Israeli military action against Iran would be ‘huge mistake,’ Kerry says
REUTERS/J.Post/07/24/2015/US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday it would be a huge mistake if Israel decided to take unilateral military action against Iran over its nuclear program in the future. Kerry was asked in an NBC “Today” show interview if the nuclear deal reached last week between would make it more likely that Israel might attempt a military or cyber attack on Tehran.
“That’d be an enormous mistake, a huge mistake with grave consequences for Israel and for the region, and I don’t think it’s necessary,” Kerry said. The secretary’s remarks are just the latest offering in a public relations blitz staged by the Obama administration as it tries to sell the public and Congress of the necessity and utility of the nuclear agreement struck with Iran last week. The nuclear agreement reached between world powers and Iran last week took its first official beating in Congress on Thursday, with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from both parties questioning the strength of the accord. During an appearance on Thursday before a skeptical Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry mounted a furious counter-attack against the deal’s detractors, saying it would be “fantasy” to think the US could simply “bomb away” Tehran’s atomic know-how.
The secretary of state insisted that critics of the deal – which curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief – were pushing an unrealistic alternative that he dismissed as a “sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation.” “The fact is that Iran now has extensive experience with nuclear fuel cycle technology,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We can’t bomb that knowledge away. Nor can we sanction that knowledge away. “Let me underscore the alternative to the deal we have reached is not – as I’ve seen some ads on TV suggesting disingenuously – it isn’t a ‘better deal,’ some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation,” Kerry said. “That is a fantasy, plain and simple, and our intelligence community will tell you that.”Several Democrats on the panel were listening closely.
Some expressed concerns with specific provisions of the deal, but the majority seemed to voice agreement that a lack of alternative paths to a peaceful end to the decades-long conflict may force them to vote to approve of it. Congress began a 60-day review period on Monday, during which it may choose to vote to approve or disapprove of the deal. A resolution of disapproval would have to come to a second vote with two-thirds support of both chambers in order to overcome a presidential veto.
**Michael Wilner contributed to this report.
Iran deal begins long and arduous journey through Congress
Reuters/Ynetnews/Published: 07.24.15/Israel News
Facing an uphill battle in a Republican congress, and a possible no vote, Kerry attempts to convince the skeptics of the Iran deal’s viability. US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday mounted a furious counterattack against critics of the Iran nuclear deal, telling skeptical lawmakers it would be fantasy to think the United States could simply “bomb away” Tehran’s atomic know-how.Testifying before Congress for the first time since world powers reached the landmark accord with Iran last week, America’s top diplomat was confronted head-on by Republican accusations that Iranian negotiators had “fleeced” and “bamboozled” him. The vitriolic exchanges on Capitol Hill reflected a hardening of positions as Congress opened a 60-day review of the deal considered crucial to its fate. Iranian hardliners are also trying to undermine the pact, which Israel has condemned as a dire security threat.
Opening the hearing on a contentious note, the committee’s Republican chairman, Bob Corker, criticized Kerry for the terms he negotiated. “I believe that you’ve been fleeced,” he said. Corker chided Kerry and other administration officials for their line of argument that the only alternative to the accord would be more war in the Middle East, saying that the real alternative would be a better deal. Senator Marco Rubio faulted President Barack Obama for rewarding Iran for “its atrocious human rights record.””This is a deal whose survival is not guaranteed beyond the current term of the president,” said Rubio, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate. Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the committee, said he has not yet decided how he would vote but that he felt that “our negotiators got an awful lot.”
“We can’t bomb that knowledge away”
Kerry insisted that critics of the deal, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, are pushing an unrealistic alternative that he dismissed as a “sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation.””The fact is that Iran now has extensive experience with nuclear fuel cycle technology,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We can’t bomb that knowledge away. Nor can we sanction that knowledge away.” Kerry said that if Congress rejects the agreement reached in Vienna, “the result will be the United States of America walking away from every one of the restrictions we have achieved and a great big green light for Iran to double the pace of its uranium enrichment.” “We will have squandered the best chance we have to solve this problem through peaceful means,” he said. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz also testified as part of an effort to sell the deal to lawmakers, as well as to the American public and uneasy Middle East allies. Responding to criticism that the agreement lifts sanctions too fast, Lew said it would not prevent the United States from imposing additional sanctions over issues such as human rights violations if deemed necessary.
Moniz, seeking to counter criticism that loopholes in international inspection will allow Iran to cheat, told lawmakers: “I am confident that the technical underpinnings of this deal are solid.” Seeking to reassure Israel and its US supporters, Kerry said Washington would increase security coordination.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed concerns that Iran will use unfrozen assets to increase funding and weapons to militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.Kerry said the Iran deal carried the “real potential” for change in the volatile Middle East but acknowledged it “does not end the possibility of a confrontation with Iran.”The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union signed the deal with Iran.
Under a bill Obama reluctantly signed into law in May, Congress has until Sept. 17 to approve or reject the agreement. Republicans hold majorities in both houses of Congress, and many have come out strongly against the pact, which they say will empower Iran and threaten Israel. Obama, who could gain a boost to his presidential legacy from his diplomatic outreach to US foe Iran, needs to convince as many of his fellow Democrats as possible to back the deal. If a “disapproval” resolution passes and survives Obama’s veto, he would be unable to waive most of the US sanctions imposed on Iran, which could cripple the nuclear pact.