Interview With Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough, Willie Geist, and Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC's Morning Joe

John Kerry
Secretary of State
MSNBC Studios
New York City
April 5, 2016

QUESTION: All right. Joining us now for the start of the Red Sox season --

QUESTION: I mean, he’s good luck, isn’t he?

QUESTION: Yes, he is good luck --


QUESTION: -- if you’re sitting next to him.

QUESTION: Yeah, game six.

QUESTION: Game six at about 11:00 at night, chances are things are going to go really well.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Sox are going to win the World Series.

SECRETARY KERRY: Listen to this.

QUESTION: Secretary of State John Kerry, very good to have you on board this morning.

SECRETARY KERRY: Happy to be here. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Most important question, we start with it: How are the Red Sox going to do this year?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you have different – I hope they’re going to do really well. We got Price on board, we got a better team, different team. They’re charged --

QUESTION: Right, right.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- and we’ll see what happens. But I think everybody’s still reeling from that buzzer shot last night.

QUESTION: That was an unbelievable --

QUESTION: Oh, my gosh. Can you believe it?


SECRETARY KERRY: Incredible, incredible.

QUESTION: Yeah. You stay up for it to see it?

QUESTION: Villanova.

SECRETARY KERRY: Incredible. I watched it.

QUESTION: I watched it last --

SECRETARY KERRY: I won’t tell you where, but I watched it.

QUESTION: The man doesn’t sleep. (Laughter.) That’s pretty good.

QUESTION: It’s unbelievable. Well, why don’t we start with an op-ed?

QUESTION: Sure, okay. The United Arab Emirates to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba writes in The Wall Street Journal this – ambassador: “Saturday marked one year since the framework agreement for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the nuclear deal with Iran – was announced. At the time, President Obama said this agreement would make ‘the world safer.’ And perhaps it has, but only in the short term and only when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons proliferation. Sadly, behind all the talk of change, the Iran we have long known – hostile, expansionist, violent – is alive and well and as dangerous as ever.”

QUESTION: What’s your response to Yousef?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s not as dangerous as ever because it will not have a nuclear weapon, so it cannot by definition be as dangerous as ever. The IRGC had an expectation they were going to be able to go forward with all of their efforts, which are provocative, but do so under the cover of a nuclear umbrella. They can’t do that now. And it’s not just for the short term. They have signed up, there’s 25 years of uranium tracking, 20 years of televised centrifuge production, and lifetime --

QUESTION: I mean, this is if they agree to go along with the deal. The President --


QUESTION: The President seemed to acknowledge that they aren’t at least living up right now to the spirit of the deal. Do you have faith and --

SECRETARY KERRY: Joe, I agree with the – no --

QUESTION: Do you have faith and confidence that they will stick to the key terms of this deal for the next 20 years?

SECRETARY KERRY: I have faith and confidence that we will know exactly what they’re doing during that period of time. And if they decide to try to cheat, we will know it, and there are plenty of options available to us. That I have complete faith and confidence in, and that’s why 42 United States senators joined under very difficult circumstances to support this.

But I agree with Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba, who’s a good friend, and I listen to him and I listen to the Emiratis as they talk about the dynamics of the region. And the President referred to this. Iran needs to make some clear decisions about the role it intends to play in the region and in the world. If you have a nuclear agreement and you’ve gone to these great lengths, Joe, why not stop or try at least to be part of a peace process with respect to Yemen? Why not help more to try to end the conflict in Syria? And it’s the lack of that effort, and frankly, the weapons that have been intercepted in the recent months – we just had an interception last week by the United States Navy.


SECRETARY KERRY: The Australian Navy had an interception the month before that and the month before that. That is, by everybody’s standard, unacceptable behavior, and what it’s going to do is create an uncertainty in business judgments about whether or not it’s going to be safe to invest.


SECRETARY KERRY: So Iran is complaining to us, “Hey, we’re not getting all the benefits we saw.” Well, the simple answer is: Behave differently.


SECRETARY KERRY: Engage in the world differently.

QUESTION: Do you think they will?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not in the prognostication about what their behavior’s going to be. I’m in the business of trying to make certain that we can deal with whatever it is. And I think President Obama --

QUESTION: I guess I --

QUESTION: Are you at least surprised – you worked so hard at getting this deal. Are you at least surprised by the provocations that have come out of Iran since you struck that deal?

SECRETARY KERRY: Joe, no, I’m not, and I’ll tell you why. There is – everybody has seen this fight play out publicly. I think Rafsanjani recently made public comments about how there was a need to engage in dialogue and not in missile manufac process, and he was rebuked publicly by the supreme leader who said, “No, it’s missiles, not dialogue.” So there’s a fight there and there is a – there’s still an unsettled election process --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- that goes on through this month. So I honestly think that what you’re seeing is part of the tension. There were people in Iran who opposed the Iran agreement --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- with the same ferocity that there were people here who opposed it.


SECRETARY KERRY: And they still do.

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering, Andrea – and I’ll toss it to you – but are the checks that you have in place enough of an inspiration to get them to behave? And that, I think, remains to be seen.

QUESTION: And one of the questions is: Why, then, is the U.S. Treasury or why is the Administration sanctioning the idea of helping Iran get access to dollars or to get more investment? I mean, they’re clearly complaining that they’re not seeing the benefits, so shadow banking, offshore banking that would permit --

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re working very hard to do what is fair. Iran --

QUESTION: But have they proved that they deserve that?

SECRETARY KERRY: They have in terms of the nuclear agreement, absolutely. Iran deserves the benefits of the agreement they struck, and President Obama has said it, I’ve said it, Secretary Lew has said it. And we’ve, in fact, tried to work to make sure that the banks that are supposed to be doing legitimate business with respect to the transactions that are okay after the agreement that they’re operating. So we – it’s fair for Iran to get what it deserves because it had kept its part of the bargain to date with respect to the nuclear agreement.

QUESTION: But Mr. Secretary --

SECRETARY KERRY: The problem is when they choose --

QUESTION: -- you just said earlier though, that – and the President said this also – by not living up to the spirit of the agreement, they’re sending the wrong signal to the world community and sending the wrong signal to businesses. Should they not first take care of the problem that both you and the President have diagnosed, and then you all start helping them with – financially?

SECRETARY KERRY: I think – well, Joe, we’re under an obligation to see – if we said we would lift a sanction, we’re under an obligation to lift the sanction and to make sure that, in fact, people are performing the way they are supposed to. Now, that’s different from proactively responding in other ways, and I agree with you. We just had a meeting of Russia, China, France, Germany, the United States, Britain at the table with – at the Nuclear Summit. And one of the points of discussion was everybody should be encouraging Iran not to continue its missile activities, not to continue to ship arms, because that will upset and roil the marketplace --

QUESTION: And – but what about what Donald Trump said, that this is the worst deal in history, you were the worst negotiator, that he would do it differently? I mean, what about the way that it’s being debated?

QUESTION: He doesn’t even like the fact that you rode bikes. Just let’s --

QUESTION: Or – yeah, he doesn’t think you should ride a bike with Donald Trump on nukes in general. Take your pick.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think, Andrea, I’m going to resist the temptation.

QUESTION: Oh, come on.

QUESTION: Oh, please.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I’m going to resist.

QUESTION: Oh, my gosh.


SECRETARY KERRY: I’m chomping at the bit, but I’m going to resist.

QUESTION: What discipline.

QUESTION: Let South Korea and Japan go nuclear?

QUESTION: Let’s talk about climate change. You’re here to give a big speech on that. Who’s – who can you persuade in America – the country is so divided on this issue. There are so many people who don’t see this as you do, as a big threat and something the U.S. needs to lead on. Who do you need to persuade, and how do you persuade them?

SECRETARY KERRY: We need to persuade the reluctant performers within industry, and there are fewer and fewer of them, may I say, Mark. There’s a tremendous transformation taking place. Now solar is becoming competitive with fossil fuel. You have wind power, a huge amount of distribution taking place. Countries – 186 countries came together to say we are going to move in a different direction. And that’s a signal to the marketplace, which is profound, and you’re seeing the marketplace respond. There will be somewhere upwards of $50 trillion invested over the next 30, 40, 50, 60 years in alternative renewable energy. There’s an energy transformation that is going to take place, and the rewards, the benefits, are going to go to the swift, the people who get there faster, who are --

QUESTION: So who are the holdouts?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the holdouts are obviously coal and some of your fossil fuel people. You have people politically – there isn’t one candidate in the Republican Party who has publicly taken a position to do something about climate change – not one. Now, when you look at the country as a whole, the United States of America, more than 65 percent, 68 percent or so, of the American people believe climate change is happening, believe human beings are in – are partly responsible, and believe we ought to be doing something serious about it. And there’s a new report just came out yesterday. It’s in today’s paper from the EPA saying that the increase of sickness, of deaths as a result of air pollution, and cancer and heat and other things is going to have profound cost impact and life impact on people on a global basis.

So I think the average person understands what’s happening. You look at the quality of the storms, the number of storms, the damages. We spent something like $350 billion in the United States last year just to fix up the damage from storms. Imagine what would happen if you took a tiny percentage of that and put it into renewable alternative energy and kicked the market into gear – and by the way, millions of jobs to be created. This will be the biggest market on the planet.

QUESTION: So let’s wrap it up by talking about ISIS and progress that we’re making against ISIS. First of all, are we at war with ISIS? And if we are at war with ISIS, are we making the type of progress we need to make after Brussels, after San Bernardino?

SECRETARY KERRY: We are definitively at war with ISIS. We are making real progress. I think people want to be careful not to herald something in a difficult type of war. But the fact is that ISIS – Daesh as the Arab world calls it – has lost territory. They have gained no territory since last May. They have been driven out of Ramadi. They have been driven out of Shaddadi. People thought that was going to take six weeks.


SECRETARY KERRY: It took six days. We are learning that they have cut their pay to their fighters. We’ve taken out major top-level, mid-level leaders.

QUESTION: So we’re doing well on the battlefield. Are you working --

SECRETARY KERRY: But they’re still a threat. It’s --

QUESTION: Are you working with our European allies --


QUESTION: -- to get them more resolved and a bit more strengthened in fighting the terror threat on the continent there?

SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely. In fact, prior to the Brussels attacks taking place, we already had several meetings scheduled for this month with our foreign fighter surge support team going over there, with the FBI there, with other players meeting in order to try to help them strengthen their ability to fight back. We have been deeply engaged with our European partners. They are engaged. And I’m – I mean, I’ve said from the beginning this is a tough fight, it’s a different kind of fight, but we are going to destroy Daesh – and we are. And we’re seeing now – just yesterday I read about 15 Daesh operatives who were executed by Daesh themselves. Why? Because they probably were trying to get out.


SECRETARY KERRY: And we’re seeing more and more people who are publicly, Joe, coming out and testifying to how they thought they were killing infidels and they know they’re killing Muslims and they don’t like it. So I think Daesh’s narrative is beginning to take a hit. We have – we have a new global center for communications. We’re working with the Saudis, with the Emiratis, with the Malaysians, with people around the world. It’s not our voices that are going to make the difference; it’s the voices of Islam. They have to reclaim their own religion, and that’s what we’re working on.

QUESTION: While you’re doing this important work and challenging work, I’m sure watching this election process must be something for you. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: You want to get me going again.


SECRETARY KERRY: Look, I’m a recovering politician and recovery takes a while.


SECRETARY KERRY: Your juices get flowing.


SECRETARY KERRY: It’s an election. And Joe Biden and I have talked about it. It’s the first time in a long time that both of us are not engaged. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You gotta love it, yeah. Wow.

SECRETARY KERRY: So yeah. But on the other hand, I’m confident in the end the American people are going to choose wisely. And I feel as if this current craziness, which is embarrassing our country abroad – I cannot tell you – every meeting I have anywhere, people say, “What is happening in the United States? What are you doing to yourselves?”

QUESTION: What is the – what craziness are you talking about?

QUESTION: Well, that’s what – exactly what we’re asking here. So all right, Mr. Secretary.

QUESTION: Secretary of State John Kerry, always good to have you on, an honor. Thank you very much.