An Exclusive Interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The president of Iran on his release of the hikers, his next nuclear plan, the Palestinian statehood vote, and more.
M.A. Yes. We don't want to produce uranium of 20 percent. Because they did not give us that uranium, we had to make our own investments. If they start to give us that uranium today, we will stop production.
L.W. You reached a deal in Geneva in 2009 and you came back here and the deal fell apart here and now people in Washington don't believe a deal is possible.
M.A. If they give us uranium grade 20 percent, we would stop production. Those negotiations took place in Vienna. Apparently they know everything. I repeat: If you give us uranium grade 20 percent now, we will stop production. Because uranium grade 20 percent can only be used for such reactors, nothing else.
L.W. Could you get an agreement here? The understanding in Washington is that there is so much disagreement among the leadership here that you couldn't come to a consensus.
M.A. Those who said that, the politicians, they are not experts. Because 3.5 percent is not that much different from uranium at 90 percent. The important thing is about the technology of enriching uranium. If you enrich uranium to 3.5 percent, you can certainly go ahead and produce 90 percent. It doesn't mean that that 20 percent is closer to 90 percent. There is no difference between 3.5 and 90 percent. Our nuclear facilities are being monitored by cameras of the IAEA. Every gram of material is being controlled and sealed.
L.W. I understand that 20 percent is much closer to 90 percent than 3.5 percent and that's why U.S. experts are worried.
M.A. We are cooperating fully with the agency but IAEA is not an independent agency.
L.W. Did your recent offer of full supervision of your nuclear program for five years in exchange for lifting sanctions include signing the additional protocol?
M.A. We do not care about the sanctions. We cooperate because we believe that all nations must have access to peaceful nuclear energy. Our cooperation is aimed at defending the rights of the nation. Otherwise these sanctions will turn into a positive energy in our country. Those who imposed the sanctions on us are now facing economic recessions. They have actually deprived themselves of our resources. In the period of free trade - what do sanctions mean? Actually they have created problems for themselves because we have a large economy. Countries who have established economic cooperation with Iran have benefited from such a relationship. But those who have not cooperated with Iran have faced losses.
L.W. In the United States and the West, nobody believes that you are producing so much enriched uranium without a facility to make fuel rods without having a weapons program. No one believes it is for peaceful energy.
M.A. I said we have already produced three tons but for Bushehr you need 30 tons. If we want to have a nuclear weapon we are not afraid of others; we will publicly announce it. Why should we be afraid of others? When we say we are not going to build nuclear weapons, we mean it. Because we consider it an evil thing and we do not need those items.
L.W. You are building enrichment facilities here.
M.A. Power stations are for generating electricity, not for an atomic bomb.
L.W. Arak is not for generating electricity, is it?
M.A. Missiles are used for launching satellites.
L.W. And they can also be used for launching nuclear warheads.
M.A. For example, with a knife you can cut food--you can also kill people with it. Can we say that knives should not be made or bought? Can you say anything about the history of friendship between Iran and the United States? Can you name a period the two countries were friends? Never. The U.S. supported a dictatorship for a long period. They supported the former shah against the Iranian nation. After the collapse of the former regime, they continued to act against us. They were always against us.
L.W. Do you see some way for the United States and Iran to collaborate over the Taliban or Afghanistan? Do you see an area of the world where our two countries could work together?
M.A. Yes, we can cooperate in many areas. We can have cooperation for the Afghan stability and security. We can cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking and fight against terrorism. There are many areas in which we can cooperate, but the United States has maintained the same style of policies against us.
L.W. Why do you insist on constantly denouncing Israel and make such provocative statements if you want to work with the West?
M.A. If somebody condemns aggression, occupation--is that bad? And the Zionist regime is always doing the same thing. They destroy people's homes and raze them to the ground. They have created a few major wars. They continue to assassinate and terrorize people; they continue their policy of coercion against other nations including Iran. I think an important question that must be answered is why do all U.S. administrations always support the Zionist regime? The United States is 10,000 kilometers away from Palestine and other nations in the region are against the Zionists but the United States and its allies in Europe continue to support the Zionist regime. Why? What is the relationship between these two countries? The United States has a population of 300 million and the whole population is going to be sacrificed for the interests of a few hundred Zionists. A dreadful party, a feared party, the party that was behind the First World War and the Second World War. Whenever there is a conflict or war--this party is behind it. The same party that made a grim picture of the United States in the world.
Are the 300 million in the United States Zionists? Have you ever had a referendum in the United States that the people support the Zionist regime? Never. I think you should have a referendum in the United States to see if the people want to use their resources and taxes for a number of killers. We are against killing and massacres. We are against occupation.
L.W. How do you feel about the upcoming debate at the UN over the creation of the Palestinian state? Do you favor the creation of the Palestinian state?
M.A. I hope that will happen very soon and that can be the beginning point. That should be the beginning of the liberation of the entire Palestinian land. The Palestinian nation existed before the Palestinian had unwanted guests pour into Palestine with guns.
L.W. I know you have talked about the Arab Spring as the "Islamic Awakening." Do you believe this move for democratic reform will come to Iran?
M.A. Do you believe this is the Arab Spring? Who is using this terminology?
Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor of the Washington Post.