US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks in Singapore.
(photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT)
US Secretary of State John Kerry told The Atlantic on Wednesday that if Congress were to shoot down the Iran nuclear agreement, it would be "the ultimate screwing" of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Kerry made the remarks in an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg.
The secretary rejected Israel's criticism of the nuclear agreement, saying that the deal "is as pro-Israel" as it gets.
Iran deal in a nutshell
Reneging on the nuclear agreement, which has the support of the major world powers, would constitute a setback for Washington and justify anti-American animus in Iran.
“The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them,” Kerry said. "[Having Congress vote down the nuclear pact] will be the ultimate screwing.”
“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 commented on the vociferous opposition to the deal expressed by Israel, which the secretary referred to as "visceral" and "emotional." He was adamant that the agreement was positive for Israel's geopolitical standing.
“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.”
Kerry said that he was "sensitive" to Israeli concerns over Iran's long-term aims, but he rejected arguments made by Jerusalem that the Islamic Republic was planning its annihilation.
"I haven’t seen anything that says to me [that Iran will implement its vow of wiping Israel off the map]," the secretary said. "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.”
"I operate on the presumption that Iran is a fundamental danger, that they are engaged in negative activities throughout the region, that they’re destabilizing places, and that they consider Israel a fundamental enemy at this moment in time," Kerry said. "Everything we have done here [with the nuclear agreement] is not to overlook anything or to diminish any of that; it is to build a bulwark, build an antidote."
The secretary said that the nuclear deal is even more imperative if Israel's fears that Iran is plotting its destruction are true, since the agreement neutralizes Tehran's nuclear program.