Interview With John Dickerson of CBS Face the Nation

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz
Washington, DC
July 19, 2015

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Iran is a sworn enemy of the United States. Why should Americans – when they see Iranians dancing in the streets with this deal, why shouldn’t they be suspicious about it?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, everybody should be. We’re suspicious, which is why we negotiated a deal that is not based on trust at all. Everything that this deal is based on is on performance that can be verified, and that is critical. But look, Ronald Reagan negotiated with the former Soviet Union. Richard Nixon negotiated with what was then known as Red China. You have to negotiate sometimes with people to make the world and your country safer. And we negotiated because President Obama thought the primary challenge here was getting a nuclear weapon away from Iran, and we believe this deal does that.

QUESTION: Secretary Moniz, one of the real opponents of this deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said of the 24-day waiting period on inspections – he said you wouldn’t tell a drug dealer – give them a 24-day notice. They’d just flush the drugs down the toilet. Does he have a point?

SECRETARY MONIZ: I don’t think that’s really an option here with nuclear material. So the first point is that under IAEA engagements, they have no timeframe for resolving issues when going to undeclared sites. So first of all, getting a defined timeframe is very, very critical. There has to be a process to go through with the P5+1 to force – in case of a dispute, to force inspection. Iran otherwise is in breach. Now, 24 days – we feel very confident in the capability of IAEA with environmental sampling to detect any nuclear activity very, very long after it has occurred.

QUESTION: What happened, Mr. Secretary, with anytime, anywhere?

SECRETARY KERRY: We never – this is a term that honestly I never heard in the four years that we were negotiating. It was not on the table. There’s no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere. There isn’t any nation in the world – none – that has an anytime, anywhere. And the truth is what we always were negotiating was an end to the interminable delays that people had previously. What Ernie just said is that the IAEA has no way to end it. We negotiated a way to end it. We have a finite time period – that’s never happened before – and we have one nation’s ability to take this to the Security Council to enforce it. That is unique, and we think it was a huge accomplishment to be able to get this finite period.

QUESTION: Just to check the record here, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor, said in April you will have anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we do, but we have access to Fordow, access to Natanz, access to these places. I don’t know if he was referring to everywhere. But on the access resolution of an IAEA challenge for a suspected facility that is undeclared, this is a breakthrough agreement which has a finite period that our intel community and our scientists – I mean, here is one of the foremost nuclear scientists in the country telling us that that’s – there’s no way for them to hide that material or do away in 24 days. And right now --

QUESTION: Let me --

SECRETARY MONIZ: If I could just jump in and clarify that again, in IAEA world, it’s very important to distinguish declared and undeclared sites. Declared, we have 24-hour access; undeclared, we have this process.

QUESTION: But don’t you --

SECRETARY MONIZ: Anywhere, I might add.

QUESTION: Okay. We’ll have to move on there. Secretary Kerry, you’re allowing as a part of this deal a terrorist nation to get both conventional arms and ballistic missiles. Why is that a good idea and why is that a part of this?

SECRETARY KERRY: Actually, we’re not. There is a limit on their ability to do so. Under the arms embargo, arms control, there will be a limit of five years, and under the missile in eight years. And the reason that we were only able to limit them to the five and eight, which is quite extraordinary that we got that, was that three of the nations negotiating thought they shouldn’t have any and were ready to hold out to do that. And we said under no circumstances, we have to have those, and they add on to additional mechanisms that we have to hold them accountable on arms and missiles. We have the missile control technology regime. We have other missile restraints on them. We also have other UN resolutions that prevent them from moving arms to the Houthi, prevents them from moving arms to the Shia, prevents them from – to the Shia militia in Iraq, prevents them from moving arms to Hizballah.

So we have an ability way beyond – nothing to do with this agreement – to continue to enforce those issues.

QUESTION: How should Americans think about Iran in the wake of this agreement? Is Iran America’s enemy?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Iran has been, obviously, and we’ve been at – I mean, the same way that Ronald Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union and the same way that Richard Nixon negotiated with what we then called Red China, we have now negotiated with somebody who took our embassy over, took hostages, has killed Americans – many of the things you hear people say – supported terrorism.

But what we need to recognize is that an Iran that we want to stop the behavior of with a nuclear weapon is a very different Iran than Iran without a nuclear weapon. And we saw this opportunity. The President saw it and committed us to try to find a way through diplomacy to end that program of nuclearization with a weapon, and that’s exactly what we have done.

QUESTION: But how – you said they were an enemy. What are they now?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I said they’ve been an enemy. Yeah, I mean, they’re still – we’re still adversaries. We are not allies and friends by any means, and this agreement does only one thing: It – and you heard the ayatollah just in the last days proclaiming the continued enmity with the United States. So there are no illusions about that. What we know, however, is that an Iran without a nuclear weapon is a very different country than Iran with one, and that a Middle East without a nuclear weapon is a safer Middle East.

So we believe that Israel, we believe the region, will ultimately be much safer because of this deal. Now, if we don’t do this deal, if Congress says no to this deal, then there will be no restraints on Iran. There will be no sanctions left. Our friends in this effort will desert us. We will be viewed as having killed the opportunity to stop them from having a weapon. They will begin to enrich again and the greater likelihood is what the President said the other day: You’ll have a war.

QUESTION: Last question. If you don’t get a majority in Congress to support this deal, doesn’t that undermine the deal?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, not in the least. I mean, they don’t care over there whether it’s a majority or a minority or whatever it is, as long as the deal is implemented. And that’s what we care about, that this deal be implemented. We’d love to see the Congress listen carefully, and we’re going to go up there and we’re going to meet with them; we’re going to do our utmost to persuade people. But no, I don’t think that undermines this deal. This deal will stand ultimately on the fact that there is unprecedented inspection, unprecedented access, unprecedented restraint in their program which they’ve agreed to. There will be an increase in the breakout time for fissile material for one weapon from two months to one year for the next 10 years. There is a limit on their size of their stockpile for 15 years. For 25 years, they are going to have to allow tracking and monitoring of their mining of their uranium all the way through the fuel cycle. And our experts are convinced – experts are convinced – that we will know what they were doing and we will be able to protect our security interests and the interests of the region.

SECRETARY MONIZ: I would just add that for the long term, we are certainly better off with regard to any weapon possibility with this deal than without it. That starts day one and it goes on essentially indefinitely.

QUESTION: All right. Secretary Moniz --

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: -- Secretary Kerry, thank you.