Interview with Barbara Plett of BBC
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Mr. Kerry, there’s a lot of distrust of Iran given its history of not coming clean. There’s been very tough negotiations; tough negotiations ahead. Why do you think this deal could work?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, nothing is based on trust here. This is not about trust. Of course there’s a measure of distrust. They distrust us; we haven’t trusted them. We know that. So what we’ve built here is a capacity to be able to not have this based on trust but on proof, on absolute access, on evidence, on accountability measures, on transparency measures. We have new measures here that have not been used in arms control in this kind of an agreement in the past for resolving disputes, for being able to gain access. There’s new, state-of-the-art technology that will be used. We will have tracking of their uranium from the cradle to the grave. We will have very significant ability here, thanks to Iran agreeing to this, obviously, to know what Iran is doing.
QUESTION: The White House said that America was prepared to walk away from negotiations --
SECRETARY KERRY: Yes.
QUESTION: -- if you didn’t get a good enough deal. Was there ever any moment in the last week when you thought you might walk out or were tempted to?
SECRETARY KERRY: Yes. In fact, I had a conversation with my counterpart which I won’t go into, but yes. The answer is yes. And in fact, several weeks ago there was a moment of real confrontation. So we – look, I don’t want to go into all of those tonight. That’s not what this is about. The bottom line is we worked through it. We took difficult issues and pared them down and tried to work out whose interest was what and how we could do this in a way that made sense.
Now some people made up their minds ages ago; they don’t like President Obama or they think this is a great partisan issue, and they’re going to oppose it no matter what. I ask people to look at this and measure by the scientists and measure by the experts and measure by the arms control people and measure by the people who spend their lives trying to hold accountability on nuclear weapons or potential nuclear weapons. That’s the real measure of this, and I believe it will withstand the test of scrutiny. And the reason I believe that is we’ve been talking to those people. We’ve been relying on science and relying on expert input. And not just us, but the French, the British, the Germans, the Chinese, the Russians – all of them agree that this is a better way to proceed.
QUESTION: And the Middle East has been watching, and you’ve been saying this will help to make things more stable in the Middle East. But some of your allies – the Saudis – don’t believe that. They think it’s going to empower Iran, and they’ve also told me that they are going to be asking for the same nuclear rights as whatever Iran gets. Isn’t there a danger that this kind of agreement could actually increase instability in the Middle East – proliferation?
SECRETARY KERRY: We really don’t. We really don’t believe that, no. We don’t believe that, and there are going to be civil nuclear agreements, and we’re perfectly prepared to work with Saudis, with others. We have an agreement with the Emiratis, to work with them – with the Emirates with respect to a peaceful nuclear program. But we think people will wisely choose not to enrich.
But the enrichment part of the program in Iran began before President Obama became President, before I became Secretary of State. We inherited this existence of an enrichment program in Iran which was getting worse and worse and worse, and every effort to stop it was producing more, not less. We are the first to be able to now turn this around and actually get less for a period of time and guarantees in the future that there will not be an ability to be able to break out and make a weapon. And we’re quite confident of the insights that we will have to their program to be able to do that.
QUESTION: Have you got a plan to convince Congress? You’ve released an impressive amount of details and information, but that’s – a lot of it is U.S. details, isn’t it? The Iranians don’t have the same fact sheets.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the proof – well, actually, there are internal documents, and everybody has access to those internal documents. And facts are facts. We have – but I don’t think I need to get into a debate tonight about that. They will spin --
QUESTION: Have you got a plan to convince Congress?
SECRETARY KERRY: They will – yeah, of course we do. And we will reach out to Congress. We will begin a process of sitting down with them, fully briefing them, going through, answering the questions. They’re obviously going to be penetrating and consistent, and we will have to be accountable. And we are accountable. But we – that’s one of the things that obviously drove these negotiations, was the need to be able to make certain that this could withstand scrutiny.
QUESTION: You have been reluctant to talk about a political dividend, but do you have some idea when you might visit Iran?
SECRETARY KERRY: Not a clue, not even discussed, not a thought at this moment. That is so vastly premature in terms of lots of things. We obviously don’t have diplomatic relations. We have a lot of difficulties to work through. We disagree with some other things that are happening. We’d like to work through those kinds of things, but this is a nuclear agreement. It’s about nuclear weapons, and Iran, we believe, is a better neighbor to every other country in that region and a better citizen of the world without a nuclear weapon. And that’s why we are putting this program in place.
We still have a very tough negotiation. We think the world will be safer with this, but we still have to get to the “this.” This is the opening. This is the parameters which give us an opportunity now to negotiate a complete agreement, and that’s what we’re looking for.
QUESTION: And do you have a week off now? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t, no. I have a couple days, a few days. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.