Insights on The Iran Nuclear Deal with Ambassador Thomas Pickering

Career US Ambassador Thomas Pickering sat down with David Plazas of “The Tennessean,” Opinion Engagement Editor and head of the editorial board, to discuss the Iran nuclear deal and topics of interest in global affairs.

The conversation included JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) details as well as wider geo-strategic analyses of the agreement’s implications going forward.

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Ambassador Pickering, one of the most distinguished US diplomats ever to serve, also shared perspectives on current global issues and the role of the media in advancing “global literacy” in the United States.

The meeting occurred during Ambassador Pickering’s two days of programs in Nashville as a guest of the Tennessee World Affairs Council in association with “The Iran Project.”

Video Timeline  (Run Time: 35:49)

00:49 Ambassador Pickering begins overview of Iran nuclear agreement.

02:15 Comment about “Cotton Letter.”

02:40 Discussion of repayments made to Iran.

04:45 What are the key points of the agreement?

  • Limitations, inspections and sanctions
  • Discussion of nuclear fuel cycle – uranium and plutonium enrichment and production
  • Inspection and monitoring
  • Role of IAEA
  • Sanctions brought Iran to table but not exclusively so
  • Economic outcomes for Iran

15:45 Do negotiators start at zero when addressing limitations on centrifuges?

16:45 Iran contends nuclear program is for peaceful purposes?

18:40 What assurances are there that Iran will follow through?

19:55 Shifting conversation to look at the rest of the world. How does the United States approach negotiations with nations that might not be friends?

21:30 US-Russian relations.

25:22 “A diplomat listens much and talks little.” What is your philosophy?

25:55 Outcomes of “telling” other countries what to do?

27:20 China

28:53 Don’t submerge relationship into “Saturday afternoon football contests”

29:38 Don’t “over stress conflict”

30:05 Three steps to reduce conflicted relations

30:52 How to change dialogue in U.S., to avoid media circuses?

31:40 Complexity does not sell in the media.

32:10 The First Amendment.. ..debate will produce truth.

34:15 Efforts to disregard the truth are unmet by the press.

35:10 Conclusion


Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering holds the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service. In a diplomatic career spanning five decades, he was U.S. ambassador to Israel, the Russian Federation, India, El Salvador, Nigeria, and Jordan. From 1989 to 1992, he was Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, and he then served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Earlier in his career, he was Special Assistant to Secretaries of State William P. Rogers and Henry Kissinger. He also served in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves.


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