John Kerry Pushes Congress to Accept Deal with Iran; Lawmakers Remain Skeptical
It seems John Kerry’s unfaltering trust in Iran hasn’t spread as far as he’d hoped. The Secretary of State appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday to testify in support of the nuclear deal with Iran. Republican Congressmen are doing everything they can to prevent the deal, while Democrats remain divided. Their biggest worry: can we trust Iran?
When Representative Brad Sherman asked Kerry what he would do if Congress forced the President to back out of the deal, the Secretary of State responded with what appeared to be refusal to agree to comply with the law.
“Nothing in this agreement is based on trust,” said Kerry. “Nothing is based on an expectation of some change of behavior.”
Perhaps he has spoken too soon… As Chairman of House Foreign Relations Edward Royce reminds us: “We have been surprised by most every major nuclear development In Iran’s history. And Iran has cheated on every agreement they’ve signed. So I ask, Mr. Secretary, has Iran earned the right to be trusted?”
Kerry avoided the question, responding: “If you walk away, year 15 or 20 starts tomorrow. And without any of the long tern access and verification safeguards we’ve put in place. What is the alternative?” Kerry believes an arms race will begin at once if the US backs out of the deal. So either Iran gets a bomb now or we prevent it – for the time being – by signing a deal that provides Iran with billions of dollars they could use on nuclear research?
The Secretary of the Treasury reminds us why the flow of money to Iran was cut off in the first place: “…it’s locked up because our international partners worked with us to take Iran’s money and not let Iran get it. At the highest number that we see, there’s $115 billion that is theoretically available.” He believes about $56 billion of that amount will be available for immediate use.
According to Kerry, the deal is the “best chance that we have to solve this problem through peaceful means.” (Peaceful isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when I think of Iran.)
Democratic Representative Eliot Engel says he is hesitant to make deals with a country that was chanting “death to Americans, death to Israel” hardly a week after signing the deal. “It’s very disconcerting,” he says.
Representative Mo Brooks asked Kerry if he thinks the death chant is something to be concerned about. While Kerry agreed that Iran is the “world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism,” he dismissed the “death to America” chant as “rhetorical excess.”
The biggest issue of the deal seems to be deciding if the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) will be able to detect illegal nuclear progress in Iran. Kerry assured the committee that if Iran steps out of line, the US Energy Department would know immediately.
But according to the text of the deal, the IAEA may have to wait nearly a month before access is granted for inspection. On top of that are the rumors that Iran has secret side deals with the IAEA that will go into effect when the deal is signed.
At the end of the day, all of this may be meaningless: “The truth is that after 15 years Iran is a nuclear threshold state,” says Engel. “They’re legitimized in this agreement as being a nuclear threshold state, which means they can produce weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium without limitation.”