United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Kerry Defends Blueprint for Iran Deal

In three interviews on April 12, Secretary of State John Kerry maintained that his portrayal of the blueprint for a nuclear deal with Iran is correct. “Everything I have laid out is a fact and I’ll stand by them,” he told CBS’ Bob Schieffer. Statements by Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have suggested that Tehran’s interpretation of the framework differs from Washington’s, especially on the pace of sanctions relief.  

Kerry also warned U.S. lawmakers against passing new legislation that could jeopardize the negotiations. “What we’re looking for -- is not to have Congress interfere with our ability inappropriately by stepping on the prerogatives of the executive department of the president and putting in place conditions and terms that are going to get in the way of the implementation of a plan,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd. The following are excerpts from Kerry’s interviews with three American networks.

Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC Meet the Press
 

 
QUESTION: Let me move to Iran because Iran is on the state sponsor of terror list. Why – how is it that you can do a nuclear agreement and trust a country to abide by that agreement that you also believe, that our government believes, is a state sponsor of terror?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the bottom line is the word you used, “trust.” We don’t trust. There is no element of trust in what we’re doing. You have to build trust, and that takes place over a long period of time.
 
This is an agreement that is based on transparency, accountability, verification. You have to be able to know what is happening. And we believe the President’s responsibility and my responsibility in support of him is to guarantee and protect the security of our country and of our friends and allies. And we believe that this agreement does that. We know that the American people overwhelmingly would like to see if we could resolve this question of Iran’s nuclear program peacefully. And that’s what we’re trying to do, but it requires a protocol of visibility, of accountability, of insight, of transparency ––so that we know what Iran is doing. And over a long period of time we believe that we can indeed do what’s necessary to make the guarantees that are important to everyone.
 
Now -- what’s key here is that what we have done shuts off the four principal pathways to a bomb for Iran in the Natanz facility, in the Arak plutonium facility, in the Fordow underground facility, and also the covert program. We think that – we don’t think – the science tells us that we have an ability to know what Iran is doing and to be able to shut off those pathways to a bomb. That makes the world safer.
 
QUESTION: And there are plenty of people that say if your – what you say the agreement is is the agreement, there are plenty of people, even some Republicans, who say it’s a good agreement. However, the leader of Iran, the ayatollah – and everybody knows this is the guy that calls the shots – he tweets this out in English: “I trust our negotiators but I’m really worried as the other side is into lying and breaching promises. An example was the White House fact sheet.”
 
And when you look at the differences, whether it’s President Rouhani and what he has said or what the ayatollah has said: The United States has said there’s going to be a gradual relief of sanctions based on progress, the Iranians say there’s immediate sanction relief; the U.S. says there’s limits on uranium enrichment, the Iranians say there’s no mention of enrichment limits; the U.S. says there’s restrictions on Iranian research, the Iranians say there is no restrictions on research and development.
Why are they publicly lying, if that’s what they’re doing?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m not going to get into accusations back and forth. That doesn’t help our process. It’s not going to solve any problems –
 
QUESTION: Are they being truthful? Are the Iranians truthful here?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just say this to you, Chuck. They’re going to say the things that they feel they need to say with respect to their deal at home. And all I can tell you is this: When we did the interim agreement, there were these same kinds of discrepancies, or spin if you want to call it that, with respect to what the deal was or wasn’t. But in the end, the deal was signed and the deal has been agreed to and lived up to. No one contests that Iran has lived up to every component of that agreement, and the deal is what we said it was.
 
Now, with respect to the fact sheet that we put out, just yesterday the Russians released a statement saying that the statement released by the United States is both reliable and factual. So I will stand by every word that I have uttered publicly, and I will be briefing the United States Congress in full – the House tomorrow, the Senate the next day – and we will lay out all of the details to them, some of which are obviously classified, but we will have a long discussion about what the facts are.
 
QUESTION: All right. But if the Iranians insist that immediate sanction relief has to take place, immediate, that all sanctions have to be gone, will you walk away from that deal?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Again, I’m not going to get into one side’s or another side’s characterization of what the deal is or isn’t. We’ve made clear what our needs are, what our expectations are. We’ve made it very clear that if we can’t achieve our goals we will not sign a deal, and we’ve said that again and again to Congress, to the world. We want a good deal. We believe that the outlines, the parameters that we have laid out thus far, are the outlines of that good deal. Now, is it perfect yet? No. Are there things that need to be done? Yes. That’s why we have another two and a half months of negotiation.
And what we’re looking for -- is not to have Congress interfere with our ability inappropriately by stepping on the prerogatives of the executive department of the president and putting in place conditions and terms that are going to get in the way of the implementation of a plan.
 
Click here for a full transcript.
 
Interview with Bob Schieffer of CBS Face the Nation
 
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, last week the Iranian supreme leader said no nuclear deal unless all sanctions are lifted; there will be no inspection of military sites. But according to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee John McCain, a longtime colleague of yours, he said that the ayatollah’s comments were not what you had been talking about, and here’s what he said in a radio talk show interview: “John Kerry must have known what was in it and yet chose to interpret it in another way. It’s probably in black and white that the ayatollah is probably right. John Kerry is delusional.”
 
And then last night the President shot back pretty hard at John McCain: “And when I hear some, like Senator McCain recently, suggest that our Secretary of State John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran who’s provided exemplary service to this nation, is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what’s in a political agreement than the supreme leader of Iran, that’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries.”
 
So there you have it, Mr. Secretary. What – do you agree with what the President said? Do you go that far?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: I think the President has spoken very powerfully to Senator McCain’s comments and belief in the ayatollah’s interpretation. I’ll let the facts speak for themselves. Yesterday the Russians, who are not our usual ally, released a statement saying that what we have put out in terms of our information is both reliable and accurate. And I will be briefing the Congress in depth tomorrow with the House and Tuesday with the Senate, and I’ll lay out the facts. Everything I have laid out is a fact and I’ll stand by them.
 
In the end, it’s really the final agreement that will determine it. And I would remind you we had this same dueling narrative, discrepancy, spin – whatever you want to call it – with respect to the interim agreement, Bob. But in the end, the interim agreement came out exactly as we had described. And what’s important is Iran not only signed it but has lived up to it in every respect. Iran has proven that it will join into an agreement and then live by the agreement. And so that’s important as we come into the final two and a half months of negotiation.
 
It’s also important to note that we have two and a half more months to negotiate, so this is not finalized. This is an outline of parameters. And most people are very surprised by the depth and breadth and detail of these parameters, and it went well beyond what they expected. And I think people need to hold their fire and let us negotiate without interference and be able to complete the job over the course of the next two and a half months.
 
QUESTION: But do you think, Mr. Secretary, hearing the – Senator John McCain, I must say I was surprised by his comments. He went so strong here. Can you possibly get this through the Congress if a deal is reached if he’s talking that way already?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, again, the President spoke to Senator McCain’s comments, and I’m not going to say anything further about it. I’m focused on the facts. I’m focused on getting a good agreement. I think what we have thus far are the makings of a very good agreement. And the key is now: Can we shut off Iran’s four pathways to a bomb? I think we’ve laid out an outline that does that.
 
And what’s interesting is the scientific community, the expert community – joined, I might add, by Russia, China, Germany, France, Great Britain – their experts all agree with us. So this is not just the United States of America. This is a global mandate issued by the United Nations to be able to negotiate with Iran. They’re the ones who created the beginning of this, and the Congress assisted by passing sanctions, helping to bring Iran to the table. The whole purpose of the sanctions was to have a negotiation. Now we’re having that negotiation. And I think we’ve earned the right through what we’ve achieved in the interim agreement and what we have laid out in this parameter that has been set forth, we’ve earned the right to be able to try to complete this without interference and certainly without partisan politics.
 
Click here for a full transcript.
 
Interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC This Week
 
QUESTION: We’re also seeking a new relationship with Iran. You called that framework deal on the nuclear program historic; but the more we hear from the Iranian side, the less it sounds like a real deal at all. I want to – we saw Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, speak out this week on the deal. This office put out a tweet that says, “Hours after the talks Americans offered a fact sheet that most of it was contrary to what was agreed. They always deceive and break promises.”
 
And there do seem to be big differences. The ayatollah says that the sanctions will be lifted as soon as the deal is implemented. The United States says no, it will only come after Iran takes those steps and it’s verified by the IAEA. So is there a deal on that question or not?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: George, the facts on which the parameters are based are facts. And yesterday the Russians issued a statement saying that the fact sheet or the facts as expressed by the United States are reliable and accurate information. Now, you can go back to the interim agreement, and we have the same kind of dueling narratives. They’re going to put their spin on their point of view, and obviously, they’ll allege that we’re putting a spin on our point of view. But I will stand by every fact that I have said, stated publicly.
 
And you have to look to the interim agreement where they likewise put out a different set of interpretations. But when it came time to implement the agreement, the agreement that was implemented was the agreement that we had articulated and it was the agreement that has been kept. And to Iran’s credit, Iran has lived up to and lived by every requirement in that agreement.
 
So I’m going to let the facts speak for themselves. I don’t want to get into a back and forth publicly. I don’t think it serves any purpose. I’ll be consulting Congress – tomorrow the House and on Tuesday the Senate. I will lay out in full our understanding of this agreement. And if it isn’t the understanding, George, we’re not going to sign an agreement. I mean, we will come to these next two and a half months open to trying to improve still, perhaps finish on a few – not perhaps – definitely finish in a few areas that were clearly left unresolved. And that’s going to have to happen for a full agreement to be put into place.
 
QUESTION: When you go up to Capitol Hill, you’ll probably encounter your old friend and colleague, Senator John McCain, who seems to be saying – suggesting that the ayatollah has his interpretation right. He calls you, quote, “delusional.” And he went on to say this: “I can’t blame the ayatollah because I don’t think they ever agreed to it, and I think John Kerry tried to come back and sell a bill of goods hoping maybe that the Iranians wouldn’t say much about it.”
 
Selling us a bill of goods?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: (Laughter.) I think President Obama spoke very, very powerfully to Senator McCain yesterday, and I’ll let the President’s words stand. I also stand by every fact that I have laid out. It’s an unusual affirmation of our facts to come from Russia, but Russia has said that what we’ve set out is reliable and accurate. And I will let the final agreement speak for itself.
 
Click here for a full transcript.
 

Iran Condemns Airstrikes on Yemen

Saudi Arabia's airstrike campaign against Houthi positions in Yemen has drawn strong condemnation from Iranian officials. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif demanded an “immediate halt” to Saudi military actions, which began on March 26. Iran is widely seen as the main backer of the Houthis, a Zaydi Shiite movement that has been fighting Yemen’s Sunni-majority government since 2004. The Houthis, who have allied themselves with forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have controlled the capital city Sanaa since September 2014.

On April 8, Secretary of State John Kerry told PBS that Washington is “well aware of the support” Iran has provided to the Houthis, including a number of Iranian flights that go to Yemen weekly. “Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized, or while people engage in overt warfare across lines — international boundaries of other countries,” he warned.
 
Iranian officials, however, have countered claims about Tehran’s support for the Houthis. "The allegations about sending weapons by the Islamic Republic of Iran to Yemen are completely fabricated and sheer lies," said Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham.   
 
The following are excerpted remarks from Iranian officials on the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen.  
 
Iran 
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 
 
“I strongly warn the Saudis to end adventurism and bloodshed in Yemen; such movements in the region would not be tolerated; killing of children and women and destroying a country’s infrastructure and national wealth is a great crime.”
April 9, 2015, in a speech
 
 
“The opposition to foreign intervention constitutes the Islamic Republic’s stance on all countries, including Yemen." 
 
We believe that the solution to the Yemeni crisis lies in an end to foreign intervention and attack on the country’s people.”  
April 7, 2015, in a meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
"We want an immediate halt to Saudi Arabia's military operations in Yemen.”
 
"We will make all our efforts to control the crisis in Yemen."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
"The Saudi-led airstrikes should stop immediately and it is against Yemen's sovereignty."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
 
“[Air strikes] are simply not the answer... All operations should end on land and from the air.”
 
“This issue should be resolved by the Yemenis... Iran and Saudi Arabia need to talk but we cannot talk to determine the future of Yemen.”
April 14, 2015, according to the press
 
Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan
 
“The Saudi government, which undertook this military invasion with the help of America and Israel and intelligence help from some regional countries, not only will not achieve its own illegitimate goals, but has provided the grounds for its own collapse and irreparable failures and a similar fate of that of Saddam [Hussein] is awaiting it.”
 
"The Saudi government should know that by supporting financially, logistically and by training of takfiris and terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Caucuses, and attacking Yemen while preventing humanitarian aid, will not turn it into an important country in the region.”
April 16, 2015, according to the press
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian 
 
"We condemn foreign interference with the situation in Yemen by any country, be it Iran, Saudi Arabia, or the United States.”
 
"Carrying out airstrikes and starting a war is easy. Putting an end to a war and quitting a war is hard." 
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
"Supporters of terrorism and militarism in the region will become victim of their own wrong policies." 
 
"If a political solution is not found soon for the war in Yemen, it will result in a new type of terrorism in the region." 
 
"The developments of the recent years in the region have shown that military and violent acts have not resolved anything and, rather, made the situation even more complicated in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and recently Yemen." 
April 8, 2015, according to the press 
 
Judiciary Chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani  
 
"Saudi Arabia's aggression against Yemen is a very regrettable event in the Muslim world which should end as soon as possible through talks and negotiations; otherwise, this blatant aggression of a government which claims (to be leading) Islam, against the Muslim people of another country who want to decide their fate will not remain unanswered." 
 
"When naive individual decisions are made in a country which doesn’t have the least experience of democracy, has no parliament and no elections, the result will be the aggression of a state which claims to be the leader of Islam to another Muslim nation preventing its people from exercising their right of sovereignty." 
April 8, 2015, according to the press 
 
Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi  
 
"The silence of the western states and the international bodies on the current developments in Yemen and the destruction of the country's infrastructures has taken the world public opinion to this conclusion that the al-Saud's aggression was staged with their green light." 
April 8, 2015, according to the press 
 
Army Commander Major General Ataollah Salehi  
 
“It’s a pity that today, the arrogance has plagued the Islamic world through deception, in a way that Muslims are fighting each other instead of fighting against the archenemy, namely Israel." 
April 9, 2015, according to the press 
 
Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham 
 
"Iran wants an immediate halt to all military aggressions and air strikes against Yemen and its people."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
"Resorting to military acts against Yemen which is entangled in an internal crisis and fighting terrorism will further complicate the situation, spread the range of crisis and destroy opportunities to settle the internal differences in Yemen peacefully.”
 
"This aggression will merely result in the spread of terrorism and extremism and will spread insecurity to the entire region."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
“These operations are a dangerous step and completely contrary to international obligations in respecting the national sovereignty of other countries.”
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
"The allegations about sending weapons by the Islamic Republic of Iran to Yemen are completely fabricated and sheer lies." 
March 31, 2015, according to the press 
 
Basij Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi  
 
"It would be wrong think that Saudi Arabia is administering the war in Yemen, while the US is in charge." 
 
"You cannot stand against the will of a nation with an army; the Saudi army is apparently in battlefield, but it is the US that plays the role." 
 
"Imposing war on Yemen will, God willingly, have no result other than Saddam's fate for the aggressors and the US that is the direct sponsor of this crime will have to leave the region forever after losing its puppet, the Al Saud regime." 
April 2, 2015, according to the press 
 
Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Seyed Mohammad Baqerzadeh 
 
"This aggression is playing with fire and the Al Saud regime will never be able to bring Yemen under its control." 
 
"This war will have dire repercussions for the US and Saudi interests in future just like the wars in Syria and Iraq." 
April 2, 2015, according to the press
 
Head of Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaedin Boroujerdi
 
“The fact that Saudi Arabia has fanned the flames of a new war in the region shows its carelessness."
 
“The smoke of this fire will go into the eyes of Saudi Arabia as war is never limited to one place only. We hope this military operation will be halted immediately and the Yemen problem solved through political means.”
 
“America, which leads the fire mongering in the region, has supported this act and no doubt Saudi Arabia and some countries in the Arab cooperation council would not get involved without America's permission."
 
“Having imposed long years of crisis in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, America has in practice started another crisis and massacre on the Islamic world and this act is strongly condemned."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
Ambassador to the United Nations Gholamali Khoshroo
 
Allegations of Iranian involvement in Yemen are “fabricated to distract attentions from the misguided and failed policies that have led to the current political and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

"[Saudi Arabia's] bombing campaign further destabilizes Yemen and could lead to a prolonged and bloody civil war.”

“Preposterous narratives trying to depict [the Yemen conflict] as merely a battleground between Sunnis and Shias are entirely erroneous and invented simply to advance the interests of the foreigners.”
 
“Yemeni-led dialogue and conciliation process among all Yemeni political and social groups is the only way to resolve the Yemeni predicament.”
—April 15, 2015, according to the press
 
Photo credit: Zarif by Robin WrightAfkham via Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tags: Yemen

New York Times Videos: Life in Iran

The New York Times has released the following series of videos about everyday life inside Iran by Thomas Erdbrink and Roel Van Broekhoven.



Khamenei Comments: Nuclear Plan, Yemen

In a speech on April 9, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he was “neither for nor against” the nuclear framework announced by Iran and the world’s six major powers on April 2, noting that the details remain to be finalized. He was also strongly critical of Saudi Arabia's intervention in the Yemeni crisis. The following are excerpts from Khamenei's speech.

Nuclear framework
 
“Some people would ask why Leader has not yet taken a position on the recent nuclear statement; I would tell them there is no place for taking position at all, since our nuclear negotiators as well as the government say nothing special has happened and no binding agreement has been signed by the two sides.”
 
 
“If asked about my position about the negotiations, I would say neither I support nor I oppose the negotiations, since nothing special has happened yet; the crux of the matter and which is the most troublesome part as well is when it comes to painful details, which would push the negotiators, country, and the nation to the wall.”
 
 
“If anyone said the Leader opposed nuclear deal, it is an inaccuracy; I support a deal which secures our national interests and rights; however, I have said before that no deal is better than a bad deal, since it is preferred to a deal which violates the national rights and glory and denigrates our people.”
 
“I would clearly address here an ambiguity: Sometimes it is said that Leader oversees the details of the negotiations; this is also an inaccuracy. The overall framework of the affairs is communicated to the President and, in some cases, to the foreign minister; however, the details are up to them.”
 
 
“I have never been optimistic about the US; this pessimism has not been based on a whim; rather, it is years of experience which indicates that we should be pessimistic about the US intentions.”
 
“Our concerns and mistrust of the US are illustrated with the recent conduct of the White House, when it prepared a statement only two hours after the Lausanne joint statement, which was a distorted, politically motivated statement, and one which should not be trusted.”
 
 
“The Leader’s words addressed to the nation are based on mutual trust and as people trust me, I also trust the nation; here, I would have a recommendation to our officials; our nuclear negotiators and other authorities should sit with the prominent critics of the nuclear statement to find out what they say and use in their words what would be effective in the negotiations process…I stress that negotiations with the US would not go beyond the nuclear issue; and if they continue to deviate from the straight path, our reaction would be mistrust of them which is informed by our experience of their conduct.”
 
 
“I strongly insist that our officials not underestimate our current nuclear achievements; the nuclear industry is a necessity for our country; that some of the so-called intellectuals object that ‘why we would need nuclear industry?’ I believe, is deceiving the public.”
 
 

Yemen

“I strongly warn the Saudis to end adventurism and bloodshed in Yemen; such movements in the region would not be tolerated; killing of children and women and destroying a country’s infrastructure and national wealth is a great crime.”
 
Translations via Mehr News

New Polls: A Third of Americans Support Nuke Plan

The following are key findings from four recent polls, which were conducted in the days following the announcement of a nuclear framework between Iran and the world's six major powers. In two of the polls, around a third of respondents said they support the framework.

Economist/YouGov Poll
 
A new Economist/YouGov poll found that most Americans support the nuclear talks with Iran. The survey, conducted April 4-6, found that 61 percent of respondents believe the United States should negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program.
 
 
But barely a quarter of respondents said they would trust Iran to adhere to an agreement.  
 
Support for the nuclear framework announced on April 2 varied along party lines. Among Democrats, 57 percent support the framework, but only 20 percent of Republicans support it.
 
 
Click here for more information on the poll
 
Reuters/Ipsos Poll
 
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted April 3-7, found that 36 percent of respondents support the preliminary nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. When broken down by party, 30 percent of Republicans support the deal compared to 51 percent of Democrats.
 
 
Support
Oppose
Not sure
Republicans
30 percent
30 percent
40 percent
Democrats
51 percent
10 percent
39 percent
Independents
33 percent
21 percent
45 percent
The poll also found little support for using military force as the sole way to curb Iran's nulcear program. Only 5 percent of Democrats, 11 percent of Republicans, and 6 percent of Independents supported that approach.
 
Click here for more information on the poll
 
NBC News/SurveyMonkey Poll
 
A new NBC News/SurveyMonkey Poll, conducted April 6-8, found that the majority of Americans consider Iran’s nuclear program a “major threat.” More than 70 percent of Republicans gave that response, compared to just over 40 percent of Democrats.
 
Iran’s nuclear program is:
All
Republicans
Democrats
Independents
Major threat
53 percent
74 percent
41 percent
50 percent
Minor threat
37 percent
23 percent
47 percent
39 percent
Not a threat at all
8 percent
1 percent
11 percent
9 percent
 
Click here for more information on the poll

 

Americans United for Change/Hart Research Poll

A poll commissioned by Americans United for Change, conducted April 6-8, found that 65 percent believe Congress should allow the agreement to move forward and monitor its implementation, while 30 percent believe Congress should take action to block the deal before it is implemented.

 
Congress should:
All
Republicans
Democrats
Independents
Allow agreement to go forward and closely monitor implementation
65 percent
47 percent
82 percent
64 percent
Block the agreement now and prevent implementation
30 percent
48 percent
15 percent
27 percent
 
Click here for more information on the poll
 

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