Return to Transcripts main page


U.S.-Iran Relations Post-Nuclear Deal; The View from Iran, Sanctions Lifted; Jason Rezaian To Be Reunited with Family; Intervening Against ISIS. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 18, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: sanctions lifted and prisoners freed as Iran comes in from the cold.

A victory for diplomacy but where does this leave regional stability? We take you to Washington, Tehran and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Plus: deradicalizing the radicalized. The young French schoolgirl groomed by ISIS and the counselor helping her and others turn their backs on that

toxic ideology.


LAURA BOUZAR, COUNSELOR (through translator): We are here them to make them doubt. We are here to make them think by themselves.



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

More has changed in U.S.-Iranian relations in the last few days than in 35 years of hostility since the Iranian Revolution. And just moments ago,

this photo has been released of one of the five American prisoners, along with his family, who were freed from Iran this weekend.

That in exchange for seven Iranians held in America for violating sanctions that now no longer exist since the West has freed up tens of billions of

dollars in frozen assets and removed those sanctions on Iran's oil and banking sectors as Iran met its obligations to put a cap on its nuclear

program, signaling implementation of that hard-won nuclear agreement.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans coming home, an Iran that has rolled back its nuclear program and accepted unprecedented

monitoring of that program, these things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom.


AMANPOUR: And calling the deal a win-win, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted, "Our friends are happy and our rivals need not worry.

We're no threat to any nation or state."

Secretary of State John Kerry has played a vital role in this long and painstaking diplomatic road, forging a good working relationship with his

fellow negotiator and counterpart, the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif.

I asked his spokesman, Admiral John Kirby in Washington, where there is still plenty of resistance in Congress, whether this is also a win-win for

the administration.

AMANPOUR: Admiral Kirby, welcome to the program.

ADM. JOHN KIRBY, USN (RET.), STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

AMANPOUR: The Iranians and the United States have termed this deal a win- win deal.

How important is this for the United States?

KIRBY: It's incredibly important, Christiane, because I think what needs to be remembered is that this deal makes the region safer. It makes the

United States safer.

It was always about preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability. It does that and we have a verification regime in place to

make sure it does that in coming years.

So it's very, very important.

AMANPOUR: What about the latest sanctions that were slapped on some Iranian individuals and companies shortly after the prisoners left Iranian


And this is about the ballistic missile test they did.

The response from Iran today has been predictably bombastic, the defense minister saying it won't have any difference and, by the way, there goes

America, showing its true face again.

KIRBY: Well, we have been nothing but truthful and candid and forthright about the fact that we're going to continue to hold Iran accountable for

their other provocative activities.

The Iran deal was negotiated separately. We have long said and long maintained tools at our disposal to deal with the other things that we know

they're doing in the region, whether it's state sponsorship of terrorists or support for groups like Hezbollah or this ballistic missile program.

So we said before that we were going to hold them accountable for that program and we're holding them to account for it.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you then, the wider picture, obviously many people are looking at this as if it's more than just a nuclear deal, that it could

herald much better relations in many other fields.

Is that the sense from the State Department?

How are you looking at this?

KIRBY: We're looking at it purely and pragmatically from a perspective of making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, a nuclear bomb. And

we believe that all the intractable problems in the Middle East are only made worse if you're dealing with an Iran that has that capability.

That said, Christiane, and we've talked about this before, if the Iran deal negotiations were to lead to a change, a productive change in behavior by

Iran and the region, well, that's a good thing. That's a benefit. And certainly we would hope to see that.


KIRBY: We haven't seen, writ large, any such change in conduct. They just conducted a ballistic missile test back in the fall. We know that they

continue to support terrorist networks.

So there hasn't been any main change in rudder here in Tehran. But if it were to come to pass, if that will be the -- to be the result, then again I

think we think that would be a good thing.

AMANPOUR: What about -- you say there has been no other changes. But there have been some very public diplomatic results over the past 24-48

hours and the past week, the prisoner swap and also the quick resolution of the sailor situation in the Persian Gulf.

This is a direct result of a person-to-person contact.

KIRBY: Right. There's no question about that and I was remiss in mentioning that in my last answer. No question that the Iran deal and

negotiations opened up channels of communication, predominantly through Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif, to try to get at other issues

in the region, not just the -- our sailors, getting them home safe and sound after less than 24 hours, obviously getting these freed Americans who

were unjustly detained in Iran, getting them back home but also in the Syria political process.

I mean, Iran is at the table in the international Syria support group. They have been in these discussions. We want them to continue to be in

these discussions. In the secretary's conversations with Foreign Minister Zarif, he has indicated their commitment to stay at that work and to try to

get at a political solution in Syria.

So there are -- there are channels now that are opened up because of the Iran deal that we didn't have before.

And as the secretary said, if our sailors, those 10 sailors, had been taken a year ago, they would still be in Iran. We would not be able to get them

out because we wouldn't have a direct way to communicate with the Iranian authorities to negotiate that release.

AMANPOUR: Describe Secretary Kerry's personal role as well as his diplomatic role.

He's obviously achieved a very productive relationship with Foreign Minister Zarif, whether it was the last-minute hiccups over Jason Rezaian

or whether his family could come with him or the wording of the text before the Geneva -- or rather the Vienna announcement over the weekend on

sanctions relief.

KIRBY: The secretary would describe his relationship with Foreign Minister Zarif as a professional one. They still don't see eye-to-eye on so many

issues, as you might expect. And it's not a relationship that is -- that is built solely on trust and good faith right now.

I mean, there's good dialogue between the two. They're both pragmatists. They both try to look at problems and try to find solutions.

But it is professional. And it has yielded results, as you've rightly pointed out, in the release of our sailors, getting these American citizens


That we have a channel of communication, that we can pick up the phone and have a conversation with a leader in Iran that can actually move the levers

of his own government, has proven useful. And we hope it will continue to prove useful going forward.

AMANPOUR: Admiral Kirby, thank you very much for joining us on this day.

KIRBY: My pleasure. Good to be with you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And now for the first reaction here on CNN from inside Iran. We turn to the influential Iranian economist, Saeed Laylaz. He's the former

adviser to the previous reform president, Khatami, and he's close to the Rouhani government. He joins me now by phone from Tehran.

Mr. Laylaz, welcome to the program.

Let me start by asking you, what is the feeling in Iran today now that these sanctions have been released?

SAEED LAYLAZ, ECONOMIST: Obviously everybody is happy and everybody is optimistic about the future because a big obstacle is removed over the

economy at the moment and the feel generally is speaking that we can have a new era, or we are starting a new era in the country about the economy,

about the international relationships and so on.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you because both sides are saying that, you know, this is just the nuclear deal. As you know the Supreme Leader of

Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, says there's no other close relations with the United States. It's just this deal.

And in the United States they are saying this is just very pragmatic.

But do you think behind the scenes there is a desire to open up further?

LAYLAZ: If you look at the whole general situation in the whole region, you can see that the cooperation between two powers in Iraq, in

Afghanistan, in Syria is inevitable day by day because we are going to have some common ground, some mutual interests between two countries. And over

these, based on this --


LAYLAZ: -- I cannot believe that only cooperation between two countries would be over on the nuclear deal. We are cooperating actually about the

security situation in the whole region. And this is only the start between two countries.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you about what everybody in Iran hopes and certainly many investors outside Iran, that this is suddenly going to, you

know, bring a whole lot more revenue and that people will immediately start to see an improvement in their situation.

Do you think that things are going to move that fast?

LAYLAZ: I don't like to exaggerate about the economic impact over the nuclear deal because nuclear sanctions has been a big obstacle over the

economy appeal.

But the engine is something else. We removed it at the moment. There is no sanction anymore. But the main problems in the economy of Iran are

still in the scene, for example, lack of good investment, lack of productivity.

And the most important thing, in my opinion, is corruption which is new in the country. But we are hopeful about the future and it seems that we can

have at least between 3 percent to 5 percent to 6 percent economic growth the next coming year, Iranian year, which is the first time after six,

seven years.

Of course, everybody is happy and believe that we can -- we can have 6 percent to 7 percent economic growth for 2017 even.

AMANPOUR: Wow, that would be -- that --

LAYLAZ: -- would be --

AMANPOUR: -- that would be -- that would be high growth, indeed, comparatively.

Now the people of Iran wanted this deal but there is still opposition in some hardline sectors.

How important is the opposition?

LAYLAZ: The opposition are going to be weaker day by day because, at the moment and as you could be able to see, especially the Supreme Leader and

the government, I mean, President Rouhani, have exactly same position about the nuclear deal and about rebuilding the economy of the country also.

Because the situation is a little -- is sensitive and hard. We are going to have between 8 million to 10 million new job seekers since coming in

five years and we have to think about this.


LAYLAZ: Because of this, the unity inside the country is spreading step by step and day by day and radicals are going out of the sea (ph). You will

see the result of this unity in the next coming Majlis and parliament election.

AMANPOUR: All right. We'll be waiting for signposts along the road.

Saeed Laylaz, thank you very much for joining me tonight from Tehran.

Now after a break, one family's euphoria after this global victory for diplomacy. Ali Rezaian speaks to me about his brother, Jason, "The

Washington Post" journalist who's been released after 545 days in an Iranian prison. Free at long last -- next.





AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Five hundred forty-five days behind bars, now he's out and undergoing medical checkups at a U.S. airbase in Germany. Journalist Jason Rezaian

had been convicted of espionage-related crimes by an Iranian court in a secretive trial that his family and his government called a sham. And

today I spoke to his brother, Ali, at the Ramstein Airbase about his health.


AMANPOUR: Ali Rezaian, welcome to the program.

ALI REZAIAN, BROTHER OF JASON REZAIAN: Thank you, Christiane, for having me on.

AMANPOUR: I mean, this just must be a fantastic day, 18 months later and shot nerves on all sides.

REZAIAN: You know, just coming down to the last minute. This is amazing. It's been -- Jason has been held four times as long as any other reporter

ever in Iran.

We never could have thought that this would have happened for such a long time. And with all the other things going on in the world, all the other

things going on in Iran, finally it happened, finally Jason is on his way home. So we're really grateful.

AMANPOUR: Now how much did you and your family know about the negotiations?

We're told in retrospect that there was about 14 months of negotiations to make this happen.

REZAIAN: So I was aware that there was some talking going on that was separate from what was going on at the nuclear negotiations and, you know,

that was information I was getting. So I knew a little bit about it but nothing in detail.

AMANPOUR: How does he feel?

How is he holding up?

What is his physical condition?

Because he does have diabetes and I know the family was all very, very concerned about how he was being treated, how he was being medicated and

fed in prison.

REZAIAN: You know, right now Jason is going through that process of working with the doctors here at Landstuhl to make sure that he gets what

he need. So I think they are working him up.

He's only been here for about 12 hours. I'm hoping I can see him soon and get that information for you. But right now, a lot of it is just about his

emotional health, his psychological health and making sure that he's ready to be successful when he comes back into the world.

He's been locked away for 18 months without information about what's going on in the world, without information about what's really happening and he's

just really, really -- has been isolated.

AMANPOUR: How difficult was it for Yeganeh, his wife, or even your mother to get permission to travel out of Iran with him?

REZAIAN: Jason's interrogators had been telling Yegi and Jason that he was not going to be able to leave at the same time so that Yegi was going to

have to stay for some period of time. But that wasn't the agreement that the government had with them.

So it was a challenge at the end. The Iranians were trying to keep Yegi from -- away from the Swiss, away from the other folks. That got solved at

the end and then my mom and Yegi were able to -- with the help of the Swiss, go back to the airport and leave with everybody else.

AMANPOUR: What about your mother?

I've interviewed her. I mean, she has been so stoic. She has been there throughout much of his ordeal. She tried to go to the courtroom each time

she heard or got wind of the fact that he might be being taken to court.

How much access did she have to him during trials, during prison?

And how is she holding up?

REZAIAN: You know, she's back here with us in the housing. I think she's just exhausted because none of them have been sleeping very much. So she's

really trying to take care of herself right now.

During the trial process, my mom had really no access to him. She wasn't allowed in the trial. She wasn't allowed into the court. She was able to

meet with the judge separately but not with Jason there.

She was able to meet with Jason almost weekly for the last three or four months. So they would have a meeting with Jason, Yegi and my mom, on

Tuesdays. So that was good.

And I think that helped Jason keep on going through the summer and get through all this stuff as they were really causing him lots of problems,

not giving information and really abusing their own judicial system such that they weren't following their rules and Jason was just in this limbo

for months and months.

AMANPOUR: Was he physically abused?

REZAIAN: You know, Jason and I haven't spoken about that. He has, in the past, always said that he was not physically harmed. But we haven't spoken

anymore about that since he's gotten out.

AMANPOUR: Can you tell me what precisely he thinks caused him to be arrested?

I mean, the official charges include espionage and he was sentenced, right, but none of us really know the details. It was all so cloak-and-dagger.

REZAIAN: Yes. You know, we know what the charges were. We don't know what --


REZAIAN: -- he was convicted of. We don't know what the purported sentence was.

But honestly, I haven't spoken to Jason about it to say, hey, you know, is there a single trigger?

At this point it's just the same conjecture as I would have had a couple days ago. I'm sure he has some opinions about that but I don't have any

more information.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, Ali Rezaian, we congratulate you and your whole family, send our best to Jason and your mother and his wife and we're

glad this story has a happy ending.

REZAIAN: I really appreciate it, Christiane. Thanks for having me on.


AMANPOUR: So a happy ending for that family and several others. And there could also be new cooperation between the U.S. and Iran on fighting global


But how will this all affect Syria, where the U.S. and Iran are on opposite sides?

After a break we look to the struggle in France as that conflict draws in a vulnerable youth. CNN's Atika Shubert has an exclusive report -- next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Today in Britain, the government launched a multimillion-dollar initiative to teach English to Muslim women here. It's in a bid to halt segregation,

isolation and the radicalization that could follow.

It's just one of many tactics used by countries struggling with radicalization. Across the channel in France, our Atika Shubert has this

exclusive report on an intervention that saved one young woman from the brainwashing of ISIS.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the midst of the Paris terror attacks in 2015, a 15-year-old girl found herself in contact with

one of the women directly involved in the attack.

"JOANNA," DERADICALIZATION PROGRAM PARTICIPANT (through translator): This woman spoke to me on social media. She wanted to go Syria with someone.

She didn't want to go alone. She was also trying to control everything I was doing.

SHUBERT (voice-over): "Joanna" -- not her real name -- is one of the youngest in France's deradicalization program. Along with mandatory

counseling, she must now report to police every day.

She and her mother allowed CNN to observe her counseling session. Both wanted to remain anonymous.

She tries to explain to her counselor the grip ISIS recruiters had.

"JOANNA": (Speaking French).

BOUZAR (through translator): It's really hard to make them doubt. Our first call is to deradicalize them by making them think for themselves.

They think they know the truth. They are paranoid. ISIS is good.


BOUZAR (through translator): We are bad. Those who are right, those who are wrong. We are here to make them doubt. We are here to make them think

by themselves.

SHUBERT (voice-over): "Joanna" was recruited entirely online, groomed by propaganda that painted ISIS as a defender of Muslims.

As a fervent convert seeking more understanding of Islam, "Joanna" was an easy target.


SHUBERT (voice-over): At first "Joanna's" mother chalked it up to teenage rebellion. But when her daughter called her an infidel she called a

national hotline to alert authorities.

"JOANNA'S" MOM (through translator): I felt really bad. I was feeling guilty. Our first reaction is to feel guilty as a mom. We try to find out

the reasons why our child suddenly changed. We think of what we could have done to prevent this from happening. We were always fighting with each


SHUBERT (voice-over): "Joanna" says the program has allowed a way for her to reconnect with her family and still maintain her faith far from the

toxic ideology of ISIS.

"JOANNA" (through translator): I took the decision not to get a new phone. It's better this way. I need to learn how to think by myself. Without a

phone and Internet, there's no one to tell me what to do anymore.

For now I don't feel like going back on social media. I'm afraid that one day I'll feel lonely and I'll fall into the trap again. I received loads

of messages from them. I was constantly in touch with them. It's my phone. It was like my baby.

SHUBERT: What advice do you have for other girls like you on how not to fall into those same traps?

"JOANNA" (through translator): You should always be careful on the Internet. Don't even go there. Don't speak with them. Don't take any

risks. For those who are already radicalized, please open your eyes to reality. Don't go Syria. It's suicide. It's death.

SHUBERT (voice-over): There are some days when Joanna is confident but she still fears a relapse. She refuses to have a smartphone and won't touch a

computer with Internet access. But it's a daily struggle, especially for a girl so young -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Paris.


AMANPOUR: An amazing story. And tomorrow on this program, more of Atika's exclusive report. She meets a young woman lured to ISIS by its false

promise and then locked away in one of their jails. How she escaped and what she does today to save other vulnerable Muslims. That's on tomorrow's


And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can now always listen to our podcast. You can see us online at and you can follow

me on Facebook and Twitter.

And we leave with you a first. The very first flower to ever bloom in space, courtesy of the U.S. astronaut, Scott Kelly, who we also interviewed

here on this show from space just last month. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.