By his own description, John Kerry was in “blunt mode” Thursday.
Indeed, the former Massachusetts senator and U.S. secretary of state was unequivocal in his condemnation of President Donald Trump’s reported plans to decertify the Iran nuclear deal this week.
“The administration is lying to the American people, to put it bluntly,” Kerry said during a HUBweek forum Thursday afternoon in Boston, referring to the White House’s criticisms of the landmark 2015 deal, in which certain provisions “sunset” after as few as 10 years.
“The agreement — including the additional protocol with the right to challenge — is lifetime. It’s forever,” he said. Kerry added that there’s no evidence Iran was not complying with the deal and that, if there was, the United States was enabled under the deal to order inspections.
According to Kerry, the current relationship with Iran has come a long way since before the deal.
In 2013, when Iran had a two-month “breakout period” for obtaining a nuclear weapon, Kerry said President Barack Obama was being urged by at least three other foreign leaders — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to bomb the country. (Update: A spokesman for Kerry later clarified that Mubarak’s comments came in 2011, before he left office. At the time, Kerry was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.)
“Literally, President Obama was getting personal requests that we should be bombing Iran,” said the former secretary of state.
Instead, they began negotiations on the framework of what would become the 2015 agreement.
“We engaged in diplomacy,” he said. “Not because we knew it would definitely work, but because we knew we had to exhaust the remedies of diplomacy before we went to war.”
Now, Kerry said even top security officials in Israel think the deal is working.
Kerry credited the 159-page deal, which he personally helped negotiate over two years, with the decommissioning of a nuclear reactor in Iran, decreasing the country’s centrifuges from 19,000 to less than 5,000, and lowering its uranium stockpiles from 12,000 kilograms to less than 300 kilograms.
“You cannot physically make a bomb with 300 kilograms,” he said.
Kerry was adamant that there is no “better deal” that Trump could realistically make and said the president was pulling his justification for decertifying the deal out of thin air simply because he “doesn’t like the deal.” Some of the most high-profile critics of Iran — and even reportedly the top security officials in Trump’s own cabinet — have urged the president against his plans to decertify the deal.
“Over eight different times, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said Iran is living up to the deal,” Kerry said Thursday.
Kerry said the International Atomic Energy Agency has said Iran is “living up to the deal” on eight separate occasions and called it “reckless,” “dangerous,” and “irresponsible” for the United States to threaten to leave it now. If so, the concerns critics of the deal had about what might happen 10 or 20 years down the road, when some provisions sunset, would become reality “tomorrow,” he said.
If Trump does follow through with his plans to decertify the deal, Congress will have to decide whether or not to reimpose nuclear sanctions on Iran, which could lead to the unraveling of the agreement if other partner countries follow.
According to Kerry, three of the other five countries to sign the deal — the United Kingdom, France, and Germany — have already said they would not join the United States in potentially reimposing sanctions.
“What I strongly recommend to Iran, to China, to Russia is that their leader be the adults in the room together with Britain and France and Germany, and that all of them together say, ‘We are going to keep this agreement, because it makes the world safer,'” Kerry said.
Watch the full interview below: