Interview With Andrea Mitchell of NBC

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

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the President and you have said that this cuts off all pathways to a nuclear weapon, but after 10 years they can start – they can start buying advanced centrifuges. Iran will still be able to get equipment, and those will be confidential agreements not explained to the American public.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it will be – the agreement actually is going to be explained to the American public through the Congress. It’s a classified document, but it will be filed and it will be fully debriefed and fully explained to the members of the United States Congress. And there is accountability.

But Andrea, it’s wrong for people to think that this doesn’t have long-term accountability. Iran has agreed to adopt the Additional Protocol of the IAEA. That has a huge set of additional requirements for access and for accountability. In addition, we negotiated a series of restraints on Iran ranging from a 300 kilogram stockpile for 15 years; a limit on their enrichment to 3.67 percent for 15 years; a limit on metallurgy, a limit on heavy water, all for 15 years; a limit on their centrifuge production with insight to their centrifuge production for 20 years; and a complete tracking of their mining, milling, their use of, and their disposal of uranium for 25 years. And on that – beyond that, there’s the lifetime, forever requirements of the Additional Protocol and the mechanism by which we negotiated access.

So I think we have extraordinary accountability, way beyond any other nuclear agreement that we’ve ever made --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- and Iran can be held accountable.

QUESTION: -- they’ve cheated before.


QUESTION: They built an underground facility --


QUESTION: -- that is immune to --

SECRETARY KERRY: And we discovered it. And by the way, we discovered it. And that’s exactly why we’re where we are.

QUESTION: But after it was already built.

SECRETARY KERRY: But that’s exactly why we’re where we are, and we will have IAEA inspectors under this agreement continually in Iran. There’ll be an office in Iran. They will have more inspectors. They will have daily access to these facilities.

QUESTION: They have to ask for permission. They can’t go anywhere, anyplace, anytime.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no, they – there’s a process by which they have to file questions, and then they get an answer, and then they can – but at the end, we get access. That is the dispute resolution that we negotiated. This cannot go on forever. There’s a fixed number of days, and the United States always has the ability to go to the Security Council. We always have the ability to be able to hold them accountable in any number of different ways.

What the critics of this plan never offer, Andrea, is a realistic alternative. What is the alternative? Hold on to sanctions? Well, you can’t because our friends won’t do that.

QUESTION: Well, what do you say to Bibi Netanyahu? What do you say to Israel’s prime minister?

SECRETARY KERRY: Israel is safer.

QUESTION: “An historic mistake,” he says.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, he said the same thing about the interim agreement, and he was wrong. The fact is that he’s, frankly, been making comments that are way over the top. He doesn’t even know what the concessions are that we have not engaged in, because we haven’t made concessions. So there’s a game – there’s a process here. This is under attack by people who really don’t know the terms of the agreement. And they don’t offer an alternative.

Their alternative is what, perpetual state of sanctions? Not going to happen. Our European and the Chinese and Russian friends are not going to do that. What are they going to do? Say, well, we’re going to bring you to heel by saying you can’t have enrichment at all? That’s what President Bush had as a policy, and they went from 164 centrifuges to 19,000. So we are the first administration to actually stop their program, roll it back, make it accountable, and set up a system going forward into the future. That’s a better deal.

QUESTION: Iran or its proxies are involved in four hot wars right now. So how do you justify down the road – five years, eight years, or sooner – taking off the arms embargo on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, look, the United Nations passed a resolution that said if Iran comes to the negotiating table, the sanctions will be lifted. That was the deal. We’re not even doing that. We’re keeping the sanctions in place despite the fact that three of the negotiating countries thought they should end automatically. We won that battle. We’re keeping them in place for another five years. And we always have the ability to go back to the UN to do any number of things ourselves if they don’t change or things don’t get better.

QUESTION: Well, how do you know --

SECRETARY KERRY: The United States doesn’t lose anything, Andrea, by giving them the opportunity to prove this is a peaceful program. What’s the alternative, go to war now? You want to – I mean, everybody wanted to say automatically let’s bomb Iran? I mean, is that the alternative? Some people want to do that. President Obama believes the first thing you want to do is exhaust the opportunity of diplomacy. And if Iran doesn’t live by it, Andrea, all the options are available to us. That’s what’s so ridiculous here in some of this opposition. We know we will have their program for the 15 years absolutely where it needs to be, and then after that we will have a system in place which is sufficiently penetrating and accountable that we will know what Iran is doing. It’s that simple.

QUESTION: They were burning American flags on Friday. It’s Quds Day, the --

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, well, Quds Day is Quds Day. Everybody knows what that is. It’s not a day you expect them --

QUESTION: But how do you know that the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, is going to support what Foreign Minister Zarif has negotiated with you?

SECRETARY KERRY: Because Foreign Minister Zarif said he would and President Rouhani said he would, and that’s what they’re proffering. They have a choice. They get nothing – they get nothing, not one ounce of relief on any sanction – if they don’t build the one-year breakout and dismantle their program. Are you telling me that it’s smarter not to put them to the test, to dismantle their program, restrain their research, get rid of their enriched uranium, not be able to build a bomb, and somehow people would want to be skeptical and say, “Oh, I don’t know what they’re going to do so let’s not do anything”? It doesn’t make sense. We will have the greatest insight of any nuclear program ever. We will know what they are doing. And I believe it makes sense to put to the test whether or not this is a peaceful nuclear program.

QUESTION: I’m glad to see that they have not exhausted you and your passion for getting this done. Congratulations.


QUESTION: Thank you so much.