Interview With Rich Edson of Fox
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, thanks so much for joining us. I want to start to some of the things that the Administration has said. Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying in April that the arms embargo wouldn’t be a part of this. General Dempsey saying that the missile embargo shouldn’t be a part of this. What changed to make it part of this agreement and what did we secure in return?
SECRETARY KERRY: What do you mean part of it? We are continuing those restrictions. The arms embargo continues for five years. The missile continues for eight years. And we’re – we had three of the countries of the seven negotiating who wanted no embargo at all, so we actually won a victory because we not only kept it, but we kept it under Chapter 7 which is enforceable under the United Nations Security Council. So I think it’s very strong and I’m very pleased.
QUESTION: And you don’t think there’s any change in position saying it’s not part of it, the Administration saying earlier that it wasn’t going --
SECRETARY KERRY: No, we said we were going to keep it. What we mean by not part of it is --
QUESTION: But it will terminate.
SECRETARY KERRY: -- we weren’t getting rid of it. I beg your pardon?
QUESTION: It will terminate though.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, at some point in time it had to terminate anyway because the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution saying if Iran came to the table and negotiated, sanctions would be taken away, suspended, so they would be lifted. So what we’re doing is actually, I think, gaining a period of time here where we have huge insight, huge restraint, and keeping the international community together, which is a very critical part of this because you have to negotiate with seven different countries.
QUESTION: President Rouhani says this is a starting point for trust. Do you see this as the beginning of a relationship to deal with, perhaps, issues in Syria, in Yemen, and dealing with ISIS? Could this be --
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the world would welcome a change in the relationship with Iran. There’s no question about that. But I’m not going to prognosticate. This is a nuclear deal and we’re not negotiating other things, which is one of the reasons why we kept the arms and kept the missiles. But what we’re negotiating is Iran’s nuclear capacity, and we believe we have restraints on that that give us insight to their program with guarantees of what they have to do to not only dismantle much of their program but to live for years with restraints on what they’re able to do --
QUESTION: So you don’t see this as a --
SECRETARY KERRY: -- so that our breakout time – the breakout time, that is to say the amount of time it takes Iran to get enough fissile material to build one bomb, just one bomb, is going from two months up to one year for at least 10 years. We believe the world is a lot safer just because of that. And we have all our options available to us with respect to additional sanctions or any other choices that the President might want to make.
QUESTION: And we are already hearing and have been hearing about opponents in the Arab community, certainly in Israel. What’s your response to them saying that this is beginning a broader arms race within the region?
SECRETARY KERRY: We just don’t agree with that. I think this is a restraint. And anybody who suggests that knowing that they can’t have a nuclear weapon is somehow license for somebody else to go get one – I don’t think people want to live with the same restraints Iran is living with, number one. Number two, we already have nuclear agreements with some of those other countries. I really just don’t think that that is what is going to evolve when people actually see the agreement and see the restraints that have been put on Iran’s program.
Now, if we don’t have the agreement, then you will have a nuclear arms race because Iran will continue to chase the bomb and every other nation in the region will say, well, if they’re chasing it, we have to chase it. In fact, the best way to prevent a nuclear arms race is to get this kind of agreement and make it unnecessary.
QUESTION: Iran will have access to $100 billion or more than in frozen assets once they comply with that set. This is a state that officials have called the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Is there a concern that that money could be used to fund enemies of the United States or to fund its military activities?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, obviously, they could try to choose to do some of that, and if they do, we’ll know it, and if they do it, we’ll sanction them further. I mean, that’s exactly what we have – sanctions on their support for terrorism, and those stay, those are in place. But what they’re doing in the region, in Yemen – in Iraq, by the way, they’re helping fight ISIL, but what they do with Hezbollah is not dependent on money. That is not what has defined what is happing. Iran spends about $15 billion a year on its military. The Gulf states spend $130 billion a year. Look at the differential.
But why – so you have to ask a lot of other questions about what’s going on. The 100 billion that Iran will get – and it’s a hundred – is, first of all, their money. We’ve held it for them because of what they’ve been doing. And when it comes back to them, they have about $900 billion of need for money in their country for their energy sector, for their infrastructure, their communications, for their banks. So we do not believe that President Rouhani has the freedom to just be throwing this money into other countries. The people of Iran would be furious if their lives don’t change for the better. And they have an election next year, and I believe that the vast majority of that money is, obviously, going to go – and the differential in these other places is not going to make the difference in what is happening.
QUESTION: And finally, I know you don’t want to prognosticate, but you have had what no other Secretary of State has had in more than a generation – a relationship with those and your counterparts in Iran. How does this not change the future trajectory of relations between the United States and Iran?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we just don’t know. This deal was not about those other issues. We didn’t want to get it confused with the other issues. And one of the reasons we’re able to be successful is that it wasn’t confused with them, because if it had been, I don’t think you’d ever arrived at an agreement. So we negotiated a restraint in their nuclear program because President Obama believes, and I share the belief, that if you’re worried about Iran’s behavior in the region you are far better off preventing them from having a nuclear weapon than worrying about an Iran with a nuclear weapon.
We believe we have set up a process by which Iran will not be able to get a nuclear weapon, and if they try to, we will know it. And all the options available to us today will be available to us every day in the future. We will have insight to their program and they will restrain their own program, by the way, significantly enough that we’re expanding the breakout time to some one year vice two months that it’s been – two to three months in the last year. So we’re actually making the region and the world safer by at least doing that. And if we have the right insight and the right inspections and the right accountability going forward, which is part of this agreement, this will hold well into the future.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks for your time.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.