U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday warned that if Congress does not approve the deal recently signed with Iran, Israel might be blamed for it and become more isolated.
Kerry’s comments came in a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York.
“I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn [the deal], our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed,” he said. “And we would lose Europe and China and Russia with respect to whatever military action we might have to take because we will have turned our backs on a very legitimate program that allows us to put their program to the test over these next years.”
The deal, he argued, means “safety and security, I believe, for Israel and the region that no alternative presents.”
“People ask me, well, what happens after year 15? What happens 20 years and 25 years from now and so forth? The fact is that if we don’t accept this agreement, if we don’t keep with this agreement and put it to the test, year 15 or year 20 comes tomorrow, literally, because Iran already has enough nuclear material for 10 to 12 bombs,” warned Kerry.
The Secretary of State boasted of his support for Israel at the Senate and his attempts to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the past year.
“I think I’ve had more meetings with an Israeli prime minister and more visits than any secretary of State in history. And I consider Bibi [Netanyahu] a friend, and we talk still. And we disagree on this, obviously, and I’ve told him my feelings. But I feel them very strongly,” he said.
“I believe Israel is safer [with the deal]. I believe the region is safer. I think the world is safer,” claimed Kerry. “We have a country that is prepared to day they will not make a nuclear weapon, and I think we ought to put that to the test rather than take steps today to guarantee we give them a reason to go do that. It’s a pretty simple equation.”
Kerry also sought to assure his audience that “nothing in this agreement is based on trust—nothing. We’re not naïve. We know the history. We know what Iran is doing in the region—Yemen, Iraq Shia militia, Hezbollah. But the first order of business, my friends, if you’re going to confront them and push back, is to push back against an Iran that doesn’t have a nuclear weapon. Pretty simple equation.”
The talk at the Council of Foreign Relations came hours after Kerry warned Israel that a unilateral strike on Iran’s covert nuclear program would be a “huge mistake.”
Appearing on NBC, Kerry was asked if the Iran nuclear deal sealed last Tuesday would make it more likely that Israel will either physically strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, or else launch a cyber attack against them.
“That’d be an enormous mistake, a huge mistake with grave consequences for Israel and for the region, and I don’t think it’s necessary,” Kerry answered.
Netanyahu retorted: “We are told that this agreement will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Well, that’s exactly what was said about the deal with North Korea. And today, North Korea has about a dozen nuclear weapons and it’s on its way to get many, many more,” said Netanyahu.
“This deal paves Iran’s path to an entire nuclear arsenal within a decade or so,” he warned. “Because at that point Iran will be free of any constraints of producing as many centrifuges as they want and they can enrich as much uranium as they want. And this will pose a formidable threat to the peace of the world.”
In Friday’s remarks, Kerry was quick to dismiss the comparison with North Korea.
“Unlike North Korea, they (the Iranians -ed.) have not pulled out of the NPT. Unlike North Korea, they haven’t exploded any nuclear device, and the supreme leader of Iran has said, we’re not going to seek a nuclear weapon,” he said.
In his NBC interview Friday, Kerry said the agreement was the best the White House could get with a country it doesn’t trust. “There is no trust — no no no. This is not based on trust,” he said on the TODAY show. “That’s what’s important to understand. Everything in this agreement is verifiable. It is a process by which we will know what they’re doing.”
“There is a lot of politics going on. The more people learn about this agreement, the more people are learning this is the only viable alternative to be able to control Iran’s already existing nuclear program. People forget, when President [Barack] Obama came into office and when I became secretary of state, Iran already had in the tens of thousands of centrifuges. They already had fissile material, enough for 10 to 12 bombs. What we’ve done is roll that program back and provide a capacity to have inspectors going forward so we will know what Iran is doing,” Kerry said.
Taking on the argument by opponents of the deal that a better agreement could have been reached — one that would not leave it a nuclear threshold state, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued — the secretary of state said, “the alternative is to have no inspectors, not know what Iran is doing, go back to where they are today with the ability to make the bomb.”
“And then you’re going to hear everybody say, ‘Uh oh, we’ve got to go bomb them now,’” he warned. “This is nuclear material. It radiates…This is not something that you can flush down the toilet. It’s not possible,” he insisted.
Kerry also touted the support for the deal of the former head of the Shin Bet Ami Ayalon and the former head of the Mossad Efraim Halevy, who both said this week that when it came to Iran’s nuclear program, this deal was the good option.
“The prime minister doesn’t [like this deal] I understand that. But there are a lot of people in Israel who understand that this is the best way to proceed in order to roll back Iran’s program and make Israel safer,” Kerry said.
The nuclear agreement reached between world powers and Iran last week took its first official beating in Congress on Thursday, with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from both parties questioning the strength of the accord.
During an appearance on Thursday before a skeptical Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry mounted a furious counter-attack against the deal’s detractors, saying it would be “fantasy” to think the US could simply “bomb away” Tehran’s atomic know-how.
The secretary of state insisted that critics of the deal – which curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief – were pushing an unrealistic alternative that he dismissed as a “sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation.”
“The fact is that Iran now has extensive experience with nuclear fuel cycle technology,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We can’t bomb that knowledge away. Nor can we sanction that knowledge away.
“Let me underscore the alternative to the deal we have reached is not – as I’ve seen some ads on TV suggesting disingenuously – it isn’t a ‘better deal,’ some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation,” Kerry said. “That is a fantasy, plain and simple, and our intelligence community will tell you that.”