Iran will receive no sanctions relief whatsoever under its nuclear deal with world powers until it has eliminated almost its entire stockpile of enriched uranium, removed two-thirds of its centrifuges and implemented all the deal’s anti-cheating transparency measures, US Secretary of State John Kerry has promised US lawmakers.
The secretary gave the assurance in a written response to questions raised in a July op-ed article by The Times of Israel’s editor David Horovitz, which were then put to Kerry by Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina when the secretary testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in late July. Kerry replied in writing this week to 10 of 16 questions raised by Horovitz; Wilson’s office said the congressman was still awaiting responses from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
In response to a question as to whether the nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) will “usher in a new era of global commercial interaction with Iran, reviving the Iranian economy and releasing financial resources that Iran will use to bolster its military forces and terrorist networks,” Kerry stated: “As envisioned in the JCPOA, Iran will not receive any sanctions relief until after the IAEA has verified that it has completed major nuclear steps – steps that result in increasing the breakout timeline four-fold, eliminating 98 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile, cutting two-thirds of its centrifuges, and implementing the unprecedented transparency measures that will allow us to detect any attempts to cheat.”
Speaking to a group of clerics earlier this month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said world powers must lift international sanctions and not merely suspend them as part of the deal. Khamenei said “there will be no deal” if the sanctions are not lifted, in remarks read by a state TV anchorman. “We insisted that sanctions ought to be lifted, not suspended,” he said. Khamenei also released a chilling video this week in which he warned of an American defeat in any war with Iran.
In other responses to the Horovitz questions, Kerry made clear that if Iran does not by October 15 satisfy the IAEA as regards the previous military dimensions of its nuclear program, as promised under a separate “road map agreement,” then “we will not implement our commitments to provide sanctions relief.”
He also rejected concerns that the deal’s inspection provisions could be outflanked by Iran, stating, “We are confident that IAEA testing would detect the presence of nuclear material if suspected in an unauthorized location.”
In response to a question regarding Iran’s alleged responsibility for the bombing of the main Jewish community center offices in Buenos Aires in 1994, Kerry noted that the US “has consistently underscored the importance of efforts to ensure justice for the victims of the AMIA bombing and urged the perpetrators be held accountable.” He added, however, that the US believes Iran’s influence in that region “is on the decline” following the death in 2013 “of Iran’s most prominent ally in the Western Hemisphere, former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.” He added: “We continue to work with our partners to counter Iranian influence around the world.”
Asked about the Iranian leadership’s incitement of hatred among its people against Israel and the United States, and its relentless calls for the annihilation of Israel, Kerry said: “We take issue with a great deal of Iran’s behavior and continue our work on a number of bilateral and multilateral fronts to address each of these issues.” He promised that the US “will continue to speak out and act against anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred and bigotry wherever they occur. We have condemned prior anti-Semitic rhetoric by certain Iranian officials publicly and strongly, and we track this rhetoric closely.”
Kerry also flatly rejected the notion that the nuclear accord entrenches the ayatollahs’ rule. Asked, “Does the nuclear deal further cement Iran’s repressive and ideologically rapacious regime in power?”, Kerry was emphatic: “No. In fact, this deal eliminates the greatest threat, which would be an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon.”
He vowed that the US “will continue to counter Iran’s destabilizing and threatening actions in the region aggressively. The President is committed to working closely with Israel, the Gulf countries and our other regional partners to do just that.”
Wilson read out the Horovitz op-ed, “16 reasons nuke deal is an Iranian victory and a Western catastrophe,” at a House hearing on the Iran nuclear deal on July 28, and asked Kerry, Moniz and Lew to address the questions it raised.
The op-ed argued that the US-backed nuclear deal with Iran “legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program, allows it to retain core nuclear facilities, permits it to continue research in areas that will dramatically speed its breakout to the bomb should it choose to flout the deal, but also enables it to wait out those restrictions and proceed to become a nuclear threshold state with full international legitimacy.”
Horovitz concluded the piece by saying, “No wonder Iran and its allies are celebrating. Nobody else should be.”
Wilson said he was reading the questions into the record so that Kerry could provide answers over the coming weeks. (Starts at 1:51:10)
At the hearing, Kerry warned members of Congress in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that if they voted against the nuclear deal negotiated with Iran, Tehran would move forward toward an atomic bomb, international sanctions would crumble and the US would be left with none of the access and inspections provided for by the accord.