Bloomberg News

Kerry Sees Iran Deal as Step as Others Voice Doubts

November 24, 2013

Arak Nuclear Reactor

A satellite image of the Arak Nuclear Reactor in Iran collected on Feb. 9, 2013. Source: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

Iran’s agreement to limit its nuclear program is “a first step” that will make the world safer and allow inspections that reveal more about the Islamic Republic’s technology, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

The U.S. and its allies will have “intrusive inspection” of facilities that were previously inaccessible, Kerry said today on CBS’s “Face the Nation” television program. Higher-grade uranium will be destroyed, he said.

World-power nations struck the accord early today for Iran to curtail its nuclear activities in return for $7 billion in relief from “certain sanctions” on oil, auto parts, gold and precious metals over six months. U.S. lawmakers from both political parties were quick to criticize Kerry for conceding too much and said Congress may vote to pass new sanctions.

“This disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December,” Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. “It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table.”

Under the deal, Iran must improve cooperation with United Nations monitors, commit to eliminate its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent levels and halt advanced centrifuge installation, the White House said in a statement. Iran also won’t commission its Arak heavy water reactor, which, if it became operational, could produce plutonium and give the country a second path to nuclear weapons.

Senate Legislation

“This agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program for the relief it is receiving,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat. “Given Iran’s history of duplicity, it will demand ongoing, on the ground verification. Until Iran has verifiably terminated its illicit nuclear program, we should vigorously enforce existing sanctions.”

He said in a statement that the Senate would work on a sanctions bill.

In addition to criticism from U.S. lawmakers, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement a “historic mistake” that doesn’t bind his country. Israel, as well as other U.S. allies in the Middle East, said they fear the deal will make it easier for Iran to become the most powerful nation in region.

Shared Goal

“Israel and the U.S. absolutely share the same goal here,” Kerry said on ABC’s “This Week.” “There is no daylight between us with respect to what we want to achieve at this point. We both want to make it certain that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon and Iran cannot be in a place where they could break out and suddenly get a nuclear weapon.”

Kerry, in the round of television interviews, reiterated that the deal is “a first step.”

It’s the first deal to be reached since Iran’s nuclear program came under international scrutiny in 2003. Western nations have accused Iran of harboring nuclear-weapons ambitions, a charge it denies, and the U.S. and Israel have said they are willing use force if needed to prevent that from occurring.

The agreement culminated a third round of negotiations that proceeded on and off over the last six weeks. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected earlier this year on a pledge to resolve the standoff over the nuclear issue.

‘Strong Movement’

The U.S. may be making a mistake by taking the pressure off Iran just as sanctions were beginning to have an effect, said Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“They feel in letting up on Iran and lifting sanctions, we’re going to re-empower Iran to be the hegemon in the Middle East,” he said.

There probably would be “a strong movement in the U.S. Senate to move ahead to tighten sanctions,” Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Armed Services panel, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“For the next six months, it looks like this deal is going to be in place, and it may be that we have to pass a resolution that puts sanctions on effective three months, four months, six months, whatever it might be,” Chambliss said.

Face Value

There will be an effort in the Senate to make sure negotiations continue, especially on the issue of enriched uranium, said Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The U.S. seems to have tacitly agreed Iran will be allowed to continue to enrich uranium for commercial use, he said.

“We don’t take anything at face value,” Kerry told CBS. “You have to have a mechanism put in place whereby you know exactly what you’re getting and you know exactly what they’re doing. We believe we are at the beginning of putting that in place.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net; Michelle Jamrisko in Washington at mjamrisko@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Romaine Bostick at rbostick@bloomberg.net; Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net


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