In an interview with Jeffery Goldberg a national correspondent for The Atlantic this past Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Iran has never trusted the U.S., and never will. In this instance they should, after all, Obama put Iran’s best interests above that of the American people and our ally’s.
The Atlantic Reports:
When I met with Secretary of State John Kerry in his office this past Friday, it was apparent that he was in an exceedingly feisty mood, and it’s not easy to display feistiness when you’re trapped, as he was, in a recliner. Kerry, who broke his leg two months ago, will be rid of his crutches soon, which for him is not soon enough, because he’d prefer to do battle in Congress for the Iran nuclear agreement—quite obviously the crowning achievement, in his mind, of his long and distinguished career in public life—with two good legs.
Congress is the target of Kerry’s feistiness, as is his close friend and staunch adversary, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is leading the charge against congressional ratification of the deal. In the course of a lengthy and freewheeling interview—which you will find published in full, below—Kerry warned that if Congress rejects the Iran deal, it will confirm the anti-U.S. suspicions harbored by the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and eliminate any chance of a peaceful solution to the nuclear conundrum.
“The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them,” Kerry said. “This”—a congressional rejection—“will be the ultimate screwing.” He went on to argue that “the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.”
Kerry also said that his chief Iranian interlocutor, the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and Zarif’s boss, the (relatively) reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, would be in “serious trouble” at home if the deal falls through. Zarif, Kerry told me, explicitly promised him that Iran will engage with the United States and its Arab allies on a range of regional issues, should Congress approve the deal. “Zarif specifically said to me in the last two weeks, ‘If we get this finished, I am now empowered to work with and talk to you about regional issues.’” Kerry went on, “This is in Congress’s hands. If Congress says no, Congress will shut that down, shut off that conversation, set this back, and set in motion a series of inevitables about what would happen with respect to Iranian behavior, and, by the way, the sanctions will be over.”
Kerry rejected criticism from Israel, and from many in the American Jewish community, that by publicly warning Israel that it will be further isolated internationally if the deal should be rejected, he has encouraged scapegoating of the Jewish state: “If you’ve ever played golf, you know that you yell ‘fore’ off the tee,” he explained. “You’re not threatening somebody, you’re warning them: ‘Look, don’t get hit by the ball, it’s coming.’”Kerry believes that a congressional rejection of the deal will lead to war—he explains his theory of his case in detail below—and he finds the “visceral” and “emotional” criticism of the deal in Israel, and among many of Israel’s supporters, flummoxing. “I’ve gone through this backwards and forwards a hundred times and I’m telling you, this deal is as pro-Israel, as pro-Israel’s security, as it gets,” Kerry said. “And I believe that just saying no to this is, in fact, reckless.”
When I asked him how he interprets Israeli criticism of the deal, he said there is a “a huge level of fear and mistrust and, frankly, there’s an inherent sense that, given Iran’s gains and avoidance in the past, that somehow they’re going to avoid something again. It’s a visceral feeling, it’s very emotional and visceral and I’m very in tune with that and very sensitive to that.”Though he says he is in tune with this set of Israeli fears, he does not endorse a view widely shared by Israelis—and by many Americans—that Iran’s leaders, who have often said that they seek the destruction of Israel, mean what they say. “I think they have a fundamental ideological confrontation with Israel at this particular moment.
Whether or not that translates into active steps to, quote, ‘Wipe it,’ you know …”Here I interjected: “Wipe it off the map.” Kerry continued: “I don’t know the answer to that. I haven’t seen anything that says to me—they’ve got 80,000 rockets in Hezbollah pointed at Israel, and any number of choices could have been made. They didn’t make the bomb when they had enough material for 10 to 12. They’ve signed on to an agreement where they say they’ll never try and make one and we have a mechanism in place where we can prove that. So I don’t want to get locked into that debate. I think it’s a waste of time here.”
Read the full transcript here.