US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday launched a media offensive aimed at trying to allay Israel’s — and Arab allies’ — concerns about the interim six-month nuclear agreement signed by Tehran and world powers in Geneva in the early hours of Sunday morning.
In a series of statements and interviews, Kerry repeatedly said that the deal “makes Israel safer.”
“From this day, for the next six months, Israel is in fact safer than it was yesterday because we now have a mechanism by which we are going to expand the amount of time in which [the Iranians] can break out [to obtain nuclear capability] rather than narrow it. We are going to have insights into their program that we didn’t have before,” Kerry told CNN.
“We believe very strongly that because the Iranian nuclear program is actually set backwards and is actually locked into place in critical places, that that is better for Israel than if you were just continuing to go down the road and they rush towards a nuclear weapon,” he went on.
Kerry insisted there was “no difference whatsoever between the United States and Israel on what the end goal must be here. We cannot have an Iran that is going to threaten its neighbors, and that has a nuclear weapon.”
The US secretary of state also suggested that the diplomatic approach would give legitimacy to a possible military solution, should the need to use force arise.
“We will stand by Israel 100 percent…We will show that this particular approach has the ability to be able to garner greater, broader international support for whether or not Iran is, in fact, following through on its commitments or not,” Kerry told ABC News. “If you, ultimately, have to hold them accountable because they’re not doing it, you have to be able to show that you’ve gone through all of the diplomatic avenues available before considering other alternatives.”
Kerry also warned that strong verification procedures were still needed to hold Iran to its commitment to the deal.
“The basic architecture of the sanctions is staying in place,” Kerry told CNN. “There is very little relief. We are convinced over the next few months we will really be able to put to the test what Iran’s intentions are.”
“We are open — not to being duped and not to being tricked and not to being led down the primrose path – but open to setting up a verifiable, clear process by which everybody… can all make clear determinations about what Iran is doing in terms of its nuclear program and that it is going to live up to the highest international standards,” he said.
Kerry emphasized that this “first-stage agreement” was just the beginning of a long process to curb Iran’s nuclear program, and that the “next phase… will be even more difficult.”
“Let me be crystal clear to Israel, to our other friends in the region, to any neighbor who feels threatened, that the next step requires proof certain of a failsafe set of steps which eliminate the current prospect of a breakout and the creation of a nuclear weapon. That will require dismantling certain things. It will require stopping certain kinds of activities. It will require some fundamental choices, and we’re prepared to work with Iran in order to put in place a protocol that achieves those ends,” Kerry had said during the briefing in Geneva.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu excoriated the agreement Sunday, calling it “a historic mistake.” He said he wasn’t bound by it and vowed to keep Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon. The prime minister and other Israeli officials have publicly clashed with Kerry and other Obama administration officials over the emerging deal with Iran in the past few weeks.
After a weekend of marathon talks which were described by various diplomats as “very difficult,” Iran and the P5+1 world powers agreed on a “first-stage deal” meant to halt Iran’s advancement toward nuclear capability and allow unscheduled inspections at nuclear sites in exchange for access to a portion of revenue denied to the Iranian regime through sanctions.
In a statement Sunday morning, President Barack Obama said the deal was an “important first step” that opened up a “real opportunity to achieve a peaceful settlement” and address the world’s concerns over the program.
Obama nevertheless acknowledged that it may be difficult for some of Washington’s allies in the Middle East to trust Iran’s intentions, saying Israel and the Gulf countries “have good reasons to be skeptical.”