Kerry faces tough questions on Iran nuclear deal

The US Congress is highly skeptical of the nuclear agreement made with Iran.

Kerry faces tough questions on Iran nuclear deal

World Bulletin / News Desk

US Secretary of State John Kerry defended the landmark interim nuclear agreement with Tehran to a highly confrontational Congress considering potentially deal-ending additional sanctions.

Highlighting the international backing of the first phase deal -- brokered between the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany (P5+1) -- Kerry stressed that the unity of the P5+1 would be dealt a significant blow if new sanctions were to be implemented.

"We have an obligation to give these negotiations an opportunity to succeed, and we can't ask the rest of the P5+1 and our partners around the world to hold up their ends of the bargain if the United States isn't going to uphold its end of the bargain. If we appear to be going off on our own tangent and do whatever we want, we will potentially lose their support for the sanctions themselves," said Kerry to a highly skeptical House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday.

Still, he left the door open for additional sanctions should a comprehensive deal not be achieved.

"We're asking you to give our negotiators and our experts the time and the space to do their jobs, and that includes asking you, while we negotiate, that you hold off imposing new sanctions. Now, I'm not saying never. I just told you a few minutes ago, if this doesn't work, we're coming back and asking you for more. I'm just saying not right now," he said.

Support for additional sanctions is in no short supply on the Capitol Hill.

The House overwhelmingly passed their latest sanctions bill in July by a vote of 400-20, and the interim agreement appears to have fostered little faith in ongoing negotiations.

US President Barack Obama could potentially veto any sanctions legislation that clears Congress, but doing so would risk bringing the White House into a bitter conflict with Congress.

Even as the Obama administration pushes ahead on the diplomatic track, Kerry himself remained skeptical over Tehran’s intentions.

"Now, has Iran changed its nuclear calculus? I honestly don't think we can say for sure yet. And we certainly don't just take words at face value. Believe me, this is not about trust. And given the history, we are all rightly skeptical about whether or not people are ready to make the hard choices necessary to live up to this," he said.

Still, Kerry acknowledged that the opportunity afforded by the interim deal presents "the best chance we've ever had to rigorously test this proposition without losing anything."

Lawmakers, however, lashed out at the deal.

"When you talk about we're not going to have trust but verify, we're going to test but verify, and then you refer to the leader of the government there as the supreme leader, quite frankly, that's groveling but verify," said Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Congressman Juan Vargas took aim at the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts as well, calling them "naive".

"When it comes to this deal I'm completely against it. I do think it's naive and I don't think it makes us safer, unfortunately, and I don't think it makes our allies safer, especially Israel. Instead, I agree with those that say that sanctions were working but that we didn't ratchet them up enough, that we should have tightened them down even more," said Vargas.

America’s top diplomat struck back, saying, "We are going through the testing, and testing to see whether or not they’re serious, and if not, we have all the options available to us. But there is nothing naive about what we’re doing. It’s calculated, it may be wrong, we may find that it is a miscalculation, but it’s not a miscalculation based on naiveté."

He added: "It's all well and good to sit here and theoretically say ratchet up the sanctions and you'll drive them into a place where they'll crush. But you know what? The Russians and the Chinese won't be with you doing that. And ultimately the Europeans might not be either because as you ratchet them up and they think it's unreasonable based on their willingness to explore the diplomacy, you lose them, too."

As world powers and Iran prepare for the next round of negotiations, Kerry stressed the importance of the coming months.

"We're at a crossroads. We're at one of those really hinge points in history. One path could lead to an enduring resolution in international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program. The other path could lead to continued hostility and potentially to conflict," he said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Aralık 2013, 09:30