WASHINGTON — The United States will “not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated during his keynote address to AIPAC’s 2014 policy conference. Kerry’s statement, however, highlighted the distance between Israel and the United States’ positions on a final deal, as he failed to specify whether and how it would restrict Iran’s nuclear program.
“Let me sum up President Obama’s policy,” Kerry told an audience that responded with polite applause. “Unequivocal: We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Period.”
Kerry used a popular administration catch-phrase when he reiterated that “our diplomacy is guided by a simple bottom line: No deal is better than a bad deal, and we absolutely will not accept a bad deal.”
The secretary of state said that the United States will only sign a comprehensive agreement with Iran that fulfills three criteria: ensures that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, guarantees that the program is for peaceful purposes only; and increases visibility and expands breakout time so that if Iran were “to go for a bomb, we would have enough time to act.”
“If those standards aren’t met, there won’t be an agreement,” Kerry assured the audience.
Kerry’s conditions did not, however, directly address some of the largest looming questions regarding the final deal. His talk did not go into details on whether Iran has a right to enrich uranium, the status of centrifuge production – and which centrifuges would be permissible – or the status of Iran’s ballistic missile program under a comprehensive deal.
Although AIPAC members are set to lobby senators on Tuesday to sign on to the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, which the administration vehemently opposes, Kerry spoke out against passing any new sanctions legislation while negotiations are underway.
“We need to make sure that if this opportunity is to elude us it is not because we are the ones who closed the window,” Kerry warned.
“It is crucial that we seize what might be the last best chance to have diplomacy work, and maybe the last chance for quite some time,” Kerry continued. “The reality is that only strong diplomacy can firmly and permanently achieve the goal. Those who say strike and hit need to go check what happens after that.”