The Final Deal: U.S. Officials React

August 28, 2015

The following are excerpted statements by U.S. officials on the final nuclear deal that was announced by the world’s six major powers and Iran on July 14.

Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power

"If the United States rejects this deal, we would instantly isolate ourselves from the countries that spent nearly two years working with American negotiators to hammer out its toughest provisions. Those partners believe that this is a sound deal—with a rigorous set of inspection measures that would allow us to know if Iran is not playing by the rules. And those countries have been very clear that they are not prepared to walk away from this deal to try to secure different terms. So if we walk away, there is no diplomatic door number two. No do over. No rewrite of the deal on the table." 

"In the case of Iran, the United States persuaded other countries to apply pressure for a purpose—in order to secure significant, long-term constraints that would cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. If we move the goalpost now—arguing, for example, that there should not be sanctions relief until Iran stops supporting terrorist proxies or until it permanently gives up nuclear enrichment for peaceful purposes—we would give detractors a powerful tool to try to obstruct our future efforts on issues unrelated to Iran. Our efforts to reach this deal have affirmed the view of the United States as a tough but principled leader; rejecting it would be read in many quarters as a superpower intent on inflicting pain for its own sake."

"The Iran nuclear deal has been championed by the president of the United States, every one of America’s European friends and countless other countries around the world. If Congress rejects the deal, we will project globally an America that is internally divided, unreliable and dismissive of the views of those with whom we built Iran’s sanctions architecture in the first place."
—Aug. 26, 2015, in an op-ed in Politico 

Secretary of State John Kerry

“If Congress doesn't pass this, if Congress were to kill this, then we have no inspections, we have no sanctions, we have no ability to negotiate, because I assure you the ayatollah, if the United States arbitrarily and unilaterally kills this, you're not going to have another negotiation. And they will feel free to go do the very things that this prevents.” 
 
“We're expanding that breakout from those two months to one year for 10 years and longer. And we have lifetime inspection, adherence to the IAEA, adherence to the advanced protocol, 25 years of tracking and monitoring their uranium, from mining, to milling, to yellow cake, to gas, to centrifuge, to waste. That's unprecedented. And we would not have had that without this agreement.” 
 —July 19, 2015, on CNN’s State of the Union
 
“There's no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere [inspections]. 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…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.”
 
“The same way that Ronald Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union, and the same way that Richard Nixon negotiated what we then called Red China, we have now negotiated with somebody who took our embassy over, took hostages, 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 an 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.”
 
“We believe that Israel, we believe the region will ultimately be much safer because of this deep. Now, if you don't -- 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 weapons. They will begin to enrich again, and the greater likelihood is what the president said the other day; you will have a war.”
 —July 19, 2015, on CBS’s Face the Nation
 
Resuming diplomatic relations with Iran is “not being contemplated. We don’t have relations at this point.”
 —July 19, 2015, on ABC’s This Week
 

Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman

 

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
 
"Today’s announcement between the P5+1 and Iran is a historic accomplishment. Building on the Lausanne framework, it will ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is – and will remain – a peaceful one, or that the international community will have more than enough time to respond if Iran’s program proves otherwise. This deal will extend the time it would take for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a first nuclear explosive device to a year for at least ten years, from the current breakout time of just two to three months.
 
Drawing on the vast scientific and technological expertise from across the Department of Energy’s National Laboratory system, Department and Lab experts helped shape the nuclear negotiations through rigorous technical analysis. The Department of Energy backs the deal and stands ready to assist in its implementation.
 
This agreement will be implemented in phases – with some provisions in place for 10 years, others for 15 and others for 20 or 25 years. Iran has committed to the Additional Protocol indefinitely as part of its adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.
 
This agreement is the result of tireless work from our experts at the Department and the National Labs, our interagency colleagues and specifically, Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. The U.S. multi-agency delegation worked together collegially and seamlessly, and the P5+1 displayed remarkable cooperation and cohesion throughout this complex endeavor. These are tributes to Secretary Kerry’s personal commitment and leadership.
 
I also want to thank the Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Salehi (MIT PhD ’77) for his dedication to this process. His professionalism, dedication and commitment to advancing Iran’s nuclear science and education programs, while at the same time building the international community’s trust in Iran’s nuclear program, were key to this agreement.
 
This is a good deal for America, for our allies, and for our global security. Most important, this deal is based on hard science and analysis. The facts of this agreement meet the nuclear objectives set down by President Obama: verification of a peaceful Iranian nuclear program and sufficient lead time if it proves otherwise."
—July 14, 2015, according to the press
 
“With regard to the Americans unjustly held or missing, again, the secretary -- I was there -- every meeting, this was always raised, and remains, I think, an area of considerable focus.”
 —July 19, 2015, on CNN’s State of the Union
 
“Under IAEA engagements, they have no time frame for resolving issues when going to undeclared sites. So, first of all, getting a defined time frame is very, very critical. There has to be a process to go through with the P5-plus-one 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,” commenting on the 24-day waiting period for inspections of undeclared nuclear sites.
 
“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.
 —July 19, 2015, on CBS’s Face the Nation
 
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice
 
“Let’s say that the United States, for example, gathers some information that we believe indicates that there is a suspicious or secret site. We would take that information to the IAEA. The IAEA would investigate. The IAEA would go to Iran and say, 'We want to visit this site. We want to check it out.'
 
“And by checking it out, it's not just visiting, it's doing environmental sampling, soil sampling, radioactive materials would be tested for and if they are detected. If the Iranians said, 'No, you can't see that site,' whether it's a military site or not, the IAEA, if it deems the site suspicious, can ask for access to it. So there are no limitations on the type of facility that can be accessed but there has to be a reasonable suspicion.”
 
“It's not a request. It's a requirement.”
 
“We are working very hard…on the issue of our Americans who are detained in Iran and have been not only throughout this process but since the time of their detention.
 
“And we were very specific about the need not to link their fate to that of the negotiations because we had no idea for certain whether negotiations would succeed or fail. We didn’t want to give the Iranians a bargaining chip to use against us in the negotiations.”
 
“In our judgment, and I think in the judgment of many thoughtful people in those countries, the best thing we can do for their security [Israel and the Gulf states] is to ensure that they don’t have a neighbor with nefarious intentions armed with a nuclear weapon. And this deal does that.”
 
“What [opponents] are arguing is that in Iran, out from under sanctions, if in fact eventually Iran fulfills its obligations under this deal - and they don’t get any sanctions relief until they’ve completely fulfilled their key obligations - but if they have, and we can then verifiably determine that they are not in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon, then there will be incremental sanctions relief.”
 
“I also want to make sure people understand that this deal was never about trying to prevent Iran from using proxies in the region, or destabilizing the region.
 
“This was always about our principle and primary concern as shared by the government of Israel and their neighbors in the region. Israel has said that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is an existential threat. We are addressing that threat directly and effectively in this deal.
 
“But we understand that Iran has played a very destabilizing role in the region, it continues to foment unrest and to have supported terrorism, so we want to do what we can to bolster the capacity of our allies and partners in the region to resist that.”
 
“There will be no sanctions relief including of the oil sanctions unless and until Iran fulfils all of the steps that it needs to take under this agreement related to its nuclear program.
 
“So it's got to dismantle two-thirds of its centrifuges. It's got to get rid of 98 percent of its uranium stockpile. It's got to allow continuous and extraordinary access to its nuclear facilities. It's got to take steps to make inoperable its current heavy-water plutonium reactor, among other steps.
 
“It's got to satisfy the IAEA that any questions that the IAEA has that remain about Iran's past history of pursuing nuclear weapons have been resolved satisfactorily. Those are all prior steps, before any sanctions relief, that Iran has to take.
 
“So let's say they do all those things. And based on their performance under the interim agreement, where they've done everything they said they would do, I think there's reason to expect that they will fulfill those steps.”
—July 15, 2015, in an interview with Reuters
 
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew
 

“Today’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an historic deal that will cut off all pathways to a nuclear weapon, cements intrusive inspections that will be at an unprecedented level, and ensures that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.  This significant accomplishment would not have been possible without strong and rigorously applied economic sanctions, which were designed and enforced by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, alongside many others worldwide.  These sanctions disrupted Iran's access to the materials and infrastructure necessary to develop its nuclear program, more than halved its oil exports, and severed its banking system from the world – providing the leverage necessary to compel Iran to negotiate in a constructive and serious way.

“Today, Iran committed to take far-reaching steps, some of them permanent, to ensure that it will not develop a nuclear weapon.  Only after Iran takes those steps, the P5+1 will relieve broad nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in a phased manner as international inspectors confirm that Iran has upheld its commitments.  All current sanctions will remain in place until such steps have been verified, with the only exceptions being the limited sanctions relief that has been in place since negotiations began.  No new U.S. nor international sanctions are being relieved today.
 
“When Iran does what it needs to do, we will provide timely guidance to governments and businesses worldwide to clearly explain the changes to U.S. sanctions on Iran.  As Iran fulfills its responsibilities, we will make good on our JCPOA commitments.  However, we retain the ability to snap back both U.S. and international sanctions if Iran does not abide by the agreement reached today.  While we hope that does not come to pass, we have ensured through this deal that we will have the means to respond swiftly and powerfully. 
 
“Furthermore, we harbor no illusions about the Iranian government’s nefarious activities beyond its nuclear program.  Make no mistake: we will continue to impose and aggressively enforce sanctions to combat Iran’s support for terrorist groups, its fomenting of violence in the region, and its perpetration of human rights abuses. The JCPOA frees the world of the specter of a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and we retain the tools to confront both terrorism and regional destabilization without the added risk of nuclear weapons.  This is a very positive development.
 
“Reaching this deal today is a milestone that means that the world will no longer be threatened by an active Iranian nuclear program.  We look forward to working with Congress and our international partners in the coming months to ensure successful implementation of the JCPOA‎.”
—July 14, 2015, in a press release
 
Photo credit: Moniz by Energy.gov via Flickr Commons (public domain as U.S. Government work)