The US military is prepared to act against Iran if Tehran tries to continue the enrichment of uranium beyond permitted levels or break out toward a nuclear weapons capability, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.
“If they do that, then the military option that is available to the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do,” he told Al Arabiya.
Kerry said that the Obama administration has been extremely diligent about working with friends in the region and keeping them abreast of the interim agreement between Iran and the six world powers known as the P5+1: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
“The deal could not be more clear, and we have not left anybody in the dark.”
The six-month accord was reached on November 24 in Geneva between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 and went into effect this week. It can be extended up to a year.
Under the deal, Iran has agreed to halt production of 20-percent-enriched uranium, which is just short of bomb-making material. Iran will be able to continue enrichment up to 5%. It also will eliminate its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium.
In return, some Western sanctions against Iran are to be eased.
Kerry argued that all countries in the region were now safer from the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon as a result of the agreement.
“Clearly the world would rather see us settle this peacefully than have to have a military confrontation,” he stressed. “What we are doing is profoundly in the interests of our friends in the region.”
Answering a question about whether the United States was pressing Iran on its support for terrorists in the Middle East, Kerry said that the priority was the nuclear program. “We are focused on the first step which is the nuclear program. We are prepared to engage with Iran on the other issues…We believe they should stop supporting Hezbollah, completely and totally. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization,” he said.
Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, a personal project for the secretary, Kerry warned that violence could break out again if the talks fail. “And if we don’t succeed in making peace, the risks for everybody are much greater.”
Kerry has made 10 visits to the region this year, shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as other Middle Eastern power brokers, to mediate talks.
Recently, he has been pushing a framework agreement as part of his efforts to nudge Palestinian Authority President Mahmoiud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu closer to a full treaty that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. On Thursday he would not say when he would present the plan to the parties.
“It will be when we’re finished with the work we have to do to get there,” he said.
“The framework agreement would [reflect]… the best thinking of both parties, as to what the end game of the peace process could look like, and what they would agree to as a matter of principles as to how they would negotiate toward that end game final status agreement,” he continued, without going into the specifics of the proposal.
The two sides have reportedly been at odds over almost every aspect of the core issues involved in a two-state accord. As part of a framework deal designed to keep the talks going past an April deadline, Kerry has been reportedly pushing Netanyahu to agree to negotiations on the basis of a Palestinian state to be established along the pre-1967 lines, with land-swap adjustments, and urging Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The Associated Press has contributed to this report.