Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday pushed back against critics who say the United States is being naive in the negotiating process with Iran over its nuclear program, saying, “We are not blind and I don’t think we’re stupid.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has perhaps been the biggest skeptic about engaging Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani, often countering Rouhani’s recent outreach efforts with claims that he is really “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Kerry whether the U.S. is, then, properly skeptical about who the U.S. is negotiating with:
KERRY: David, some of the most serious and capable expert people in our government who spent a lifetime dealing both with Iran as well as with nuclear weapons, nuclear armaments and proliferation, are engaged in our negotiation. We are not blind and I don’t think we’re stupid. I think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interest of our country and of the globe particularly of our allies like Israel and Gulf states and others in the region. We are absolutely determined this would be a good deal or there will be no deal. That’s why it’s hard, that’s why we didn’t close the deal here in the last couple days.
Kerry also pushed back on Netanyahu’s recent claims that the U.S. and its international partners are on their way to negotiating a “bad deal” with Iran.
“I’m not sure that the prime minister, who I have great respect for, knows exactly what the amount or the terms are going to be because we haven’t arrived at them all yet,” Kerry said. “That’s what we’re negotiating. It is not a partial deal. Let me make that crystal clear as I have to the prime minister directly. It is a first step in an effort that will lock the program in where it is today, in fact set it back, while one negotiates the full deal.”
Former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin also criticized Netanyahu this week. “It seems like he thinks that this is the final agreement — it is not,” he said. “The real judgment of whether it’s a bad deal or an acceptable deal will be in the end of the negotiating period.”
While talks in Geneva failed to produce any kind of agreement this week, all sides appeared optimistic that they had narrowed the gaps in their disagreements.
“There’s no question in my mind that we are closer now, as we leave Geneva, than when we came,” Kerry said in a statement after the talks concluded. “It takes time to build confidence between countries that have really been at odds with each other for a long time now.”