Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday pleaded with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to not push forward with any new sanctions against Iran until the nuclear agreement deal in which “nothing has been agreed upon” is given a chance.
Iranian leadership this week told the world that they do have a right to enrich uranium, prompting committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) to question Kerry that, “while the administration says Iran does not have the right to enrich, they still may be able to enrich under some mutual agreement that hasn’t been decided yet.”
Kerry said the agreement allows for negotiations as too how much Iran could enrich its uranium, and warned lawmakers to not implement any new sanctions until the deal is given sufficient opportunity to work or fail.
Kerry told Royce that that the agreement ensures that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed … if we don’t agree that doesn’t happen.”
If it sounds a bit confusing, “it is and the language makes it difficult for anyone to understand what type of nuclear deal this really is for the U.S.,” a former senior U.S. official told TheBlaze.
The official, who believes the Iranian nuclear deal is a loss for the West, said it “will only buy time for Iran.”
“It fails on all levels and will not stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program,” the official said.
James Carafano, a senior defense analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation, told TheBlaze that Kerry and Obama have become an “unexpectedly activist foreign policy team — but not in a good way.”
“Obama’s inclination is always to take the soft option … wind down in Afghanistan, cut a deal with Tehran. Kerry wants to get things done,” Carafano said. “So between them they have managed to get to bad places very quickly.”
“It’s not just countries in the Middle East that see Kerry as a one one diplomatic wrecking crew,” he added. “In Asia and Europe, the foreign policy experts are saying if the U.S. can be played this way by Tehran what that mean for us who are worried about Russia and China?”
Israel is a real point of contention for some lawmakers who feel the administration has turned their back on a major ally. During the hearing, Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has been involved in laws sanctioning Iran, told Kerry the deal is the “death knell” of any future sanctions on Iran and a very real danger to Israel.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made very clear that he opposes the deal and warned the U.S. to “beware” Iran’s intentions. He urged the U.S. and the other five negotiating nations to demand as part of nuclear talks that the regime “change its genocidal policy” toward the Jewish state.
“This is a regime committed to our destruction,” Netanyahu said at a forum on U.S.-Israel relations hosted by the Brookings Institution. He said any long-term deal must end Iran’s “military nuclear capability.”
“I don’t think any of us can overstate the Iranian danger,” he said.
Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, asked Kerry about the consequences of not implementing sanctions and how this accord would be different if Iran fails to hold up its end of the bargain.
Kerry said “we’re not naive” but didn’t give a direct answer, only to say the future sanctions would be stronger.
“You’ve got to work through this process, you’ve got to build trust,” Kerry told Engel. “We’re approaching this realistically.”
Kerry asked that Congress hold off on more sanctions saying, “it is a very delicate diplomatic moment.” He said the U.S. and the rest of the world is at a crossroads with a choice that will lead to “diplomacy or conflict.”
“These are high stakes,” Kerry told the lawmakers. “We stopped their program and eliminated their 20 percent.” He said the U.S. can’t ask the rest of the world to uphold their ends of the deal if the “U.S. doesn’t uphold our side of the bargain – particularly if it doesn’t cost us a thing.”
Kerry told Royce there was reason to be concerned about Iran’s missile program and some of its facilities, but that the U.S. should work closely with the International Atomic Energy Commission in addressing any concerns.
“That is exactly what we intend to do in the course of this progress,” Kerry said. “We’re asking you to give our negotiators and our experts the time and space to do their jobs.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in an interview with Time magazine published Monday that if there are any new sanctions, “the entire deal is dead.”
“We do not like to negotiate under duress. And if Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States,” Zarif said.
House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) told TheBlaze that “if the House and Senate move to impose new sanctions, then the administration will have no choice but to rethink the wisdom of the deal that’s on the table.”
Hunter said it would “probably a good thing.”
“I’m still unconvinced that what’s been discussed so far aligns with our interests — and there are definitely others that feel the same way otherwise the secretary wouldn’t have made the pitch he did,” Hunter added.
The Iranians and Obama became concerned that their deal was being threatened when a bipartisan group of senators began proposing new sanctions against Iran last week.
Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk, (R-Ill.) have agreed that if a long-term deal fails at the end of six-months the U.S. would impose new sanctions when the current interim deal brokered between the U.S., Iran and five other world powers expires, according to the Associated Press.
“We’ll do sanctions tied to the end game where the relief will only come if they stop the enrichment program, dismantle the reactor and turn over the enriched uranium,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN Monday.
Royce said Iran recently announced plans to continue working on centrifuge technology and constructing a plutonium reactor.
“What does this say about Iran’s intentions?” Royce asked.
Iran has “a history of deceiving the international community about its nuclear program, and is pursuing a ballistic missile program in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions,” Royce said, adding Iran “simply can’t be trusted with enrichment technology, because verification efforts can never be foolproof.”