QUESTION: So it was just a few days ago that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs testified before Congress that lifting the ballistic missile or conventional arms embargo from Iran – that lifting it would be a horrible idea. That was within the same context of testimony that Iran had killed an estimated 500 Americans. Why is lifting the embargo part of this deal?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we’re not lifting it. It has eight years out of a 10-year component of the UN resolution. Eight years it will be applied, and we have other UN resolutions and other mechanisms for holding Iran accountable on missiles.
But the simple reality is, Jake, this UN process that started the – that allowed the sanctions to be put in place in the first place contemplated the lifting of all sanctions once Iran had lived up to its obligations with respect to the NPT. So if the IAEA found in X number of years that they’ve lived up to this, then all the sanctions would be gone. So we, in fact, succeeded against three countries that didn’t think they should have to do anything. So we have a lot of measures, and the United States always has the ability to take action unilaterally or otherwise with respect to other activities.
QUESTION: Why I’m confused about this, Secretary Moniz, is because when I interviewed you in April and I asked about the four Americans being held in Iran against their will – three that we know of; one we don’t know what happened to him – and you said the following:
“What I want to emphasize is this negotiation was intentionally restricted to the nuclear issue – get the nuclear bomb issue off the table, we hope for a long time. That has other implications. So for example, things like arms embargoes, ballistic missile sanctions – those stay in place. Strictly focused on the nuclear issues.”
But that doesn’t seem to have been what happened.
SECRETARY MONIZ: Well, I think we are – the part of the agreement that is absolutely critical is that, of course, which allows us to (a) prevent a weapon and to have visibility into any activity in this direction – excuse me. And with regard to the Americans unjustly held or missing, again, the Secretary – I was there. Every meeting this was always raised and remains, I think, an area of considerable focus.
QUESTION: I don’t doubt that for a second. But when I asked about it you said, look, this is just focused on the nuclear issue; we’re not dealing with anything else, including hostages, including arms embargoes. And it looks like since that happened the Iranians got to include something that was extraneous and we did not when it came to our hostages.
SECRETARY MONIZ: Well, of course, the arms embargo – and I will defer to John – but the arms embargo is something that was directly tied to the nuclear performance.
SECRETARY KERRY: It was not extraneous. It was already in there. The arms embargo and the missile were put in when 1929, the resolution, was passed.
QUESTION: What do you say when you hear that Prince Bandar, the longtime former ambassador from the Saudi – from Saudi Arabia, said that this deal “will wreak havoc in the Middle East”? As you know, there are a lot of countries – Sunni Arab countries, Israel – that are very worried that this is actually a bad deal for peace in the region.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we disagree with them very, very much. I disagree with him. But I just yesterday met with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, who said on television that if they want a deal and if the deal does the things – and he listed things the deal does – then they would feel very comfortable with it.
The fact is that the real fear of that region should be that you don’t have the deal. If Congress doesn’t pass this, if Congress were to kill this, then we have no inspections, we have no sanctions, we have no ability to negotiate – because I assure you, the ayatollah – if the United States arbitrarily and unilaterally kills this, you’re not going to have another negotiation. And they will feel free to go do the very things that this prevents.
QUESTION: I’ve spoken to a lot of experts, ones who wanted this deal to be good, who were rooting for you. And they say the best case scenario is that over the next 15 years, with the $100 billion from the money that has no longer – that will no longer be covered under sanctions, the Iranians will be closer to the capacity to build a nuclear weapon with the $100 billion that they now will have after sanctions are lifted, and they’ll have done it all under the guise of international law.
SECRETARY KERRY: You see, the reason that’s not accurate about what will happen is that today we don’t have those inspections. We do now under the interim agreement, but before the interim agreement we didn’t have them. We didn’t have the ability to know what they were doing. And guess what, my friend: Iran had 12,000 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, and that’s enough if they enriched it further for 10 to 12 bombs. They had it. That’s what Barack Obama was dealt as a hand when he came in: 19,000 centrifuges already spinning; a country that had already mastered the fuel cycle; a country that already was threshold in the sense that they are only two months away from breakout.
So we’re expanding that breakout from those two months to one year for 10 years and longer, and we have lifetime inspection, adherence to the IAEA, adherence to the Advanced* Protocol, 25 years of tracking and monitoring their uranium from mining to milling to yellowcake to gas to centrifuge to waste. That’s unprecedented. And we would not have had that without this agreement.
QUESTION: Last time I saw you, sir, I did ask if you had any inklings of getting back in the presidential campaign mode.
SECRETARY KERRY: None. Zero. Absolutely none whatsoever. I have a great job. We have a lot of work to do in the next year and half, and I’m looking forward to it.
QUESTION: That’s about as close to Shermanesque as I think it gets. Thank you so much. I appreciate it, to both of you.