Interview With Terry Moran of ABC
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, does – do you believe that this deal shows that the Iranian leadership has firmly and finally made a decision not to go for a nuclear weapon?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the deal – the agreement will put that to the test. They have said that, but there’s an obvious lack of trust between our nations. We need to build that trust. As I said in my comments today, you don’t do that overnight. You have to build the confidence over a period of time. The mere signing of an agreement is not the implementation or living up to the agreement.
So we’ve put in place real safeguards here that will guarantee that we will know what’s happening and we have options available to us, even to bring back all of the sanctions in the event that the agreement is not lived up to.
QUESTION: So it’s possible they’re still concealing their ambition to get a nuclear weapon.
SECRETARY KERRY: No, I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t take anything on a matter of trust in this kind of a negotiation. Reagan said, “Trust but verify.” We certainly want to verify. President Obama says, “Don’t trust. Verify.” So we’re making sure that we are going to verify this program. And the proof will be in the pudding.
We’ve set up a process that requires them to do things, us to do things; them to do things, us to do things. And out of that, hopefully you build some confidence that you’re moving in the right direction.
QUESTION: Back in April when the political framework was announced, you said this – you said that Iran has agreed to allow the IAEA to investigate any suspicious site or any allegation of covert activities anywhere. A lot of people in Congress say inspections should be anytime, anywhere. It sounds like you backed down.
SECRETARY KERRY: Not at all. We have the same language we had in Lausanne. The exact same language is there. The exact same access is there. No country – none, zero – anywhere on the planet has what’s called what you just said – “anywhere, anytime.” Nobody has that. There is a regime under the IAEA and a process by which nations have worked out that you can challenge people and go inspect places where you suspect there’s a facility.
Now, we’ve never been able to close on that properly. We negotiated an agreement with Iran that allows us to close on that. And so one nation can go to the United Nations Security Council and hold Iran accountable if they do not allow that access, and we have every option available to us if they don’t do it. So we have an entirely more reinforced approach to this than we’ve ever had before, and we feel very confident that we will be able to either get the access or we know they’re hiding something and we will take the options available to us to deal with that.
QUESTION: You’re confident that inspectors will get access to military sites.
SECRETARY KERRY: Our inspectors will get access under the agreement – under the terms of this agreement to suspected facilities and go through the normal process, and we will be able to get access. And if we don’t get access, per the terms of this agreement, then all of the sanctions can come back and all obviously – we have lots of options available to us in terms of additional unilateral sanctions, international sanctions, going to the Security Council, and more. And so I’m very confident about the process that exists in this agreement.
QUESTION: As you know, there are many people in the region who fear that this agreement empowers Iran to make more mischief, to project power throughout that region. And I want to ask you about that and about – when I looked at the list of people and organizations where sanctions are being lifted, one of them is General Suleimani.
SECRETARY KERRY: No, he’s not.
QUESTION: He is --
SECRETARY KERRY: He is not listed. No, that’s another Suleimani. It’s not – he is not listed.
QUESTION: Oh, it’s not him?
SECRETARY KERRY: Not in the next weeks or months that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Got it. Well, let me ask you this way: Iran essentially has American blood on its hands during the Iraq war. Do you think that this is a reward for the activities of Iran in Iraq and throughout the region?
SECRETARY KERRY: God, no. It’s – on the contrary, they are going to live under remarkable constraints with the threat of ongoing sanctions and with existing ongoing restraints on what they can do with respect to arms, missiles, human rights, nuclear. This is an incredibly constraining program over 10 and 15 and 20 and 25 and lifetime years of this agreement and their participation in the Nonproliferation Treaty. So I think it is completely false to believe that.
But let me ask you, as I ask any critic of this: So what’s the alternative? The alternative is to, what, go to war immediately? Bomb them? Sanction them further? Well, wait, no, you can’t sanction them further.
QUESTION: Why not?
SECRETARY KERRY: Because our European colleagues and the Chinese and Russians will not, in the face of a legitimate agreement that they think restrains their program, continue to do that. We lose international support. They won’t be there forever. Moreover, if you – if the United States – if the Congress decides we don’t like this, we’re going to throw it out, then Iran is free to go do whatever it wants. They have liberated Iran’s nuclear program. They will guarantee there will be a conflict, because what’s going to happen is Iran will go enrich. They’ll say America didn’t want to do – live by the terms of this agreement, so we’re free to do what we want, and then you will have lost international support and the world will say, look, Iran was willing to live by it, why wasn’t the United States?
I don’t think these folks are thinking about this, frankly, in a realistic way. You can’t sanction Iran into oblivion, because that’s what they tried to do previously. I mean, the prior administration had a policy of no enrichment at all. Guess what happened? Iran was ready to make a deal in 2003; everybody said, “No, no, no, no, we’re not going to do that. They’ve got to give up enrichment.” So Iran went from 164 centrifuges to 19,000 centrifuges, had enough fissile material to build 10 bombs. That’s better? Please. I think you’ve got to apply reality to this program, and a lot of folks who are critical of it are just not analyzing what the real choices are with respect to Iran’s options and where the world finds itself today.
QUESTION: Great. Am I done?
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.