Kerry defends Iran nuclear accord at Senate hearing

Kerry defends Iran nuclear accord at Senate hearing
# 23 July 2015 22:34 (UTC +04:00)

Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee asked Kerry Thursday to provide more detail on various aspects of the nuclear agreement with Iran, including inspections, verification, and lifting of sanctions.

The top US diplomat described the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached last week between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, as the "only viable option" to a peaceful resolution of the issue.

"The truth is that the Vienna plan will provide a stronger, more comprehensive, more lasting means of limiting Iran's nuclear program than any alternative that has been spoken of," he said.

Kerry told the skeptical senators that there was no better agreement than the negotiated JCPOA. “We believe this is a good deal for the world, a good deal for America, a good deal for our allies and friends in the region -- and we think it does deserve your support.”

He pointed out that the United States and four of its negotiating partners in the nuclear talks-- the UK, France, Russia and China are nuclear states who know what the JCPOA entails.

“They're not dumb…. They're experts, every one of them,” he said.

Kerry also acknowledged that sanctions, which he as a former chairman of the Senate committee helped put in place, did not stop Iran’s nuclear program.

The notion of Iran's “complete capitulation,” as expected by some members of Congress, is “some sort of unicorn arrangement" and “a complete fantasy,” Kerry said.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the committee, lashed out at Kerry before he began his testimony, saying the nuclear agreement would give Iran “a perfectly aligned pathway” to a nuclear bomb.

"I believe you've been fleeced... I believe that you have crossed a new threshold in US foreign policy" said Corker, opening the hearing.

The testimony was part of the White House’s sales pitch to the Republican-controlled Congress, which has 60 days to vote to either approve or disapprove of the nuclear accord.

During the review period, President Barack Obama cannot lift the sanctions Congress has imposed on Iran.

The House of Representatives reportedly has the votes to pass a resolution, but in the Senate, Republicans would need support from half a dozen Democrats in order to guarantee a veto-proof majority.

“If the US, after laboriously negotiating this multilateral agreement with five other partners, were to walk away from those partners, we’re on our own” Kerry warned the lawmakers.

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, who is also a nuclear physicist, testified before the Senate panel alongside Kerry.

He said “this deal is not built on trust” but on verification. “It's pretty hard-nosed.”

The United States, Israel, and some of their European allies accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapon, an allegation Tehran categorically rejects. Several rounds of sanctions have been imposed on Iran because of its nuclear activities.