Kerry, Netanyahu in Tel Aviv July 23.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel asked the Obama administration to bomb Iran, former US secretary of state John Kerry said during a conversation he held in London at the Chatham House think tank this week about Tehran’s nuclear threat.
“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu was urging President [Barack] Obama to bomb Iran,” Kerry said. He did not clarify when that request was made.
“Every leader I met with in the region..., [including Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak, personally, to my face, said, ‘You have to bomb Iran, that is the only thing they understand and that is the only way you will stop them having a nuclear weapon,’” Kerry recalled.
“Bombing Iran does not necessarily stop them from having a nuclear weapon. It is the same dilemma that we face with North Korea. We do not know where everything is,” Kerry said.
When the July 2015 nuclear deal was put in place, the Islamic Republic did not have a nuclear weapon, Kerry said.
“I guarantee you, once you bomb the country, you have surely given them a good reason to want to have a weapon,” he continued.
Before the agreement, Iran could have “dug two miles deep into a mountain” to create a facility to produce nuclear weapons, Kerry said. If the country is bombed, it would do so, he added.
Kerry spoke on Tuesday, four days after Netanyahu spoke at Chatham House about Iran. The former secretary of state gave a rousing defense of the 2015 nuclear deal that was reached between Iran and six world powers: the US, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany. It is designed to delay and constrain Tehran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons, but did not eliminate it.
On Friday while in London Netanyahu made a passionate plea to the six world power to fix the flaws in the agreement, which he believes will leave Iran with the capacity to produce 100 nuclear weapons.
Trump and Netanyahu agree that the deal is problematic, but the other five powers hold that it must remain in place. Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke and reaffirmed their commitment to the accord.
Netanyahu believes that he can persuade the powers to take a series of steps outside the context of the agreement that would fix three basic concerns: inspections, Iran’s ballistic missile program, and the “sunset” clauses that allow the Islamic Republic to produce nuclear weapons once the deal expires.
Kerry said the deal was the best, and most transparent agreement that could have been achieved.
“Iran had 19,000 centrifuges spinning. It had 27,000 deployed.
Iran had 12,000 kilograms of enriched nuclear material at about 20%, with an easy capacity to go up to 80% to 90% for bomb-making if it wanted to. Iran had completely mastered the nuclear cycle. It had the Arak reactor, a plutonium reactor, rushing toward commission, maybe a few months away, which would have produced enough plutonium weapons grade material for at least two bombs a year,” Kerry said.
Before the agreement, Iran was two months away from having the ability to produce nuclear weapons, but now that the deal is in place, it is a year away from that, Kerry said. He added that under the terms of the accord, Iran won’t be able to produce a weapon for 15 years, and then there will be another 10 years of oversight over “every ounce” of uranium in the country.
For the next 15 years Iran is limited to 300 kilograms of enriched material and a 3.67% enrichment level, which is not enough to produce a bomb, Kerry said.
In additions, there is a procedure to reimpose sanctions if Iran violates the deal, Kerry said.
Netanyahu said at Chatham House that Tehran was in a better position to produce nuclear weapons
than it was before the agreement was reached.
When he drew his famous redline on a graphic at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2012, Netanyahu told Chatham House, he feared Iran would produce one bomb, now he is afraid that once the deal expires it will produce 100 such weapons.