Kerry: Time to Focus on Verifying Iran Deal
America's top diplomat says opponents of the landmark accord should turn their attention to making sure it's carried out.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had a blunt message Tuesday for opponents of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran: it’s time to bury the hatchet and focus on ensuring Tehran lives up to the agreement.
Kerry, speaking after being named Foreign Policy‘s Diplomat of the Year, acknowledged that the nuclear accord — which lifts Western economic sanctions in return for limits on Tehran’s nuclear program — had provoked fierce debate at home and abroad. But he said that a critical stage of the agreement was now underway, and the world needed to concentrate on holding Iran to its promises to dismantle key components of its nuclear program.
“I say to everyone who was for the agreement and everyone who was against – now is the time to join forces to make certain that the agreement is carried out fully and verifiably,” Kerry said during a speech at Washington’s Park Hyatt Hotel after accepting the award from FP Group CEO and Editor David Rothkopf.
Kerry, who played an instrumental role in brokering the landmark deal, said a critical “implementation phase” of the agreement had begun earlier this week, obliging the Iranians to destroy the core of a heavy water reactor at Arak and take steps to curtail its uranium enrichment work.
Under the accord, Iran will be required to mothball 12,000 centrifuges, ship 98 percent of its enriched uranium out of the country, and allow intrusive international inspections.
Speaking to an audience of foreign ambassadors, lawmakers, and policymakers, Kerry also appealed for common ground on climate change, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and the flailing fight against the Islamic State.
Kerry, now in his third year as secretary of state, made an impassioned argument for the importance of diplomacy, saying world powers had to come together to find a way of ending Syria’s brutal civil war.
Kerry reiterated Washington’s stance that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad could not play any role in the country’s future, and argued that the Syrian people would never accept a ruler who had “gassed” and “starved” his own citizens.
“How does a person who’s done that claim legitimacy going forward?” Kerry asked.
Neither Assad nor the Islamic State militants should be allowed to prevail in Syria, he said.
“We have to bring every ounce of our collective influence together to give hope to the many Syrians who reject both the tyrant and the terrorists,” he said.
On the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Kerry said skeptics needed to recognize that the proposed agreement was designed to improve upon shortcomings from past trade accords.
“My challenge to opponents is to compare it not to some fantasy arrangement where we each get to write our own set of answers to every question, but to the real world where widely varied interests have to be represented,” Kerry said.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who received the Commercial Diplomat of the Year award at the event, used her remarks to stress that promoting American trade interests abroad was a crucial element of the administration’s foreign policy. She cited efforts in India, Ukraine, and Tunisia, where she said “the U.S. government and U.S. businesses must and will be part of the solution.”
The non-governmental organization Vital Voices received the Citizen Diplomat of the Year award for its work in promoting the empowerment of women around the world. The group’s CEO and president, Alyse Nelson, accepted the award on behalf of the entire organization.
Kerry, who said he accepted his award for all the diplomats working at the State Department, also poked fun at Republican presidential candidates as he urged a renewed effort to reach a global agreement on climate change at a conference in Paris in December.
“The science is clear about this, folks,“ Kerry said. “It’s time to stop paying any attention at all to some candidate for president of the United States who says, ‘well I’m not a scientist and I really can’t say what’s happening.’”
Photo credit: Jason Dixon