to rain. some very slightly less cold air works in here. and for most of the uk, although a cold and frosty start, there will be sunshine pretty much from dawn till dusk. it's going to be a lovely, if somewhat chilly, winter's day. now, there will be some showers coming down the north sea. they'll be affecting eastern parts of scotland. and with the winds blowing more or less parallel to the eastern coasts of england, most of the showers will stay offshore. the greatest risk of a shower will be across norfolk. you might see one or two coming into the north york moors as well. another cold night to come on thursday night — if anything, even colder across parts of england and wales, plumbing the depths. temperatures could get down to about —5, —6 degrees in the coldest spots but it will be turning milder in the north—west —
that's because we've got some thicker cloud here. that'll probably give us quite a nice sunrise for some but the best of the sunshine through the day will be across eastern wales, central and eastern england, eastern scotland, probably eastern counties of northern ireland, whereas in the west, you're likely to see some of the higher temperatures but you will also see the thickest of the cloud, perhaps with some mist and fog patches developing around the coasts and the hills at times. little overall change, really, into the weekend. high pressure stays firmly with us — the same one that's been with us for ages now — and for the most part, that will keep weather fronts at bay — this one just skirting into northern scotland but it will be a weak affair. so, for saturday, mist and fog and some frost patches around first thing in the morning. again, it's western areas that will keep the thickest cloud. and here's our weak weather front, bringing a little bit of light rain or drizzle — no great amounts. for the western isles and the highlands, temperatures could reach double figures here but otherwise, still quite chilly across the south—east — 5 or 6 celsius here. and, to be honest, looking at the long—range forecast through the rest of the week and most of next week, the weatherjust stays dry, thanks to that same area
this is bbc news, with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. britain's prime minister boris johnson says he will challenge any fight to his leadership, as the row surrounding parties in downing street during lockdown continues. president biden warns vladimir putin that the us will do significant harm to russia if he decides to invade ukraine. the first plane load of aid has landed in tonga on a runway newly cleared of ash following saturday's volcanic eruption and tsunami. fading fast — that's the view from scientists in south africa where the 0micron variant was first discoved eight weeks ago.