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Top Iranian diplomat discusses future of nuclear deal; Director Rob Reiner on his new movie, "Shock and Awe". Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired June 7, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, is the Iran Nuclear Deal finally on the verge of collapse as Europe and the United States square off
over sanctions and Iran threatens to restart its nuclear activities. From London, my conversation with the top Iranian diplomat and ambassador to the
UK, Hamid Baeidinejad.
Plus, from New York, the blockbuster movie director Rob Reiner joins me on his new political thriller, "Shock and Awe", exposing the truth and the
lies that led America into the Iraq War.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The Iran Nuclear Deal is in serious trouble. America's closest allies in Europe are throwing a Hail Mary pass to save it, pleading with the Trump
administration to respect their sovereignty and quit threatening their own European companies that are trying to do business in Iran.
When the president defied the global consensus and withdrew America from the deal last month, Europe immediately said that it would abide by it for
their own safety and security and, of course, in the absence of any alternative.
And now, in a public letter addressed to the US treasury secretary and secretary of state, top EU, British, French and German ministers write, "As
allies, we expect that the United States will refrain from taking action to harm Europe's security interest. US secondary sanctions could prevent the
European Union from continuing meaningful sanctions relief to Iran."
And now, Iran is rattling Europe by threatening to step up its own uranium enrichment.
Hamid Baeidinejad is Iran's ambassador to the UK and he joins me now. And welcome back to the program.
We spoke a few weeks ago when all this happened, when the US pulled itself out of the deal. So, are we correct? Is the deal on the verge of
HAMID BAEIDINEJAD, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UK: Not yet, but it could be. We are trying hard - everybody, Iran and the partners - to see how we can
salvage the deal.
So, we are in a very hectic situation because the United States has threatened everybody that not only United States would be complying with
obligations, but threatening others that they should not be in a position to work with Iran in reaching very clearly the terms of the deal.
And now, it depends on other partners to decide on their policies that how they can be assuring Iran that JCPOA could be fully implemented.
AMANPOUR: So, you had a meeting in Tehran today I understand, right?
BAEIDINEJAD: Yes. There has been a meeting in Tehran at the level of experts to explore ways and means to get some assurances that JCPOA could
be completely implemented.
AMANPOUR: And so, this is with all these signatories to the deal except, obviously, for US officials?
BAEIDINEJAD: Of course, yes.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you make of that letter? I mean, that is quite an interesting development, to publicly write a letter to the US officials and
say for their own national security and sovereignty that the United States needs to stop threatening their companies?
BAEIDINEJAD: You mean our letter or theirs?
AMANPOUR: No, actually, the European letter that I just quoted, yes.
BAEIDINEJAD: Exactly. That's a very, I mean, serious situation for Europe because they are right to say that the European companies entered to
working with Iran after the JCPOA and they were very legitimate to do that because JCPOA was implemented and they were right to enter into agreement
with Iran to work on different fields - economic fields and industrial and everything.
Now, they are threatened that they should leave Iran. And that is a very serious situation.
AMANPOUR: Well, we have a list. We've compiled a graphic and we're going to put it up. I mean, it's quite a long list of companies, all of whom
came to do business with you, who are either leaving or planning to leave Iran in the not-too-distant future because of these threats by the US.
How bad is that for, A, your economy, but also how much time you give Europe to stop this exodus before you say, well, this deal is dead?
BAEIDINEJAD: The reality is that we should be clearing our position rather soon because situation is very hectic. And as you said, the European
companies are distressed about the situation, so they want to make decisions for themselves. So, we really hope that we can find a solution.
[13:05:17] And in this context the letter that has been signed by the European ministers is important because they want to show the Americans
that it's a very serious issue for the credibility of the European governments in front of their nationals and their companies. They want to
be sure that what they have done that they should be punished about this.
So, I assume that this would be a very important issue in front of the summit in Canada.
AMANPOUR: In Canada, which is - yes. It looks like it's going to be pretty - I mean, it does seem to be interesting that the Europeans are
really going to bat for this deal.
I mean, they have said both the French president and the German chancellor that they won't sign the declaration, the traditional end of summit
declaration, unless there is progress on a number of issues - tariffs, the climate deal, but also the Iran nuclear deal.
They really do seem to be doing all that they can. The question is, does Iran have faith that they can achieve what they've promised to do?
BAEIDINEJAD: We know that there are limitations. We're cognizant about this, but we are also pragmatic. We want to know what in practice they can
We know that they are very determined to do that, but in reality we need some assurances that they can guarantee their companies to continue to work
with Iran. So, we are looking at practical solutions and not only the policies.
So, when we see that practical solutions are on the ground, then we can assess that how much seriously can give assurances to the European
companies to continue working with the Iran.
AMANPOUR: So, here's what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said about this very issue. And I'll get your reaction afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, anytime sanctions are put in place, countries have to give up economic activity. So, the Americans have
given up economic activity now for an awfully long time.
And I'll concede there are American companies who would love to do business with the Islamic Republic of Iran. There is a huge market there. It's a
big vibrant, wonderful peoples, but everyone is going to have to participate in this. Every country is going to have to understand that we
cannot continue to create wealth for Qasem Soleimani.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he made it very personal. He used the name of the leader of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
I wonder - well, I mean, you've seen that, what's your reaction to it?
BAEIDINEJAD: Christiane, I think that the US officials are very illusioned about the role of the US and the important role of the US at the
international politics. We know that the US is a very powerful country, enough resources and military power.
But the question is that now we are in a situation that there are other important players at international level. We have Russia. We have China.
We have Europe. We have even regional powers who are very active on their fields.
But the question is that Pompeo, I think, is very illusioned about how the country are prepared to take the orders from Washington. That's not the
The reality is that the countries want to have an international relations based on law. And what the United States is saying is completely against
international law because they are abrogating UN Security Council resolution. So -
AMANPOUR: The Iran deal was enshrined by the -
BAEIDINEJAD: Exactly. So, in reality, if we would have a base rule international law, now the United States should be in front of the Security
Council, condemned by the Security Council, punished by the Security Council, sanctioned by the Security Council, but we know that the reality
is something else.
But the question is that countries do not take instructions and orders from the United States.
AMANPOUR: Right. But as I said, companies are. They are worried about the consequences for their US business and they are speaking with their
feet and with their dollars and they're leaving Iran or planning to leave Iran. So, they are.
The other question is, why would you at this moment, why would the Supreme Leader, why would your officials further rattle Europe by saying that
you're going to go back to status quo ante or that you're going to increase uranium enrichment? Why would you say that now? Why would you do that
BAEIDINEJAD: Because time is very important. Now we should be very clear that time is limited and we should make proper decisions. And we are also
waiting to see what are the final decisions in Europe.
[13:10:14] Of course, at this moment, we are using our right under the NPT and also within the parameters of the JCPOA, we are not going beyond JCPOA.
Everything which is done is within the JCPOA parameters.
But, Christiane, one important element is that not all companies are at the same level. You know that there are some multinational companies, in fact,
who are particularly exposed to the US market and US financial system, but not all the European or Asian or whatever companies are very concerned
about US policies.
This has been an experience that we had before. Before the JCPOA, we were under the international sanctions and US sanctions, EU sanctions, but even
at that time we were able to work with a number of European countries, a number of Asian companies and a number of important companies.
So, the door would not be closed for working with Iran. We know that there would be some companies who have particular interest in the US market.
They would be a little bit more concerned, but there are other possibilities.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, now to broaden it out, you obviously know because it's been said by just everybody or the US that obviously they want a new deal.
They want an add-on deal. They wanted to include your activities in Syria, in Yemen with Hezbollah. They wanted to include missiles. They wanted to
include all the stuff that they don't like what Iran is doing.
This, however, is what the Supreme Leader said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AYATOLLAH SEYYED ALI KHAMENEI, IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER (through translator): Some Europeans are talking about Iran coping with the sanctions and
limiting our defensive missile program, which is essential for the future of the country. I am telling these governments, this is a dream that will
never come true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, is he just ruling out any negotiation over any of these other issues that trouble even your European allies, much less the
president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel.
I mean, everybody thinks that there should be further negotiations on some of this other behavior.
BAEIDINEJAD: Exactly on this point, now it's more than clear that United States has deceived the international community for more than a year
because they were telling everybody that we want to complement the JCPOA, we want to add some more elements or clarify some more elements.
But now, as you know, when the United States withdrew from the deal they mentioned very clearly that Iran should stop enriching uranium.
That made clear that, in fact, they - in more than a year, they were trying to deceive international community by saying that the US position was to
include something more -
AMANPOUR: Which is not the position or the requirement under the JCPOA?
BAEIDINEJAD: Yes, because JCPOA -
AMANPOUR: Limits, but doesn't stop.
BAEIDINEJAD: Exactly. This is the foundation of the JCPOA that Iran can have an enrichment program, but now they are more blunt to say that, in
fact, we want Iran to stop the enrichment.
I vividly remember that first meeting that we were - we went to Muscat and Bill Burns was the head of the US delegation at the time.
The first question that we put to the US is that are you able to accept that we would have an enrichment program or not. If not, there is no point
to have any negotiations.
Now, after this long time, now after more than a year in Trump administration, they are saying that Iran should stop enrichment. That is
completely against the foundation of the JCPOA.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's very clear indeed. Ambassador Baeidinejad, thank you so much indeed for coming in.
BAEIDINEJAD: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, Iran was the biggest winner out of the US decision to invade Iraq, backing the Shiite majority and gaining outsized political
influence after the US took out Saddam Hussein.
It's one of the great ironies of George W. Bush's massive campaign to launch that war. And how Bush sold the war and how the American press
played along is at the heart of a new film. It's called "Shock and Awe" and it's directed by and starring Rob Reiner.
The movie focuses on some extraordinary journalists from one of America's least known newsrooms, the Knight Ridder team that got it right in the run
up to the Iraq War. Take a look at this snippet.
(SHOCK AND AWE TRAILER PLAYS)
[13:15:14] AMANPOUR: It is the story of a few good men standing up to the presidency and some sectors of the press. "A Few Good Men", by the way, is
yet another great Rob Reiner film.
A Reiner, of course, stands at the very heart of American culture, starring in the highly influential TV comedy "All In The Family" in the 1970,
directing an array of seminal movies including "Stand By Me", "When Harry Met Sally" and, of course, "This Is Spinal Tap".
Rob Reiner joins me now from New York. Rob Reiner, welcome to the program.
ROB REINER, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR, "SHOCK AND AWE": Thank you. Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: What was it that inspired about these intrepid reporters and that intrepid newsroom.
REINER: It's interesting. But I was of draft age during the Vietnam War. And as we approached the invasion of Iraq, I just couldn't wrap my mind
around the fact that, in my lifetime, we were going to war a second time based on lies.
And we have a line in the film where I say, it's like watching your child run into the street and you're being helpless in saving them before they
get hit by the truck, and that's the way I felt about it in seeing us go to war.
And I wanted to make a film about this for the last many, many years. And I didn't quite know how to approach it and how to tell the story.
And initially, I thought maybe I'd do it as a satire. I've done some satires in the past and I thought maybe it'd be like "Doctor Strangelove"
or something like that.
And then, I saw this documentary by Bill Moyers. And he interviewed these four journalists, these journalists who got it right, four guys from Knight
Ridder News. And I said, ah, that's my way into the story.
AMANPOUR: I knew Jonathan Landay, and still do, from the Yugoslav wars, the Bosnia War. And we were very, very conscious of what they were doing
in this case and pushing back.
And I think we were all - certainly, some of us at CNN were horrified at the lack of rigorous questioning of the Bush administration and the sort of
march to war and we called - I did anyway - Fox News the foot soldiers of the Bush administration in that regard.
And it was very controversial. And here you are now doing a film about it. And I say all this to set up a clip because you play John Walcott, the
Knight Ridder Washington bureau chief. You manage these intrepid newsmen.
And you're giving them a pep talk in this clip when they were quite demoralized about the spin that was coming out of Washington and all the
rest of the mainstream media. Let's just play this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINER: If every other news organization wants to be stenographers for the Bush administration, let them. We don't write for people who send other
people's kids to war. We write for people whose kids get sent to war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That is really profound and that is really what it's all about, whose kids get sent to war.
REINER: Well, we start the film with a quote from Bill Moyers, who was a very famous journalist and a press secretary to Lyndon Johnson, where he
talks about a free and independent press and the need for a free and independent press if we are going to have a democracy. It is one of the
pillars of democracy.
And here we are at a time when the president of the United States is calling the press the enemy of the people, saying it's fake news and the
job of the press is always - and there's a quote in that same speech which is, by the way, John Walcott actually said those things to his reporters in
He said, and I think the most important line in the film is, "When the government says something, you as reporters only have one question to ask -
is it true?" And that really is where we are now.
The press is under attack like never before. You've got a presidency that is essentially backed up by a big swath of media, which you could arguably
call state-run media with Fox and Sinclair and Breitbart and Alex Jones and so on.
It's even more difficult now for the press to break through with the truth. So, it's more important now than ever for mainstream journalism to really
initiate and activate the real principles of journalism to hold power accountable.
[13:20:07] AMANPOUR: Let me get to the film again because we talked about your character John Walcott. You weren't your original first choice for
that part. It was Alec Baldwin. And for whatever reason and I don't know why he left the film.
Were you pleased with the fact that it fell to you in the end? I mean, how did it turn out?
REINER: Well, I mean, Alec Baldwin left two days before he was supposed to shoot and we had already shot a week of the film with Woody Harrelson and
Tommy Lee Jones. Everybody had shot.
And so, I didn't know what to do. And my wife, Michelle, who has produced the film with me, she said, well, why don't you do it. And I thought, oh,
my God, I don't really like directing and acting. But I said, OK, I'll do it. I work cheap, so I would do it.
And she gave me one direction because John Walcott, who I'm playing, she says to me, just try to make it less Jewish. And so, that was her
directing to me and I don't know how successful I was.
AMANPOUR: Anyway, you did a great job. So, again, I know Jonathan Landay. And in fact, on this program, a few years ago, I actually interviewed him
and Walter Strobel, who are the main journalists who you profile, and you actually put a little clip in your film. And I want to play it because it
goes to the heart of what they did different from what all the other bigger fish, bigger journalistic fish did during the Iraq war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN STROBEL, FORMER MCCLATCHY JOURNALIST: There is a problem in the journalism in the Washington which is access. And "The New York Times" and
others had access to the top officials who were spinning this line.
We talk to these people as well, but most of our reporting, Christiane, was with intelligence, military and diplomatic mid-level -
AMANPOUR: Lower level.
STROBEL: The types who journalists normally don't talk to or go after.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, there are the two real journalists talking to me about how they did their craft. And it sounds basic, but so few of them actually did
that. They stood out for doing that.
REINER: Yes. And most journalists are looking for access. They want access to the upper echelon. And John Walcott has said that your sources,
the value of your sources are directly proportional to the level.
He says if you want to know what's going on in a war, don't go to the headquarters and talk to the top generals, talk to the staff sergeants,
talk to the lieutenants on the ground and they'll give you the truth.
That's what these guys did. They went and talked to people who were patriots, who were willing to talk and tell the truth.
AMANPOUR: And just an interesting fact because, obviously, you are very partisan, if I could put it that way. I mean, you fight for liberal
But you just set up a whole new sort of committee, a new sort of endeavor along with some very prominent Republicans like David Frum, who was George
W. Bush's speechwriter, whose "Axis of Evil" speech was one of the lines that sort of justified the war. At least it was used by the war's backers.
What are you doing and how does he like this film?
REINER: Well, he hasn't seen it yet, but I think he will like it. I have found myself in the last year-and-a-half becoming very good friends with
For the first time, you're seeing the really principled Republicans and Democrats coming together because this idea of whether or not we preserve
democracy, that cuts across party lines. That's not about whether or not you agree with lower taxes or less government or greater social programs.
This is about whether or not this 241-year experiment in self-rule survives. So, I find a lot of principled Republicans that I've become very
close friends with.
AMANPOUR: Finally, just to go back to the early days where it all started for you as an actor, how tired or not do you get of hearing Donald Trump
compared and likened to Archie Bunker?
REINER: Well, you know something? Here's the thing. It's exhausting. I mean, in the case of "All In The Family", it was a fiction. We were making
fun of a racist, a bigoted man.
Now, we have a racist in the White House and spreading - giving free rein to people who believe in that way of thinking, giving them a platform.
And very depressing for those of us who care about this country to see it co-opted by somebody who has racist views, misogynistic views, xenophobic
views. It's very disturbing and very hardening.
[13:25:00] And I don't - it's not funny. It's not funny. At least in "All In The Family" we're getting laughs and making fun of this. This isn't
funny as much as we have John Oliver and Bill Maher and people out there doing that for us.
The reality is we've got this guy in the White House and some horrible things are happening in this country.
AMANPOUR: I just want to put a little button on it just to see your reaction to what Steve Bannon - one could call him the ideologue behind the
Trump administration. He played a very, very significant role.
And he's been asked these very issues too. Why - when they're accused of being racist and all that, he said Donald Trump is not racist. Look at the
African-American population in the United States, their unemployment level has gone down since he's become president.
How do you parse that?
REINER: Yes. What does that have to do with Donald Trump. That has nothing to do with Donald Trump. The unemployment rate has been going down
for the last almost ten years after Barack Obama took office.
I mean, that's a crazy thing. I mean, for him to say, here is my African- American over here or to refer to certain countries in Africa and around the world as s-hole countries and so on.
This is ridiculous. I mean, there is good people on both sides in Charlottesville. These are racist thoughts. These are racist ideas. So,
please. I mean, that's a ridiculous argument.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Rob Reiner, director of "Shock and Awe", actor in "Shock and Awe", thank you so much for joining us.
REINER: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And the film is out next month.
That is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.