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Documentary Explores Nuclear Deal With Iran


The U.S. and Iran are holding nuclear talks, following up on a tentative agreement. A Web documentary examines how they got this far. It shows diplomats talking in private while thinking of their respective publics. Secretary of State John Kerry recalls protest when President Obama spoke with Iran's president.


INSKEEP: The documentary, released online only by NBC, is "#TwitterDiplomacy." It features and Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. It's hosted by Ann Curry and produced by a team including an Iranian-American writer, Hooman Majd. They note Iran's government is based on conflict with the west.

HOOMAN MAJD: Well, I think you know the revolution was predicated upon this independence and being able to not be dictated to by greater powers.

INSKEEP: We're going back to 1979.

MAJD: We're going back to 1979. And Iran has suffered for that position it has taken. And so, it's complicated for them to compromise to a point where it appears that they are giving into Western demands.

INSKEEP: Ann Curry, what are the complications - domestically - on the United States side?

ANN CURRY: Well, clearly it's about the fear that Iranians moving towards having a nuclear bomb if the demand that the U.S. is: show us what you are doing. There has historically been a fundamental lack of trust, I think from both sides. But the change is that this administration seems to understand the degree to which Iran wants to be respected.

MAJD: Absolutely, I mean an important point is that, you know, respect is a two-way street. And there's no question that under the Ahmadinejad government Iran wasn't respecting the U.S. either. And in demanding respect...

CURRY: Or Israel.

MAJD: Or Israel, for sure. But in demanding respect and having this administration in the U.S. right now that is willing to give Iran that respect, and having an administration now in Iran that is willing to give the U.S. respect, 'cause this is something that Rouhani talked about to Ann when we were in Iran, and has continued to talk about. And certainly Foreign Minister Zarif does and understands America.

And I think this time it's an unusual time for both countries to take advantage of the opportunity to grant each other the respect that they both demand. And also, to get rid of this burning issue of this nuclear crisis.

INSKEEP: When you say Foreign Minister Zarif understands America, what do you mean by that?

CURRY: He's lived in the United States for many, many years. He....

MAJD: Most of his life.

CURRY: His children were born in the United States. He went to school, I think it was San Francisco State University and the University of Denver - has degrees from both. In fact, Wendy Sherman said to me that, you know, sometimes when she looks across the table at the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, she forgets he's an Iranian because he speaks English so perfectly. And...

INSKEEP: Wendy Sherman, of course, a U.S. diplomat.

CURRY: Exactly, and then you add to that the interest that the Secretary of State has in figuring out a deal with Iran, he actually has a son who's...

MAJD: Son-in-law.

CURRY: Son-in-law, that's right. A son-in-law who's Iranian-American. I mean we line all these things up, it's really remarkable.

INSKEEP: Is it your sense that Iran's foreign minister and the American Secretary of State, the negotiators that they're working with on both sides, that the people in that room trust each other?

MAJD: I think they trust each other to not deceive each other. I don't think they agree with each other. But I think they trust each other that they will keep their word. And I think that it's been proven. Since the interim deal was signed at the end November, Iran has abided by its commitments, according to the IAEA. And the U.S. has abided - it has released the funds that it promised to release. So I think they do trust each other.

CURRY: Although I will say this, that once the first step into agreement was approved by both sides, almost immediately - as in I think the very next morning or maybe even that night - because, in fact, the night and into the morning, there was already disagreement about what that agreement said. And I expect that will probably happen in addition.

MAJD: Undoubtedly. Undoubtedly.

CURRY: Because, you know, they both have constituent that they've got to speak to back home. And they don't want to be seen as having given too much away.

INSKEEP: Ann Curry and Hooman Majd, thanks to you both.

MAJD: Oh. Thank you, Steve.

CURRY: A real pleasure to talk to you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Their documentary is at NBCNews.com.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.