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Kerry pushes to broaden support for Iran deal

03 september 2015, 10:51
0
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the nuclear agreement with Iran at the National Constitution Center. ©AFP
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the nuclear agreement with Iran at the National Constitution Center. ©AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry made a late bid to broaden backing for the Iran nuclear deal Wednesday after the administration won the bare minimum of congressional support needed to ensure its survival, AFP reports.

Kerry flew to the US city of Philadelphia for the latest stage in his battle to defend the accord, under which Iran agreed to international supervision of its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

But his target audience was back home in Washington, where President Barack Obama's White House is lobbying to ensure enough backing for the deal to survive a bid by Republican lawmakers to sink it. 

Kerry's address attacked what he sees as the myths that have grown up around the agreement, insisting it is not a capitulation to Tehran but instead the best and only way to halt its quest for the bomb. 

Washington's senior diplomat said that in 2013, when Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani launched the negotiation process, Iran had already "transformed itself into a nuclear threshold state."

"In the Obama administration, we were well aware of that troubling fact and, more important, we were already responding to it," he said, arguing that Iran was already then under tight economic sanctions.

"But we also had to face an obvious fact: sanctions alone were not getting the job done, not even close," he said. 

"They were failing to slow, let alone halt, Iran's relentless march toward a nuclear weapons capability."

So, Kerry said, Obama decided to marshall US allies and world powers and to push Tehran into talks and to negotiate "until finally we arrived at the good and effective deal we had sought.

"Without this agreement, Iran's so-called breakout time was about two months. With this agreement it will increase by a factor of six, to at least a year, and will remain at that level for a decade or more."

  'Zero tolerance' 

In an impassioned address Kerry reiterated the arguments he has been making in the two months since the deal was signed, insisting it is not based on trusting Tehran but on its ability to police its activity.

"The United States and the international community will be monitoring Iran non-stop and you can bet that, if we see something, we will do something," he said.  

"The agreement gives us a wide range of enforcement tools, and we will use them. And the standard we will apply can be summed up in two words: 'Zero tolerance.'

"There is no way to guarantee that Iran will keep its word, and that's why this isn't based on a promise or trust, but we can guarantee that Iran will regret breaking any promise it has made."

The US Congress may vote on the Iran deal as early as next week, and it was only on Tuesday that the White House won the cautious support of a senator seen as key to the deal's survival.

With Democrat Barbara Mikulski's now on board, the deal has 34 backers in the Senate, a minority but enough to prevent the body from overturning Obama's veto if he has to block a bid to stop it.


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