Secretary of State John Kerry defended the Obama administration’s policy of engaging Iran diplomatically over its nuclear program on Monday, saying it would be irresponsible for the United States to ignore any possibility of a negotiated deal.
“[There is] an opportunity to try to put to test whether or not Iran really desires to pursue only a peaceful [nuclear] program,” Kerry said at an event hosted by the Ploughshares Fund. “Some have suggested that somehow there’s something wrong with even putting that to the test,” he added:
“I suggest that the idea that the United States of America is a responsible nation to all of humankind would not explore that possibility would be the height of irresponsibility and dangerous in itself, and we will not succumb to those fear tactics and forces that suggest otherwise.”
Indeed, during the 2008 presidential campaign, GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that then candidate-Obama’s desire to talk directly to Iran’s leaders over its nuclear program demonstrates his “inexperience and reckless judgment.” Many on the right continue to hold that view today — using fear tactics described by Kerry — — even while appearing to support the ongoing negotiating process that is showing signs of potential breakthrough.
A spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran “had a very productive meeting on past and present issues” regarding Iran’s program.
“We have been able to open a new chapter of cooperation,” said Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA. “The ultimate goal would be resolution of all remaining issues.” The IAEA has said in numerous past reports that Iran has not answered questions about possible military dimensions to its nuclear program and has not cooperated fully on the matter.
In his speech, Kerry highlighted the difficulties in dealing with Iran. “Nor will we be stampeded into some notion that this is easy, or that somehow just the mere statement you’re willing to do something means you have done it,” he said. “Our eyes are wide open. The actions must be real. They must be fully verifiable. They must get the job done. And no words can replace those actions.”
While not specifying the parameters of a possible agreement, Kerry said that “no deal is better than a bad deal, because a bad deal could actually wind up creating greater danger.”
Meanwhile, Congress is looking to increase pressure on Iran by adding more sanctions, a move that the Obama administration is cautioning against. Wendy Sherman, the U.S. lead negotiator in talks with Iran, told the Voice of America’s Persian service last week that any additional sanctions should be delayed to see if nuclear talks can “gain traction.”