Interview With Margaret Brennan of CBS's Face the Nation

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Geneva, Switzerland
November 24, 2013

QUESTION: What does this actually do to prevent building a bomb?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, a whole bunch of things. Number one, they don’t have enough enriched material to be able to build a bomb.


SECRETARY KERRY: They will destroy – correct, as of now. They will have to destroy the higher-enriched uranium they have, which is critical to being able to build a bomb. Once they’ve destroyed that, they only have a lower-enriched uranium. They are not allowed under this agreement to build additional enrichment facilities. We will have restrictions on the centrifuges, which are critical for enrichment.

QUESTION: President Obama said Israel and Saudi Arabia have a right to be skeptical. Are you skeptical that Iran will actually comply with the deal they’ve just signed?

SECRETARY KERRY: I think everybody has a right to be skeptical because there are indications that there are people in Iran who have wanted to pursue a weapons program, that there have been secret facilities building some of those efforts towards that program. And so there’s lots of reason. That’s why we don’t take anything at face value. That’s why you don’t take it for granted.

QUESTION: But you don’t believe those are the people who you just signed a deal with, those people who were seeking a weapon?

SECRETARY KERRY: We did arms control agreements with the great enemy, the Soviet Union. We’ve done arms control agreements in other parts of the world. You don’t trust. It’s not based on trust. It’s based on verification. It’s based on your ability to know what is happening. So you don’t have to trust the people you’re dealing with; you have to have a mechanism put in place whereby you know exactly what you’re getting and you know exactly what they’re doing. And we believe we are at the beginning of putting that in place with Iran.

QUESTION: Iran’s Foreign Minister stood up there at the podium and said this takes the threat of force, military force, off the table. Does it?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, that’s just not accurate. But he also said that they have a right to enrich, which is also not accurate. Now, that’s one of the reasons why we need to verify in this process. The fact is the President maintains, as Commander-in-Chief, and he has said specifically he has not taken that threat off the table.

QUESTION: You don’t see actual dismantling of some of the facilities either.

SECRETARY KERRY: Not yet. That’s accurate. Not yet. But you can’t get everything in the first step. You have to go down the process here. The fact is that what we’ve done is lock components of their program in place and actually roll some of them backwards. The result of that is by destroying their 20 percent uranium stock, by limiting their 3.5 percent stock, by limiting the centrifuges that can be constructed and where they go, by having intrusive inspection of a number of facilities we’ve never been in before. And we believe it now opens the door to our going into the larger, more comprehensive arrangement by which Iran will have to prove that its program is really peaceful.

QUESTION: Well, Israel’s cabinet is already out there saying this is a deal based on deceit. I mean, how do you tell Bibi Netanyahu that you’re defused the threat when this is a wait-and-see period?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s not – it’s based on facts and it’s based on specific steps people have to take. It’s based on an intrusiveness into their program that we don’t have today. It’s based on a destruction of their uranium. It’s based on a limitation on their stock. It’s based on all kinds of things we’ve never had before. Even with the small amount of money being released to them, Iran is going to lose $15 to $20 billion over the next months. This is an enormous price for Iran to continue to pay if they don’t live up to their word and prove to us that the program is peaceful.

So there’s nothing built on trust. We’re not sitting here pretending that Iran is going to suddenly turn over a new leaf. We have to prove it. And our structure in this agreement, I believe, will adequately prove it.

QUESTION: Well, you say that’s a small amount of financial relief, and that’s just about $7 billion. But this is to a country that the U.S. still considers to be the top sponsor of terrorism in the world.


QUESTION: So how do you control how they spend that money? Are you confident that it’s not going to go to the wrong places?

SECRETARY KERRY: What you have to do here is begin a process by which you can actually dismantle their program and prove what it is or isn’t doing. We’re beginning in a place that will lock in their program where it is today with respect to critical facilities. At the plutonium heavy-water reactor, they will not be able to commission it. And we will know that because we can inspect it. Today we can’t. That makes everybody safer. We will be inside the Fordow enrichment facility that’s built into a mountain, a secret facility. We’re going to get into that. Are you telling me we’re not better off being able to get in and see what’s happening? Of course we are.

In each case where they have been able to enrich without our knowing exactly what they’re doing, we will now be able to have greater inspection, greater knowledge, greater restraint. And that will expand the amount of time it would take for them to break out and create a nuclear weapon. That makes Israel safer. That makes the region safer. And we believe it is the right thing to do to put to test whether or not they will actually show the world they have a peaceful nuclear program.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.


PRN: 2013/T18-04