John Kerry .
(photo credit: Reuters)
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State John Kerry told members of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the deal cut last month between Iran and the
P5+1 – the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany – was a good deal that
offered the US a real chance at a diplomatic solution to the long-standing
He urged the chamber, controlled by Republican members,
to hold off on pressing ahead with efforts to further punish Iran, which Foreign
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned on Monday would render the deal “entirely
dead” should Congress pass a new sanctions bill.
“I don’t think that any
of us thought we were just imposing these sanctions for the sake of imposing
them,” Kerry told the congressmen.
“We did it because we knew that it
would hopefully help Iran dismantle its nuclear program. That was the
whole point of the regime.”
The secretary gave a similar briefing to
senators on Wednesday, where leaders on the Foreign Relations Committee are
considering a bill that would automatically sanction Iran further should
negotiators fail to reach a final agreement in six months – a timeframe endorsed
by all parties to the deal reached in Geneva.
Kerry said that the
administration has not confidently determined whether the Iranian regime has
changed its “nuclear calculus,” away from a drive toward weaponized
The P5+1 deal, brokered in Geneva in November, effectively halts
Iran’s nuclear program for a period of six months.
“We’re at a
crossroads,” Kerry charged. “We’re at one of those, really, hinge points in
history. One path could lead to an enduring resolution in the international
community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
The other path could
lead to continued hostility and potentially to conflict.
And I don’t have
to tell you that these are high stakes.”
T he Obama administration will
be the first party to request additional sanctions should six months pass
without a final agreement with Iran that ends the conflict “once and for all,”
As a senator before leading the State Department, Kerry had
a personal hand in crafting sanctions legislation with his former colleagues
still on Capitol Hill.
“This is something that I think you ought to take
great pride in,” he said. “I voted for these sanctions, like we all did in the
United States Senate. I think we were 100 to nothing as a matter of fact. And we
put them in place for a purpose.”
“The purpose was to get to this
negotiation,” he continued.
“The purpose was to see whether or not
diplomacy and avoidance of war could actually deliver the same thing or better
than you might be able to get through confrontation.”