Interview With Martha Raddatz of ABC

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Doha, Qatar
March 5, 2013

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, let’s start with Iran. You have said they do not have an infinite amount of time for negotiations. The Israelis have said they are moving closer to the redline. Do you agree with the Israelis?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m not going to get into redlines and timing publicly, except to reiterate what the President has said again and again, which is he prefers to have a diplomatic solution. He would like to see the P5+1 process, the negotiation process, be able to work, and avoid any consideration of any military action.

But the President has been absolutely clear that his policy – the policy of the international community, it’s not just his. The international community has spoken, and that’s why the sanctions are in place. And it’s up to Iran now, hopefully, to come to the table constructively and work with us to avoid what nobody really wants.

QUESTION: It seems we’ve been hopeful year after year after year, and yet Iran gets closer and closer to a nuclear weapon.

SECRETARY KERRY: You’re absolutely correct. That’s why lines have been drawn before, and they’ve been passed. And that’s why the President has been so definitive this time. This is a very challenging moment with great risks and stakes for everybody, because the region will be far less stable and far more threatened if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon. It will spur a nuclear arms race, it has risks for greater terrorism. It will be destabilizing.

There are many reasons for why this is risky, and that’s why the President has said so clearly his policy is that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. Now, if they keep pushing the limits and not coming with a serious set of proposals or are prepared to actually resolve this, obviously, the risks get higher and confrontation becomes more possible.

QUESTION: Do you think we have this year and no longer?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not – again, Martha, I’m not going to discuss timeframes. I think --

QUESTION: And yet, the timeframe – as you said, redlines keep passing. And this time, the President’s --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they did in the past. They have not with this President. They have in the past. But right now, you have the most significant cooperation in history between Israeli intelligence, American intelligence, other intelligence entities. The international community is working diligently on a day-to-day basis to track, and that’s one of the reasons why Iran’s reluctance to allow the IAEA to get its questions answered and do its job becomes even more provocative.

Now, we just had a meeting in Almaty, in Kazakhstan, of the P5+1. They’ve scheduled another meeting. There is the time here for the Iranians to make a serious proposal, and I will repeat what the President has said and I have said a number of times: We are prepared, through the P5+1 and the negotiating process, to engage in a serious proposal that they would make to prove that their program is, in fact, a peaceful program. We look forward to doing so in a spirit of mutual respect and a spirit of good faith in order to get this resolved peacefully.

QUESTION: Syria. What’s – the policy there does not seem to be working either. Assad remains. What would you like to see done differently?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let’s look at where we’ve been and where we are today. The President began the process by leading the effort to put in place sanctions that make it more difficult for President Assad to fuel his fighting machine. Secondly, the President, working with Secretary Clinton, worked to pull together the Syrian opposition. Who are they? How coordinated are they? How united are they? And the President has worked on that effort to get to a point now where there’s much greater clarity. There’s defined leadership, there’s a unified voice. And then the President directed me to come to Rome. It was America that pulled together this meeting, which has now ratcheted up the level of support and focus by every country involved. Some are giving lethal aid; some are not. But the point is --

QUESTION: Would you rule out giving lethal aid?

SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just finish. The point is that there was a holistic, united effort now that is focused on trying to save lives in Syria and make it clear to President Assad that we are determined and that he needs to think hard about his calculation in raining Scuds down on his population and destroying his state.

QUESTION: You don’t think that’s been clear before?

SECRETARY KERRY: I think he has doubted the resolve of the international community. I think he has thought, up until now, that he can simply have Hezbollah and Iran and some of the weapons that are coming in from Russia, and he can sit there and shoot it out. And if that’s his calculation, this new increase of effort is to make it clear to him he’s wrong. And he needs to come to the table according to what even the Russians have signed onto. The Russians have agreed, in Geneva, that there needs to be a transition government by mutual consent on both sides with full executive power. That does not include Assad as the executive running the government. And that will lead to elections, and to the opportunity for all the Syrian people to participate.

And one thing that I want to emphasize: For all of the Alawites who are fearing for their future, or the Christians, or the Druze, or any group there – Sunni, Shia – they all need to know that the vision of Moaz Khatib and the Syrian opposition, the promise of the Syrian opposition, is to have a Syria in which all voices are represented and protected.

QUESTION: Would you rule out lethal aid in the future?

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s not my job to do. That’s the President of the United States decision, and I don’t think this is a president who ever takes any option off the table. But for the moment, he feels like what we’re doing is the right policy.

QUESTION: Can you just tell me what you want to do differently, where you see the next four years going, what the Kerry approach to foreign policy is?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, let me emphasize it’s not the Kerry approach to foreign policy, it’s the Obama approach. It’s President Obama’s approach, and his Administration. I certainly will weigh in with my ideas and my views. That’s what he asked me to do in taking on this job. And obviously, you know me well enough to know I have some views about some things I think we ought to do. But it’s up to the President to make those choices.

And I’m not going to get into – I’m a few weeks into this job. I’m not going to start playing the legacy or the evaluation game. I’m going to work day to day as hard as I can to protect America’s interests, to promote our economic opportunity, to advance our values in the world. And day to day, you’ll be able to measure what we’re doing. And at the end of four years, you guys will write about whatever you want to, but in the end, the American people and President Obama will judge what we do.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.


QUESTION: Appreciate it.

SECRETARY KERRY: Appreciate it. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks a lot.

PRN: 2013/T1-26