QUESTION: Also on Friday I sat down with Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been making the rounds all over the place last week in an effort to sell the Iran deal to a skeptical Congress and a divided American public. I asked him why the four Americans believed held by Iran weren’t part of the deal and why the U.S. focused only on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and not their overall behavior. Here are his responses:
SECRETARY KERRY: We have a plan in order to deal with pushback against Iran’s behavior with respect to military interdiction, stopping the flow of weapons, dealing with counterterrorism, dealing with special forces training and capacity for some of those other countries. So there will be plenty of pushback, Chuck. But the simple reality is that if you’re going to push back against Iran, it is better to push back against an Iran that doesn’t have a nuclear weapon rather than one that does.
So this focused on getting rid of the principal problem of the region, which is Iran’s threat to Israel, their threat to the region to have a nuclear capacity. We believe with this for years into the future, we have this incredible capacity to have access, to have inspections, to hold them accountable.
And by the way, even though the arms and the missiles were put to – by the – they were thrown in as an add-on to this nuclear agreement. It was always contemplated that if Iran did come and deal on their nuclear program, that was going to be lifted.
QUESTION: Do you wish you would have held firmer to get these detainees out there?
SECRETARY KERRY: On the detainees, Chuck, we raised them at every single meeting. We are still engaged in discussions with them, and I hope they will come back to the United States soon. That’s my hope, and we are working continually to get them back.
QUESTION: Are you willing to do what both Senators Corker and Cardin have asked the Administration to do, which is postpone the UN vote on this deal until Congress acts?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we can’t. Chuck, we can’t do that. In fact, I talked to Senator Corker in order to tell him that the agreement we made with our partners – who, by the way, don’t feel that they should be bound by the United States Congress – they feel that they’ve negotiated under the UN.
QUESTION: But this jams Congress.
SECRETARY KERRY: And – but here’s what we did.
QUESTION: Does this jam Congress?
SECRETARY KERRY: No, absolutely not. And I’ll tell you why – because we specifically, to protect the Congress, put in a 90-day period before it takes effect. So nothing will change. The UN will do what it needs to do to meet the needs of our negotiating partners, all of whom wanted to go to the UN because that’s what they were negotiating under.