Interview with Margaret Brennan of CBS

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

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for making time.


QUESTION: Iran says they’re not going to ship – Iran says none of their nuclear facilities are going to shut down. That sounds like a political win for Iran’s supreme leader. How do you defend that in front of Congress?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they’re not going to be enriching. One is going to be changed; the other is going to be changed. They’re all going to be changed, as a matter of fact, very dramatically. I mean, their principal enrichment facility is going to go from 19,000 centrifuges down to 5,000 centrifuges. That is a reduction of about 70 percent or so. In addition to that, there will be no enrichment, no enrichment R&D, no fissile material in one or the other facilities, which will become a research laboratory. The other facility, the Arak facility, is going to be totally redesigned. We get to certify the design. They have to take out the current guts of that particular reactor, destroy it.

And then so – so I – look, they’ll have their narrative and we will have ours. And the important thing is look at the facts. Look at the access we will have to their facilities, the tracking of their uranium, the oversight of their – of the promises that they have made with respect to this, the accountability we will have.

QUESTION: But Iran has been clashing with inspectors for years.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, I know. But that’s why we --

QUESTION: How can you know they won’t cheat?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Margaret, because we have a whole new system that we designed and that they accepted and worked on to absolutely answer that question, so that we now have a guaranteed access by several countries joining together to vote that they must provide it. If they don’t provide it, the sanctions come back. If they don’t provide it, they’re in breach of this particular agreement.

So look, there are a lot of measures here that go to enforcement, go to transparency, that will guarantee us the ability to be able to know what Iran is doing. And that’s been at the core, obviously, of these negotiations, and that’s part of what’s made it very difficult, because we have demanded that we be able to get those kinds of answers.

QUESTION: Well, Iran’s Minister Javad Zarif is already accusing the U.S. of spin for having released some of these details. What are the odds that you get this deal in June?

SECRETARY KERRY: I believe that Iran understands that in order to get sanctions relief it is going to be important that we complete this job. And we’re trying to – I’m sure there’ll be spin everywhere. There’s spin by the opponents. So what you really have to look at is look at the facts, look at the measures that have been put in place. Our experts have pored over this – experts from France, and they’ve had a longtime nuclear experience, experts from Great Britain, experts from Germany, experts from Russia, experts from China. And all of them together and our experts have been comparing notes, making certain that we know what we’re talking about, that we’re doing things that will really have an impact and be able to guarantee our goal. So I believe over the next days as people look at this, that will be put to the test. And we have three more months of negotiations, so if we find a particular weakness that somebody missed or something we have to do, we still are negotiating and that’s where we’ll be.

QUESTION: Will new sanctions from Congress torpedo this?

SECRETARY KERRY: New sanctions now would clearly be unnecessary given what we’ve been able to achieve. And yes, it would have a profoundly negative impact on this. There wouldn’t be any rationale for it.

QUESTION: But how do you convince Congress not to do that?

SECRETARY KERRY: Because we’ve shown Congress that we are able to get clarity of what they have to do and ways of enforcing it. And it would be highly irresponsible to simply break this apart by now stepping into the middle when the measure of this agreement, I believe, can stand the test of scrutiny.

QUESTION: So what are the odds though, sir, on getting that deal by the end of June?


QUESTION: I mean, are you 50 percent of the way there of this broad agreement?

SECRETARY KERRY: I have no idea. I have no idea. I can just tell you that we have settled very critical issues: how much enrichment they will have where; what kind of program they’ll be able to pursue over what period of time; how we will be able to ascertain what they’re doing over the long term. Many major issues have been resolved – far more than most people thought was possible. And that is a great indicator of the possibilities of pursuing these next three months and trying to complete this task.

QUESTION: Well, Israeli officials are already out there saying this is a historic mistake that makes the world more dangerous.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s the same thing --

QUESTION: Do they have all the information and details?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s exactly the same thing they said about the interim agreement. And the interim agreement everybody agrees has held. It’s the first time Iran’s program, in fact, has stopped where it was and become accountable. So in point of fact --

QUESTION: But is that an informed judgment at this moment?

SECRETARY KERRY: Look, they’ve decided – we’ve been listening to the prime minister, who’s made this judgment months ago, came to Washington long before the agreement was finalized, and has been repeatedly saying this. But I personally believe there are actually bigger threats to Israel in the region right now, like ISIS and the challenge of peace in the region and other things, than this particular challenge right now. And I think a lot of people would share that point of view.

QUESTION: Do you think that this deal is basically a long-term bet on the future of Iran? I mean, what does Iran look like at the end of 10 or 15 years?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, we’re not betting. We’re not betting. There’s no betting here. Let me tell you something: It’d be irresponsible to gamble with the region, with Israel, with ourselves, our own interests. No, there’s no bet here. We are guaranteeing through measures we are taking that we will know what is happening – the oversight, the access, the accountability. And we are guaranteeing that we will be able to do things that we know at least for the duration of this agreement will keep the breakout time at a certain level, allow us that access; and even afterwards, way into the future, provide us with requirements that will hold Iran accountable for the long term. And if they don’t earn the world’s confidence in that period of time, then we have every option available to us then that is available to us today. We’ve given up nothing. We’ve gained. We have taken what was a two to three month breakout time and we have expanded it to at least one year for ten years, and then going forward we have greater access and confidence in what Iran will be doing.

QUESTION: Sir, we’re out of time.


QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: My pleasure. Thank you.