Interview with Terry Moran of ABC

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Lausanne, Switzerland
April 2, 2015

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ve heard already, of course, of critics out there of what you’ve achieved here. And I want you to answer their general point, which is, under these parameters Iran will still have a nuclear program, they’ll be able to develop into a more advanced nuclear program, even a robust one, and they’ll get sanctions relief. So did Iran win here?

SECRETARY KERRY: Not – no. This is the most extensive, intrusive inspection structure of an arms control agreement. We have entirely new mechanisms to be able to gain access, to be able to inspect, to hold accountable what is happening in the years ahead.

And those people who criticize it like that, they don’t have an alternative. They don’t have an alternative. And so this is the safest, best way to make the world safer by reducing the ability of Iran to be able to have a nuclear weapon. All four pathways, through the Arak plutonium reactor, through the Natanz enrichment facility, through the Fordow underground facility, are all being enormously impacted here. And by virtue of what will happen, as we build up many years of inspection and an intrusive insight to their program, we will have much more assurance about what they are able to do. Might they try to cheat? Yep. But we believe we have an ability to be able to know that.

And we also believe that we have sufficient restraints in place and insights over the next years that it is a far better choice than what? Than simply raising sanctions again and pretending you’re somehow going to affect it? Every time that’s happened, they wound up with a bigger program with more centrifuges. So then, what are you – are you just talking about going to war? We believe this is a far more effective way to prevent the securing of a weapons path, and we’re quite confident, given what we have here for insight, that the United States and the world would be able to follow what’s happening.

QUESTION: One thing that Americans might wonder about though, knowing of the history of Iran cheating on its international nuclear obligations and its history of very aggressive, even wild statements about --


QUESTION: -- some of its neighbors, why should they have a nuclear program at all? Why not get to zero?

SECRETARY KERRY: They have one. They already have it. Long before I became Secretary of State and before President Obama became president, they had a nuclear program. And guess what? They were already enriching. I mean, back in 2003, they had about 164 centrifuges. Now they have 19,000, 20,000. And they have enough to be able to, if they wanted to, make a bomb now. In two to three months they could break out. What have we achieved? We have extended those two and three months to over a year in the beginning, and for 10 years it will stay at one year for a breakout.

Now I ask anybody in Israel: Are you safer with two or three months of breakout or a year of breakout? Moreover, we will have long-term insight into their program. Some of these are lifetime – forever – mechanisms that will be available to be able to know what they’re doing.

So as the scientists look at this – not the politicians in the first hours. Anybody who just smacked out today and says, “Oh, I’m against it,” had already made up their mind before there was even an agreement. We’re looking for the folks who want to be the statesmen and the responsible people to take a look at what’s really being achieved here.

QUESTION: There’s a sense that President Obama wanted this deal more than Iran did --

SECRETARY KERRY: No. Not on your life.

QUESTION: -- and that weakened your position as a negotiator.

SECRETARY KERRY: Not on your life. President Obama on several occasions could not have been clearer about my instructions to walk away if X,Y, or Z doesn’t happen. And I won’t go into all the details now, but on a couple of occasions I did. We were very clear. Why do you think this took so long? If we wanted just any agreement, we could have done this a couple of years ago. It would have happened before I became Secretary of State, or we could have done it in the first year. Why do you think we were here for hour after hour pounding away? Because we said no, we’re not going to do that, we’re not going to give in on this, we have to do this. And they likewise had certain things they needed, and we have to make sure that whatever that was did not weaken our ability to be able to know what they are doing.

I believe we will know. And I think as experts look at this – and I ask you to listen to the experts. Let’s see how they judge what we’ve built as a portal, not as a final agreement but as a portal to get into the final negotiations.

QUESTION: Could this whole thing still fall apart in the next few months while you hammer out the details?

SECRETARY KERRY: Of course, it could. It could, yes.

QUESTION: What’s the chances of it getting all the way to a signed (inaudible)?

SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t have any way to make that prediction.

QUESTION: 50/50?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not going to play that. I’m going to – we’ll do the best we can. We’ll try to hammer out. We wanted to make sure this parameter was as strong and forceful as possible, as clear as a bell. If there are weaknesses in it that are surfaced in the next days, terrific; that’s why we have three more months to negotiate. And we’ll go to work doing what’s necessary to make clear that this is a way of making the world safer and a way of avoiding the pathway to a bomb for Iran. And that’s what we set out to do, and that’s what we’re still setting out to do. This is not a final agreement. We have a lot of work left to do.

QUESTION: And last question. I know we got the high sign, but I’m doing this story for Nightline tonight, which has a special history with Iran. And I guess back in 1979, you would have been recently out of the Navy, right? And --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I would have been about nine years out of the Navy.

QUESTION: Nine years out of the Navy, okay.


QUESTION: Back then, as a young lawyer public servant, I guess, the images of the hostage crisis, which defined our relations for all these years --


QUESTION: -- and now today. What does it mean to you as an American, as Secretary of State, what does it mean to the country as you think about what you did today?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, what we did was open a window of possibility. We haven’t finished the job here. But we have very clearly set milestones of what the parameters in this agreement could look like, and we’ve been able to move this process forward. And that’s important. I think it’s very important.

I believe in diplomacy. I believe in the possibilities of trying to resolve things, and that’s what diplomacy is supposed to be. War is the absence of diplomacy, or the failure of it. And I think that if you look back in history, countries have opposed each other. We went to World War II. Look at Japan and Germany. Germany is sitting at the table with us today – an entirely different nation for years and years and years, ever since the end of the war. And so – Japan today, one of our strongest allies in the world. So things can change. I don’t say they’re going to, but they can. And they don’t change unless people make an effort to try to reach out and break down the barriers.

That’s what President Obama decided he was willing to do. He took that risk. We are where we are. Now we have to finish the job, and we obviously have to do it in a way that gives everybody an assurance that this is the right thing to do and it’s going to accomplish its goals.

QUESTION: And you feel good about it?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I haven’t had time, frankly, to – we haven’t slept and we’re – but look, I’ll feel good in June at the end if this can happen and everybody sees the way in which it is accountable. And let’s hope. We just have to keep working.

QUESTION: Thanks very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks, appreciate it.