Interview With Chuck Todd of NBC Meet the Press

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 12, 2015

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Glad to be with you.

QUESTION: Well, let’s clarify something. There has been anonymous sources that say you have recommended taking Cuba off the state sponsor of terrorism list to the President. Have you done that?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Chuck, as you well now, I don’t discuss publicly whatever advice or recommendations I make to the President. So the President will make his decision at an appropriate time. We have forwarded the recommendation of the State Department and it now is in the interagency process, and he will make the decision.

QUESTION: If there – I take it though, the fact that there’s a process means you’ve recommended a change.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, either way it has to be evaluated, Chuck. So I’m not going to tip my hand as to what we’re doing, but we made a recommendation.

QUESTION: Let me move to Iran because Iran is on the state sponsor of terror list. Why – how is it that you can do a nuclear agreement and trust a country to abide by that agreement that you also believe, that our government believes, is a state sponsor of terror?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the bottom line is the word you used, “trust.” We don’t trust. There is no element of trust in what we’re doing. You have to build trust, and that takes place over a long period of time.

This is an agreement that is based on transparency, accountability, verification. You have to be able to know what is happening. And we believe the President’s responsibility and my responsibility in support of him is to guarantee and protect the security of our country and of our friends and allies. And we believe that this agreement does that. We know that the American people overwhelmingly would like to see if we could resolve this question of Iran’s nuclear program peacefully. And that’s what we’re trying to do, but it requires a protocol of visibility, of accountability, of insight, of transparency --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- so that we know what Iran is doing. And over a long period of time we believe that we can indeed do what’s necessary to make the guarantees that are important to everyone. Now --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- what’s key here is that what we have done shuts off the four principal pathways to a bomb for Iran in the Natanz facility, in the Arak plutonium facility, in the Fordow underground facility, and also the covert program. We think that – we don’t think – the science tells us that we have an ability to know what Iran is doing and to be able to shut off those pathways to a bomb. That makes the world safer.

QUESTION: And there are plenty of people that say if your – what you say the agreement is is the agreement, there are plenty of people, even some Republicans, who say it’s a good agreement. However, the leader of Iran, the ayatollah – and everybody knows this is the guy that calls the shots – he tweets this out in English: “I trust our negotiators but I’m really worried as the other side is into lying and breaching promises. An example was the White House fact sheet.”

And when you look at the differences, whether it’s President Rouhani and what he has said or what the ayatollah has said: The United States has said there’s going to be a gradual relief of sanctions based on progress, the Iranians say there’s immediate sanction relief; the U.S. says there’s limits on uranium enrichment, the Iranians say there’s no mention of enrichment limits; the U.S. says there’s restrictions on Iranian research, the Iranians say there is no restrictions on research and development.

Why are they publicly lying, if that’s what they’re doing?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m not going to get into accusations back and forth. That doesn’t help our process. It’s not going to solve any problems --

QUESTION: Are they being truthful? Are the Iranians truthful here?

SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just say this to you, Chuck. They’re going to say the things that they feel they need to say with respect to their deal at home. And all I can tell you is this: When we did the interim agreement, there were these same kinds of discrepancies, or spin if you want to call it that, with respect to what the deal was or wasn’t. But in the end, the deal was signed and the deal has been agreed to and lived up to. No one contests that Iran has lived up to every component of that agreement, and the deal is what we said it was.

Now, with respect to the fact sheet that we put out, just yesterday the Russians released a statement saying that the statement released by the United States is both reliable and factual. So I will stand by every word that I have uttered publicly, and I will be briefing the United States Congress in full – the House tomorrow, the Senate the next day – and we will lay out all of the details to them, some of which are obviously classified, but we will have a long discussion about what the facts are.

QUESTION: All right. But if the Iranians insist that immediate sanction relief has to take place, immediate, that all sanctions have to be gone, will you walk away from that deal?

SECRETARY KERRY: Again, I’m not going to get into one side’s or another side’s characterization of what the deal is or isn’t. We’ve made clear what our needs are, what our expectations are. We’ve made it very clear that if we can’t achieve our goals we will not sign a deal, and we’ve said that again and again to Congress, to the world. We want a good deal. We believe that the outlines, the parameters that we have laid out thus far, are the outlines of that good deal. Now, is it perfect yet? No. Are there things that need to be done? Yes. That’s why we have another two and a half months of negotiation.

And what we’re looking for --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- is not to have Congress interfere with our ability inappropriately by stepping on the prerogatives of the executive department of the president and putting in place conditions and terms that are going to get in the way of the implementation of a plan.

QUESTION: I understand. Mr. Secretary, you’ve run for president before. There’s big news this morning. Hillary Clinton, your predecessor at the State Department, is running for president. You came through a tough primary in 2004. Do you think she needs a tough primary? Does that make you a better candidate if you have a real primary, or do you think a coronation is healthy for the Democratic Party?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the virtue of my job right now, Chuck, is that I’m out of politics --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- so I don’t have to comment back and forth on that. I wish her well. I think she did a terrific job as secretary. She’s a good friend. She’s highly qualified and I’m confident will wage no matter what – with, without a primary – a formidable campaign. And we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming back on Meet the Press – your 37th appearance, tied for seventh all-time on the show. Thank you, sir.