Kerry: Without deal, Iran would push for the bomb

In House hearing, diplomat seeks to clear up ‘public distortions’ on deal; GOP panel chair says agreement lackluster on sanctions, inspections

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Edward Royce with Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Edward Royce with Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned members of Congress on Tuesday 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.

Addressing the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Kerry said he wanted to clear up “misinterpretations” and “public distortions,” regarding the nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers earlier this month, and said conclusions reached by the deal’s detractors “didn’t match reality.”

“Bottom line, if Iran fails to comply with the terms of the agreement… we will quickly know it and we will be able to respond accordingly with every option available to us today,” he said.

Referring to criticisms that the deal only temporarily curbs Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Kerry said the agreement contained no “sunset” clause for the verification of Tehran’s nuclear activity.

Kerry said that when negotiations began, Iran had enough enriched uranium for 10-12 bombs, and now, if the deal is rejected, Iran would immediately go back to its previous uranium capabilities.

He told the committee that it faced a choice between an agreement that would curb Iran’s nuclear program and impose strict inspections, and no deal at all. If the US walked away from the agreement, he said, America’s international partners would not follow.

There was no alternative “unicorn” deal to the one reached between Iran and P5+1 world powers earlier in July, Kerry said.

“Let me underscore – the alternative to the deal we’ve reached isn’t a better deal – some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation. That’s a fantasy – plain and simple,” he said. “The choice we face is between a deal that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program is limited, rigorously scrutinized, and wholly peaceful – or no deal at all.”

Kerry noted that Iran stood to gain $50 billion in unfrozen assets, oil sales and investments, and not $150 billion as previously reported.

He pledged that the US would continue to push back against Iran for its support of terrorism and human rights violations. But, he said, it would be harder to push back against a nuclear-armed Iran.

House Republicans oppose the deal and Rep. Eliot Engel, the senior Democrat on the committee, suggested that the deal might just be pushing the “pause button” on Iran getting a nuclear weapon for 15 years.

Iran deal ‘comes up short’

During the hearing, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ed Royce, delivered a harsh criticism of the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal during a Tuesday congressional hearing on the Iran nuclear deal.

“We appreciate President Obama’s effort to secure the most intrusive inspections in history – but it came up short,” Royce said.

Royce slammed the deal for its sanctions relief, failure to dismantle its nuclear technology, and limited inspections on Iran’s contested nuclear facilities.

The California lawmaker said that instead of considering a “verifiable” and “enforceable” agreement with Tehran, US lawmakers were being asked to consider sanctions relief for temporary nuclear restrictions

Royce’s comments come ahead of Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s testimony in front of US Congress as part of ongoing hearings and briefings from Obama officials. US lawmakers have begun a 60-day review of the nuclear agreement.

Royce said the sanctions relief awarded to the Islamic Republic under the terms of the deal rewarded Iran with a “cash bonanza,” — a term previously used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when describing the economic benefits Tehran will reap.

International sanctions relief will unfreeze Iran’s assets and inject much-needed capital into cash-strapped Iran. However, Royce, Netanyahu and other critics of the deal say the influx of money will only embolden Tehran’s support of proxy Shiite militant groups and cause further unrest in the region.

Royce said the cash would be used to by Iran as a “boost to its international standing and a lighted path toward nuclear weapons.”

The Republican lawmaker said the terms of the deal not only threatened regional security, but that of the world as well.

“First, Iran is not required to dismantle key bomb making technology. Does that make the world safer?” he asked rhetorically.

“Second, it is permitted a vast enrichment capacity, reversing decades of bipartisan nonproliferation policy. Does that make the region more stable?

“And third, Iran is allowed to continue its research and development to gain an industrial scale nuclear program once this agreement begins to expire in as little as ten years. Ten years. That’s a flash in time, and then Iranian obligations start unwinding,” he said before again asking if the agreement made the world safer.

Royce called the international inspections — which can take up to 24 days — a “far cry from ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections,” a qualification believed by many to be a part of the final agreement.

He said that despite US claims of knowing the details of Tehran’s nuclear program, Iran “has cheated on every agreement they’ve signed.”

Royce concluded by urging continued US sanctions on Iran.

Marissa Newman and AP contributed to this report.

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