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The New Brinksmanship: Iran's Nuclear Threat

Iran's attempts to restart its nuclear program in defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency is a game of nuclear chicken, says Joseph Cirincione, the director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Other segments from the episode on February 8, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 8, 2006: Interview with Joseph Cirincione; Review of the soul music album "Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label."


DATE February 8, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Joseph Cirincione discusses nuclear issues in Iran,
Iraq and terrorism

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

A game of nuclear chicken. That's how my guest Joseph Cirincione describes
the relationship between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the
IAEA. We asked him to explain the situation and what the consequences might
be. Cirincione is the director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace. He's the co-author of "Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear,
Biological and Chemical Threats," and he's completing a book about nuclear
weapons in the 21st century.

Over the weekend, the 35-nation board of the IAEA approved a resolution to
report Iran to the UN Security Council in one month's time if Iran continues
to defy the agency. Iran has refused to comply with the agency's demands to
close its uranium enrichment plant. Enriched uranium could be used to produce
electricity or to build a nuclear weapon. In response to the resolution, Iran
has ended voluntary cooperation with the agency, will no longer allow
inspections and has said it will resume its nuclear operations. Iran's top
nuclear negotiator has said nobody would dare to attack Iran. All the experts
say there is a minimal possibility for this option. Is he right?

Mr. JOSEPH CIRINCIONE (Director for Non-Proliferation, Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace): Yes. And the military option is very unattractive. I
mean, it's always there. Of course, we could hit a site. Many of the sites
are hardened, the centrifuge experimental site at Natanz, for example, is
deeply buried underground, very hard to take out with a bomb. There are many
sites that would be a big target set, but some of them are exposed. My target
of choice would be the uranium conversion plant at Isfahan. I actually
visited that plant in March of 2005. It's above ground, exposed, it has
anti-aircraft batteries there. But it's nothing we couldn't handle. You
could take that out, and it would be a chokepoint. You would knock out Iran's
ability to turn uranium into gas. That's the necessary step they need to make
the gas that they then put in in centrifuges.

But the problem is what happens next. What does Iran do then? And there are
a half dozen really terrible possibilities, including a military reaction,
perhaps a military reaction by proxy. The Shia-based militia in Iraq could
start attacking US forces in Iraq. The Shia-dominated government of Iraq
could decide, `That's it.' They'll just ask the US to leave. There could be
an oil embargo where Iran would turn off the taps. That would send oil
spiking to $100 a barrel, gas to $5 a gallon. The international economy would
be reeling. And here's the worst part. The strike wouldn't actually stop the
program. It would probably accelerate it. All bets would be off. Iran would
go pedal to the metal. All those in Iran who said, `See? We need a nuclear
bomb to stop the US from attacking us,' would be proven right. And you could
probably have a bomb in Iran in a shorter amount of time than is otherwise the

GROSS: OK, so you're arguing that the military option wouldn't be very
effective, and I think you're also arguing that nobody's really seriously
considering it. But Senator McCain has said, there's only one worse than the
US exercising the military option, and that's a nuclear-armed Iran. So are
there people in the American government who are seriously considering a
military option now?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, no official has said that. The closest you get is the
kinds of statements you hear from political leaders. I take this as partly
posturing. You know, you want to show you're strong. You want to show you're
tough. And you also get it from the media, both media like Fox News, which
loves to present all this as a crisis, as an imminent threat. Or even the
Washington Post, who in their editorial over the weekend on Sunday talked
about an alliance without muscle, that the diplomatic group of countries that
passed this resolution needs to back it up with military force. And you get
this from neoconservatives in the country for whom the military option is
always the option of choice, and they don't really believe, have any faith in
the multilateral institutions. So it becomes more of a political or a sort of
a commercial issue in this country. But I don't get any sense whatsoever from
anyone in the leadership of the White House or the Congress that this is
seriously being considered. It's more of a posture than a policy.

GROSS: How has our use of the military option in Iraq affected how political
leaders are thinking now about the possibilities of the military in Iran?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: The war in Iraq has handcuffed the US with Iran. Ironically
by invading a country that didn't have nuclear weapons, we put ourselves in a
more difficult position to deal with a country that's trying to get them. We
have a big credibility gap. For example, when the US officials talk about
Iranian weapons programs, it sounds a lot like what we're saying about Iraq,
so nobody takes our word for this anymore. When we say that we want to bring
Iran before the Security Council, a number of countries are very worried that
we're pulling the Iraq gambit again, and they don't want to be part of this
trap. They don't want to have the US use the United Nations as a staging
ground for another military adventure, even a limited strike. It also puts a
lot of assets on the ground that are now possibly threatened by Iranian
actions. We have troops that are in very vulnerable positions in Iraq. It's
bad enough they're being attacked by the Sunni insurgents. If we were to
actually take military action against Iran, there could be a Shia uprising
against us. And that would jeopardize the entire, already fragile position of
the US in Iraq. So it weakens us in all those ways.

GROSS: The Iranian government spokesperson said, `We're in a position of
power when it comes to energy.' And you said that sanctions would hurt the
consumer, not the producers. Referring there to the fact that Iran has a lot
of oil. So how much credibility does he have when he says Iran is in a
position of power when it comes to energy?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: He has a lot of credibility. The Russian negotiator said
something similar. When it comes to sanctions, he said, it's hard to say who
would be sanctioning who. No one in the US is talking about the kind of
blanket sanctions that would get countries to stop buying Iranian oil. We
don't buy any oil from Iran. The US doesn't. But, of course, oil is
fungible. Somebody else is buying it, and as long as they're buying it, that
frees up other supplies, etc. If Iran were to cut it off, if they would have
turned their taps off, even for a month, that would have a serious impact on
global economies. China's, India's, the customers of Iran, key to getting the
diplomatic alliance that's now put a noose around Iran. The Western economies
would immediately take a hit. It's a real problem. That's why your ability
to affect Iranian behavior is actually quite limited.

GROSS: Yes. So what are our options? You say that nobody's really seriously
considering a military option. Sanctions can actually hurt the world oil
situation. So, you know, what's left?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, the administration's actually approaching this very
well, I think. They're playing our weak hand very cleverly, and they've
preceded step by step to unite all those countries that can be united, as the
Chinese used to say. And they've learned the lesson from the Iraq war. This
is not something that a coalition of the willing can solve, that you can't get
the US and the UK and Poland to solve this problem. You need Russia, you need
China, you need India. These countries have to agree to diplomatically
isolate Iran. That already has an impact. They do not want to be brought to
the Security Council. This is a humiliation for the Iranians.

And behind this strategy is one that focuses all our actions on isolating the
Iranian government, in fact, isolating the particular faction of the Iranian
government, the one headed by President Ahmadinejad, and showing that his
policies, his rhetoric will make this situation worse for Iran. And the hope
is that this will open up fissures within the Iranian elite, and you already
see some evidence of this.

Over the weekend, the man that Ahmadinejad beat in the election for president
of Iran, Mr. Rafsanjani, was quoted as being critical of Ahmadinejad's
policy, saying, `That this is backfiring on us, that we had to go back to the
policies' he was promoting a couple of years ago that were engagement with the
West, negotiations with the West, etc. Remember, this is a very unpopular
regime inside Iran. This is the only issue Ahmadinejad has working for him.
The economy's not performing well. His Islamic policies, for example, trying
to ban Western music, are backfiring. The entire theocratic rule is very
unpopular inside Iran. The Iranian population is basically pro-Western,
pro-American. So this whole issue is the only thing he has going for him. He
has used it very well. He's stirred up nationalism, he has rallies of tens of
thousands of Iranians seeing him as a defender of Iranian rights, but should
this backfire, should it be seen as the whole world against Iran and not just
the Western imperialists or the US colonialists, then he could lose support
very rapidly.

So the strategy's got to be to isolate him diplomatically. And the next step
of this is going to be a series of resolutions at the United Nations leading
possibly to targeted sanctions, to sanctions directed at the Iranian
leadership that would restrict their travel, seize their assets. Again hit
them but don't hit the Iranian population. In that way, you might head off
any move by Iran to actually cut off the oil supplies.

GROSS: So what has the US strategy been to get Russia and China to come on
board on trying to pressure Iran?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Patience and compromise. That is, they let the negotiations
with European Union run their course. The US softened its rhetoric over the
last year. They let the Europeans take the lead. They encouraged Russia to
get involved. Russia's got a side track to all of this where they're trying
to convince Iran to compromise and a compromise that would let the Iranian
nuclear power program go ahead, build the reactors, etc. Russia's building
the Bushehr reactor, for example. But do all the enrichment of the uranium,
that dangerous part of the fuel cycle where you can enrich uranium either for
fuel rods or bombs, do all that outside Iran in Russia itself.

And then you've built up support at the IEA board of governors, in part, and
one of the things that's changed a bit is the director general of the IEA,
Mohamed ElBaradei's become much more hard hitting in his report, and his
report played a crucial role in getting the vote this weekend. And then the
rhetoric of the Iranian government has backfired on it. Many countries now
see Ahmadinejad as a dangerous demagogue, someone who can't be trusted,
someone who's talking about throwing Israel into the sea and the Holocaust is
a myth. This has really set back the Iranian diplomatic effort. All these
things have come together to help forge this coalition of now 27 of the 35
nations at the board of governors voting to report Iran to the Security

GROSS: My guest is Joseph Cirincione, director of nonproliferation at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Joseph Cirincione, and he's the director for
nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The resolution that the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy
Agency came up with has a clause in it that reads that a solution to the
Iranian nuclear issue will contribute to a goal of a Middle East free of all
weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. This is actually a
very controversial clause. Why is it controversial?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: This was actually part of the compromise that was reached
over Friday and Saturday. It wasn't in the original European and US proposal
but some of the other countries spoke heavily in favor of it, particularly the
Arab countries in the region, particularly Egypt who wanted this. Frankly, it
should have been part of the US proposal all along. This is US policy. We're
in favor of this. Israel itself has said, yes, they're in favor of this in
the long run. But for many countries, they want to make sure that this whole
problem isn't seen as just a problem of Iran, that this is a Middle East
problem, that you have an unstable situation in the Middle East. And they're
right. You can't have a region where there's only one nuclear power, right
now Israel. Historically, that leads either to many nuclear nations or no
nuclear nations. And they want to emphasize the no nuclear nations.

And the compromises worked out was very clever. It avoided the linkage the US
didn't want to have linkage, in this phrase such that Iran ending the program
would be linked to Israel giving up its nuclear weapons. But if they wanted
to link it the other way around, that Iran's giving up its program could be
seen as a step towards actually restarting negotiations regionally that could
convince Israel to take some steps that could lead, ultimately, to no one in
the Middle East having nuclear weapons. So I think the resolution's a good
thing. It built support for the overall effort and, in fact, is the way to

GROSS: Does this clause about the goal of a nuclear-free Middle East, does
that clause put any immediate pressure on Israel to abandon nuclear weapons?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Not in itself, but it could lead to a process where Iran
comes back to the table and starts talking about this. The director general
of the IAEA Mohamed ElBaradei actually was in Jerusalem last year and got
Ariel Sharon to reassert Israel's support for a Middle East free of nuclear
weapons. He's been trying to get this process going again, and if the US
would have backed this, you could see the beginning of a forum in the region
that discussed nuclear weapons or some have suggested that it should be a more
cooperative security forum where all the countries get together to solve the
whole complex of issues just the way we set up such a system in Europe.

GROSS: So how come the US is allowed to have nuclear weapons, then?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, we're not actually allowed to have them. The
nonproliferation treaty that was negotiated during the '60s went into force in
1970 when Richard M. Nixon signed it, says that the countries with nuclear
weapons will engage in good faith negotiations to reduce and eliminate their
arsenal. It doesn't allow us to actually have them. It recognizes that at
the time there were five countries that had them, and these five countries
would then eventually reduce it, and in exchange, the other countries of the
world would sign up and pledge never to acquire nuclear weapons.

That treaty's worked remarkably well. In the first 20 years of the nuclear
age, we went from one country, the US, to five by the mid-1960s that had
nuclear weapons. Since that time, since the signing of the NPT, only three
other countries have actually acquired nuclear weapons: Israel, India and
Pakistan. And North Korea's knocking at the door. They have enough material
for weapons. They may have actually built a few. Iran is the only other case
where we have a country we suspect is using a peaceful program, a program for
nuclear energy, to acquire the technologies for nuclear weapons. Although
they're still a good five or 10 years away from either.

That's a pretty good record. It's not perfect. It's eight or nine countries
too many, but it's not a bad deal. The danger is that unless those countries
that have the weapons, including us--we have 10,000 nuclear weapons. We've
cut our arsenal in half in the last 15 years, but to the rest of the world,
10,000 is still a lot of weapons. And if we keep insisting that these are
necessary for our security, it's natural that other countries are going to
say, `Well, why aren't they necessary for our security,' including Iran, a
country, remember, that's actually been attacked by chemical weapons. So you
can't maintain this double standard forever. You're going to go one way or
the other. Either everyone walks down that nuclear road together, shedding
excess Cold War arsenals, convincing other countries not to acquire nuclear
weapons, or you're going to end up in a world where the NPT collapses, where
one region and perhaps several regions break out in their own mini arms races,
their own nuclear competition, and you end up in the nightmare world that John
F. Kennedy tried to warn us about, a world where there are 15, 20 or 25
nuclear nations. That's a recipe for nuclear war. That's why you want to
avoid having Iran break out at this point.

GROSS: We're talking about Iran and its nuclear program and the response of
the International Atomic Energy Agency. If Iran did develop a nuclear weapon,
then Israel would likely be the country most threatened. The president of
Iran has already said he thinks Israel should be wiped off the map. Israel
bombed an Iraqi reactor in the early '80s to prevent the further development
of an Iraq nuclear weapons program. Do you think Israel is contemplating a
similar military reaction in Iran?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: I think some in Israel are contemplating that. It'd be very
difficult for Israel to actually carry out such a raid. They'd be stretched
militarily to do it. It's a long way to go, Israel to Iran. If they flew
over Iraqi territory that the US controls, it would immediately involve the
United States. It'd be a very large target set they'd have to go after, so it
would be a big raid. I think that Israel and Israel's leaders are talking
tough on this issue as a political move. They want to get the US to solve
this problem one way or the other. I seriously doubt whether Israel would
launch an attack at this point.

GROSS: How far is the Iranian nuclear weapons program? What do we know about

Mr. CIRINCIONE: We actually know a great deal about this program, more than
we ever knew about Iraq's program, more than we know about North Korea's
program, actually. We've had inspectors there for three years. They've been
asking lots of questions, have been to lots of sites. Haven't gotten all the
answers, haven't been allowed to visit some of the sites. But Iran's
program's basically at a beginning level. That is, they've acquired illegally
the technologies to build centrifuges. They got that through the AQ Khan
network running out of Pakistan. And they've acquired some of the ability to
turn their uranium, which they have in mines in Iran, into uranium gas,
uranium hexafluoride it's called. But they haven't perfected either the
centrifuge technique or the uranium conversion technique. That is the gas
that they've been trying to make now since the 1990s is still too impure to
use in the centrifuges. It's got too many heavy metals still in that gas.

We know that because the IAEA has gone and sampled the gas, something you
couldn't detect by the CIA or the spy satellites. You have to have inspectors
on the ground to do that. The centrifuges are still just a test centrifuge.
They have 164 set up at their facility at Natanz. They haven't gotten them to
work properly. In order to enrich uranium, you need thousands of centrifuges.
Can they build them? Can they get all this to work? Yes, but it takes years.
We know this because that's what it takes other countries to do. And we know
the wealth of state of the Iranian engineering ability. So that's why the US
intelligence agencies officially estimate in the latest national intelligence
estimate that Iran cannot build a nuclear bomb until some time in the next
decade, assuming that today they decide to go all-out.

GROSS: My guest is Joseph Cirincione, director of nonproliferation at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, AQ Khan's nuclear black market, what Iran bought and what
terrorists may have purchased. We continue our conversation with Joseph
Cirincione, and rock historian Ed Ward looks at the Miami soul scene of the
'60s and '70s.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Joseph Cirincione, the
director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace. He's the co-author of "Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and
Chemical Threats." We're talking about Iran, which has refused to comply with
the International Atomic Energy Agency's demand to close its uranium
enrichment plant. The agency has given Iran one month to comply or be
reported to the UN Security Council. The International Atomic Energy Agency
has gotten a lot of documents from Iran during this process of trying to
negotiate with Iran about its weapons program. And some of the new documents
that the IAEA got have to do with how Iran got technology and information from
the AQ Khan black market. And AQ Khan is considered the father of the
Pakistani bomb, and he had run this black market for nuclear design and

What exactly do we know now that Iran got from AQ Khan, and how did they get

Mr. CIRINCIONE: They got just about everything. AQ Khan ran a, you know,
top to bottom, 24-7, call 1 (800) AQ Khan nuclear operation. And just,
really, if it wasn't for Pakistan, there wouldn't be an Iranian nuclear
program. They got the schematics, the designs, for making these centrifuges,
the essential machine you need to enrich uranium. They got the parts for the
centrifuge. They got complete centrifuges. They got technical assistance to
assemble these centrifuges. They also--we now know, also got some specific
weapons-related technology and information from AQ Khan, and this is the
crucial part. Because even though Iran conducted all these activities in
secret, their story line is that this was all related to a peaceful nuclear
program, that they did violate their treaty obligations by not disclosing
these activities, but none of these, they say, were weapons-related.

Well, we know have some evidence, and this was just released in the latest
report, that they got, they say in the '90s, but it might have been earlier,
drawings dated from the late 1980s that included information on how to turn
uranium into a metal and how to shape and form that uranium into hemispheric
shapes. That has nothing to do with nuclear power. They don't make fuel rods
out of uranium metal. The only thing you make out of uranium metal is a
nuclear weapon.

And so this disclosure has really put Iran on the hot seat. There's other
indications that some of the research is related to nuclear weapons, and I
suspect that they certainly have done this kind of work. But this is the most
conclusive evidence so far. It's not proof, but it really shows that they've
been getting a lot more from AQ Khan network than they've let on. And we
still don't know the full story.

GROSS: Well, the fact that Iran has been so enabled nuclearly by the AQ Khan
black market network leads to another really frightening subject, which is the
possibility of a terrorist nuclear weapons. You know, certainly, don't you
think there must be terrorist groups that have bought things from AQ Khan,

Mr. CIRINCIONE: We don't know. It's certainly possible. He was selling it
to anybody. We know he sold materials to Libya, and Libya's turned them all
over now. So we have very good record from there. Iran, we've now got a lot
of disclosures from that. We suspect North Korea--apparently, Pakistani
officials have told us this, that they sold it. But there's another country
we know, and people suspect it might be Saudi Arabia that was also involved in
some of these trades. And we have no information whatsoever on terrorist
groups. It's quite possible that a bomb design, for example, which AQ Khan is
known to have supplied Libya was also supplied to a terrorist group.

GROSS: In terms of the things that you lie awake worrying about, how many
points does terrorist nuclear device get and how many points does Iran get?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: The terrorist threat is right up there at the top. That is
the most serious danger we're facing. And here's why. If Iran actually gets
a nuclear weapon, say things go horribly wrong over the next five to 10 years
and they get a nuclear weapon or even seem to be racing towards a nuclear
weapon, the danger is not that they're going to attack us or Israel with that
bomb. No. Deterrence is alive and well. They understand what would happen
next. This would be regime suicide. Even a conventional counterattack would
devastate the country, knock off the regime. The danger is rather what other
countries in the region do? What does Saudi Arabia do? A country that has
financed the Pakistan nuclear program. What does Egypt do? A country that
used to have a nuclear program, gave it up voluntarily in the '60s. Or
Turkey? Or even the government of Iraq? What happens is the danger that
there'd be this nuclear reaction chain that would quickly go from one nuclear
power in the Middle East to two, three or four. That's the danger you worry
about. But the terrorist threat, while a low-risk threat, a terrorist can't
build their own nuclear bomb from scratch, but they could steal one. They
could steal the material there, the uranium or the plutonium for a bomb. And
then probably assemble it, particularly if they've just bought the design from
AQ Khan. That is more of a danger because it's very hard to deter terrorists.
If al-Qaeda had a nuclear weapon, they would probably use it. They don't have
territory or a national future to defend. In a desperate situation, they
could use it or threaten to use it, using a nuclear blackmail: `The US should
pull out of the Middle East or else we'll blow up New York.' That kind of

And that is the worst nuclear nightmare out there. Fortunately, we have some
programs in place that can prevent terrorists from getting these materials.
We know where most of the material in the world is. We have programs in place
that are trying to secure it and eliminate it. The problem is it's not a high
priority. We're moving along at a snail's pace on this effort. The programs
won't be able to secure the materials in the states of the former Soviet
Union, for example, for another 20 or 30 years. And right now, the way the
current administration sees it, the Iran case and before that the Iraq case is
more of a priority because it overlaps with other agendas. And because of
that, a much greater focus gets put on this country threat than on the more
serious threat, the threat that a terrorist could get a bomb or that Osama bin
Laden could get a bomb and use it against us.

GROSS: Do you think that the chaos in Iraq now is affecting the nuclear
future? Is it affecting terrorist groups getting access to nuclear weapons,
technology? Is it affecting anything on the nuclear front?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Without a doubt. The war in Iraq has made the terrorism
problem worse. This is actually the official US government position.
Director of the CIA, Porter Goss, testified last year before the Senate that
the terrorism problem has grown worse because of the war in Iraq. It had
opened up a whole country that was not a terrorist threat before the war, and
it's allowed it to become a staging area and training ground for al-Qaeda
terrorists. Now most of the insurgents in Iraq are not Islamic
fundamentalists terrorist, but there is, according to our official estimate
and outside experts tend to agree, maybe 5 percent of the activity is being
conducted by al-Qaeda. Maybe 1,000, up to 6,000 al-Qaeda-type terrorists.
And they're training, they're growing there. But more importantly,
al-Qaedaism, the ideology, has spread like wildfire through the Muslim world
as a result of the war in Iraq. So you have recruits streaming in. You have
people protecting al-Qaeda operatives. Osama bin Laden still hasn't been
caught, you know, hiding out, getting sanctuary in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
And as this global struggle sort of intensifies, you increase the possibility
that these groups will be able to recruit insiders. Maybe Chechens, maybe
Pakistanis. People who already have access to materials. My top threat is
not frankly Iran. The country I consider the most dangerous country in the
world right now is Pakistan because there you have this volatile mix of a
country with nuclear weapons, enough material for 30 or 50 nuclear weapons, a
relatively unstable government, a strong Islamic fundamentalist movement in
the country and armed Islamic fundamentalist groups, perhaps Osama bin Laden
himself. That's a recipe for disaster. If something should happen to
President Musharraf, and there've been several assassination attempts in the
last two years, who gets the weapons? Who gets the scientists? Who gets the
materials? You could go from a US ally to your worst nightmare overnight.
That's why you can't just try to focus all your energies on this crisis of the
moment. You have to have a systematic approach that deals with all the
nuclear dangers at the same time. We can do this kind of thing. We're just

GROSS: You're saying that Pakistan is your biggest nuclear nightmare, and as
you've pointed out right now, Pakistan is our ally. So, you know, what could
we possibly do now to make Pakistan less likely to be the cause of the spread
of nuclear weapons or, you know, worst-case scenario, nuclear weapons in the
hands of terrorists?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, in all these areas, we're doing some of the things
already. For example, we're encouraging India and Pakistan to improve their
relations and establish the kind of confidence-building measures that the
United States and Russia built up over the years of the Cold War.
Pakistan-Indian relations are better than ever. That reduces the chance that
one of those countries is going to feel the need to actually start deploying
the weapons. It increases confidence in the two countries' activities so no
one misinterprets an action by one of the other countries.

We are quietly talking with Pakistan and helping them develop mechanisms for
better securing their nuclear materials. But we could be doing a lot more.
We could be spending a lot more time on the south Asia problem. And instead
of, unfortunately, as the president has done, encouraging India's nuclear
program by announcing a plan to drop all our nuclear trade restrictions that
we've had on India for the last 30 years and actually start selling them
sensitive nuclear technology, we could be doing the opposite. We could be
trying to work with India and Pakistan to get both of them to draw down their
nuclear arsenals to pull back from the nuclear brink and establishing programs
to better secure the arsenals within Pakistan, in particular, and pressuring
Musharraf to help us get a real hold of the AQ Khan network. We still don't
know if this network has been fully disassembled. AQ Khan and his cohorts are
still living in luxury in Islamabad and other cities in Pakistan.

There's a whole host of things you could move more aggressively on but we're
not because, basically, of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We feel we need
Pakistan to be our ally. It's the historic mistake we've always made.
There's always been some other strategic purpose we thought was more important
than containing Pakistan's nuclear programs. So we allowed it to go. It
also, unfortunately, fits into the current view of how you deal with

The administration believes there's sort of, you know, good proliferation and
bad proliferation. So it's OK that India has nuclear weapons. It's Iran that
we have to stop. It's OK that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. It's North Korea
that we have to stop. But by trying to pick these good guys and bad guys, you
overlook the basic fact that history, good guys and bad guys keep changing.
Iran used to be a good guy. He was our policeman in the Middle East. We sold
the shah of Iran their first nuclear reactor. We and some of the same
officials that are in power today, Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney,
Paul Wolfowitz just left the administration, but in the 1970s, they were part
of the Ford administration that encouraged the shah of Iran to go ahead on the
nuclear program even though we knew he secretly was doing research on nuclear
weapons. We empowered this whole effort. And by the way, the Iranians
remember this, even if most Americans don't.

GROSS: My guest is Joseph Cirincione, director of nonproliferation at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Joseph Cirincione. He's
director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. If Iran continues
to defy the International Atomic Energy Agency and continues to pursue its
nuclear program, does that jeopardize the whole future of the nonproliferation
treaty and does that kind of undermine the chances for controlling nuclear
weapons in other countries in the future?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Yes. Absolutely. If Iran is allowed to get away with this,
if they're allowed to have--now we know, violate their treaty obligations,
failing to disclose their activities, perhaps probably secretly pursuing a
nuclear bomb program, not just a peaceful program, and it undermines
confidence in all the treaties in all the regimes, stirs up fears in the
countries around Iran and could be the event, the straw that breaks the
nonproliferation treaty regime's back and could lead to people losing
confidence in this entire international system of treaties, restraints,
inspections that we've painstakingly assembled over the last 40 years.

GROSS: We're just about out of time. I'm wondering if you can give us some
advice about what we should be looking for in the news in the next few weeks,
at least try to read between the lines in the developing story on Iran and its
nuclear strategy.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: The thing to keep in mind is that no country has ever been
coerced into giving up a nuclear program. But lots of countries have been
convinced to do so. This has got to be a decision that the Iranian government
itself makes, the way Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus,
Kazakhstan, all those countries. Libya most recently decided to abandon
nuclear programs, in some cases, stockpiles of nuclear weapons. What you want
to look for is evidence that Iran is feeling the heat, that the whole
international alliance is holding strong, that Russia and China are holding
strong. That you want to look for fissures within Iran, other statements by
Khatami or in the Iranian parliament that there's disagreement with President
Ahmadinejad's policies. You want to look at interviews that are being done
with Iranians on the street who are strongly in favor of a nuclear power
program but are not in favor of a nuclear weapons program, at least not at
this point. And you want to see if a compromise can be reached with Iran that
would allow the power program to go forward but allow, at least a temporary
measure, all the enrichment activity to continue to take place in Russia.

Those are the kind of signs you're looking for. It's going to play out over
three or four months. There's not an imminent military threat. Iran is not
going to break out with a nuclear bomb. But you do have this imminent sort of
diplomatic crisis. Can the UN Security Council hold together? Can the
leading nations, the permanent members of the Security Council maintain their
unity? If the US plays this well, you should be seeing a series of
resolutions coming out of the Security Council, carefully calibrated to keep
everyone together, to keep the pressure on Iran, contain the program as long
as possible and allow political developments in Iran to convince that
government that its future is better served with a truly peaceful nuclear
program than it is by trying to pursue a nuclear weapons program.

GROSS: Do you think that there are any carrots we could be offering Iran?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Right now, we have a pretty good combination of carrots and
sticks on the table. And there's a lot that Iran can gain by agreeing to give
up its program including the trade and cooperation agreement with Europe which
is worth billions of dollars. But the real carrots it needs are ones we
haven't yet offered. The kind of offer we made to North Korea, the United
States should now be making to Iran. That is, explicitly telling them that if
this nuclear program issue is resolved, then the US could move towards
restoring full diplomatic relations to Iran and reaching a security agreement
with Iran so that we would no longer threaten the Iranian government or have
as our goal the removal of the Iranian government. The other carrot is to
give the Iranians a way out, to make them see this process, their concession
if you will, as part of an effort that would lead to a Middle East free of
nuclear weapons, that you make them sort of part of the solution and not just
part of the problem.

All successful negotiations have to end with both sides being able to leave
the table and declare a victory. You've got to give the Iranians a way to do
what you want them to do but save some face in the process.

GROSS: Joseph Cirincione, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: My pleasure. Thank you very much for having me, Terry.

GROSS: Joseph Cirincione is the director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.

Coming up, rock historian Ed Ward on Miami's soul scene of the '60s and '70s.
This is FRESH AIR.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: Rock historian Ed Ward looks back on the soul scene in
Miami, reviewing "Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label"

There's been a soul scene in Miami for years. Sam and Dave began there in the
mid-60s and the '70s saw Betty Wright, Little Beaver and George and Gwen
McRae, among others, on the charts. A new release on Numero Group records
fills in the gaps between these periods, music which came out on the Lloyd and
Deep City labels. Rock historian Ed Ward has the review of "Eccentric Soul:
The Deep City Label."

(Soundbite of "Willing and Able")

Ms. HELENE SMITH: (Singing) "Darling, I'm willing to forget about our past.
Darling, I'm able to make our love last. I'm a one-man woman, and I'm willing
and able to belong. Oh, yes. I am. Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Mr. ED WARD: Being in a band is fun. And the bonds they create can be
lasting, even if the band has 200 members like Florida A&M University's
Incomparable Marching 100. It was there that Willie Clarke, Johnnie Pearsall
and Arnold Albury hooked up. They were all studying education and on their
ways to becoming schoolteachers in Miami, but they were also young guys, and
they appreciated Miami's night life. Clarke played drums, Albury played all
kinds of stuff, and both of them hung out in the clubs until sunrise on
weekends playing jam sessions, meeting other musicians and generally having a
good time. Pearsall wasn't a musician, but he was still into music. So he
borrowed some money from his mother and opened Johnnie's Records in Miami's
Liberty City neighborhood. To run the place while he wasn't there, he hired a
young woman named Helene Smith. Meanwhile Willie Clarke had met a singer
named Clarence Reid who convinced him and Albury to buy a piano so they could
write songs together. In the middle of 1964, they took Helene Smith into a
studio and produced a single.

(Soundbite of "You Got To Do Your Share")

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) "You got to do your share, baby. You got to do your
share, baby. You got to do your share, baby. Make a good thing last. Now,
you got to do your part, baby. You got to do your part right now. You got to
do your part, baby. Make this good thing last. I'll climb the highest

Mr. WARD: Both "You Got To Do Your Share" and "Willing and Able" were
Reid-Clarke compositions. And the record sold well enough throughout Florida
that they were able to fund another record by Reid's group, the Del Mires' "I
Refused To Give Up," which was immediately picked up by the Dial label in
Nashville, who signed Reid as a solo artist. Not that his business partners
minded. The Del Mires had another vocalist, Paul Kelly, who sounded just as

(Soundbite of "The Upset")

Mr. PAUL KELLY: (Singing) "My friends say my chances of being with you, they
say that I can never win your love from him. I know the odds are against it
10 to one. And they practically knew it would be a lot of fun. But let me
tell you what I want them to do. Watch me pull an upset in the very first
round, baby. I got to pull an upset."

Mr. WARD: "The Upset" was inspired by Cassius Clay's knocking out Sonny
Liston. And although it didn't sell all that well, Dial Records signed Kelly,
who would see the big time in 1970 with "Stealing In the Name Of the Lord" and
other hits. His first record for Dial was called "Chills and Fever" and Reid
and Clarke wrote an answer song, "Thrills and Chills," for Helene Smith to
sing. On the B side, they stuck a soul jam called "I Am Controlled By Your

(Soundbite of "I Am Controlled By Your Love")

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) "My heart can't beat, baby."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "Baby."

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) "Unless you tell it to."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "To."

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) "My eyes can't see, baby."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "Baby."

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) "Unless you tell them to."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "To."

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) "There are things I can do but I know it's just no use
because I'm controlled by your love."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "Love."

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) "I'm controlled by your love."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "Love."

Ms. SMITH: (Singing) "Oh, yes I am."

Mr. WARD: Many of the backup musicians on these records were Incomparable
Marching 100 veterans who Albury recruited. A talent pool of instrumentalists
from which Clarke and Pearsall drew for most of their recording sessions. As
for female vocalists, Johnnie's Records was a magnet for them. It held a
weekly contest on the radio giving away records as prizes. And one day in
1966, a 12-year-old girl came in to pick up her winnings, and while she was
waiting started to sing along with the record on the sound system. The next
thing she knew, her mother was signing a recording contract, and Betty Wright
was in the studio.

(Soundbite of "Good Loving")

Ms. BETTY WRIGHT: (Singing) "I want somebody to know how to love me, who
know what does me right. Some man who knows how to please me. Squeeze me and
hold me tight. It doesn't matter whether he's short or tall because I want
some of him most of all. Good love. Good loving."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "Loving."

Ms. WRIGHT: (Singing) "Good loving."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "Loving."

Ms. WRIGHT: (Singing) "Good loving."

Backup Singers: (Singing in unison) "Loving."

Ms. WRIGHT: (Singing) "That's what I want now. I want some man..."

Mr. WARD: For Betty, it was the start of a career that continues to the
present day. But for Reid, Clarke and Pearsall, it was the end. Pearsall was
engaged to Helene Smith who didn't like being upstaged by this little girl.
Reid and Clarke knew they were on to something big, but Pearsall refused to
record her again. Having found success, the partnership blew up. Reid and
Clarke offered their services and their contract with Betty Wright to the
veteran Miami record mogul Henry Stone's new TK Productions, a partnership
which would last in the 1970s. Pearsall and Smith married, and Pearsall
became a school administrator. Albury, too, became a teacher. In the end,
all they had to show for their post-college efforts were lots of boxes of
records, but it must have been fun while it lasted.

GROSS: Ed Ward lives in Berlin. He reviewed "Eccentric Soul: The Deep City


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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