Kerry Defends Blueprint for Iran Deal

April 13, 2015

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.