Interview With Christiane Amanpour of CNN

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Vienna, Austria
July 14, 2015

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, thank you for joining us.


QUESTION: Have you made history?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, people call it an historic agreement, I guess, because Iran has come to the table, and on paper we have an agreement. But we don’t have anything until this is implemented. We have the – I mean, we have an outline, and so I think it’s a strong one, I think it’s a great possibility. But as I said in my comments today, it’s the implementation of this that will really be the measure.

QUESTION: What about the selling of it? Before even it gets implemented --


QUESTION: -- how difficult will that be --


QUESTION: -- to your Congress, to your allies?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there are people who, regrettably, have just already automatically, politically decided, “I’m going to oppose this,” and without even knowing or reading the agreement, without knowing all the terms of it, they’re opposed to it. And there are people who have decided, many of them, that you just shouldn’t deal with Iran. But they don’t offer an alternative.

While we did that in the years 2000 till Obama came in, guess what? Their program went from 164 centrifuges to 19,000. Their enrichment stockpile reached a level over 10,000 kilograms where they had enough fissile material to make 10 bombs. Is that safer? Is that what people want to go back to? Or do they want to go just straight to war?

QUESTION: Do you think you --

SECRETARY KERRY: They have an obligation, people have an obligation to define what’s the alternative. You’re not going to sanction them into oblivion. They’ve proven that. We have seen that in the last years. Sanctions brought them to the table to negotiate. They did the very thing everybody put the sanctions in place to get them to do, which is negotiate. So they negotiated. Now, measure the agreement to see whether or not it achieves what we need to in terms of insight, restraint, accountability, and so forth. That’s what we should be doing.

QUESTION: The EU chief, Federica Mogherini, said this is not just a deal, it’s a good deal. What do you say to those who say, well, okay, it’s restricted them for 10 years and 15 and 25 depending on various issues; what about after that? Are you confident that they don’t rush to start up again or is that for a future generation?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I can’t make any promise about the long-term future of anybody, including the United States’s actions or choices or any future president, obviously. But in life, you have to bet on – and in diplomacy and in conflict, you have to set up a structure and try to live by it and put it to the test. We negotiated with the Soviet Union. We negotiated with Red China. We negotiated for years with people we deemed to be the archenemy. And without any trust, we put restraints in our nuclear programs, or came to understandings. Could you sit there and say you knew exactly what would happen 20 – no, of course not. But you try to shape that behavior through the choices you make and the things you put in place. We know, to a certainty, what this will do.

We also know – we know, Christiane, that we have unprecedented access through this in terms of verification. So yes, they get to do more in the out years. That’s their right as they clean up – supposedly – and become an NPT, good-standing country. Remember, during all of this time, Iran never pulled out of the Nonproliferation Treaty. They could have. They could have said, “To hell with you. We’ll do our own thing.” They’ve lived by the NPT. They’re living by it now. And they – well, they say they’re living by it now. They haven’t lived by it completely, which is why we put the sanctions on them. So now, we’re putting to test whether or not there’s a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of direction. And if there isn’t, we have every option available to us every day that we have right now.

QUESTION: Personally, how do you feel? You’ve been in pain, you’ve been on crutches, you said that you wore the first pair of shoes in days because we saw you wearing sneakers. One of your opposite numbers, the Iranian chief of atomic energy, also has been very ill. How has it been personally, cooped up in that Palais Coburg for all these days and weeks and months?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we all thought we were living Groundhog Day. I mean, we really felt stir-crazy and constrained, but motivated by the importance of the opportunity and by the seriousness of the subject, obviously.

QUESTION: Final question: Is this a strategic realignment? You talked about Red China, you talked about the Soviet Union. You seem, this Administration, to be saying this is more than about a nuclear deal or potentially it could redefine the balance of power in your relations in the Middle East.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it has the possibility of doing that, and you heard President Rouhani suggest that and you heard Foreign Minister Zarif suggest that. It would be stupid diplomatically – it would be diplomatic malfeasance and – if you ignored exploring the possibility. Now, we haven’t done that yet. We exclusively negotiated a nuclear deal because we knew that if we got into the other issues, you would never get to the nuclear deal.

So an Iran without a nuclear weapon – Christiane, I think you know this as a matter of common sense – is better to deal with than an Iran with one. For those who are worried about Iran’s behavior in the region, we are better off pushing back or dealing with that behavior if they’re not on a path to get one. And we believe we are clearly demonstrating a way in which they cannot get a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Secretary John Kerry, thank you very much indeed.