Kerry on Iran: Our Policy is Not Containment; it is Prevention

— by David Streeter

Secretary of State nominee Senator John Kerry (D-MA) testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and reiterated his and the President’s commitment to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. Kerry told the committee:

The world is well aware that we face a number of immediate and dangerous challenges particularly in the Middle East and South Central Asia. Given our extraordinary interest in nonproliferation, we must resolve the questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.The President has made it definitive: we will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And I repeat here today, our policy is not containment it is prevention. And the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance.

More after the jump.

This Administration, working with congress and an unprecedented international coalition, has put into place crippling sanctions on Iran. Mr. Chairman, you have been a leader in that effort and I know you’ll continue to be. President Obama has stated again and again — and I want to emphasize this — he and I prefer a diplomatic resolution to this challenge and I will work to give diplomacy every effort to succeed. But no one should mistake our resolve to reduce the nuclear threat.

During the question and answer portion, Kerry reiterated to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that he is “totally” committed to continuing and increasing sanctions against Iran. Kerry also told Menendez regarding a potential agreement with Iran:

We’d seek compliance with the requirements of the IAEA and the requirements of the UN resolutions that have been passed with respect to it and compliance with the NPT itself. … It is going to be imperative that they come into full compliance…

I’d say this to the Iranians, I hope they listen. They have continually professed the peacefulness of their program. It is not hard to prove a peaceful program. Other nations have done that and do it every day. And it takes intrusive inspections, it takes living up to the publicly arrived at standards — everybody understands what they are. The allies in the P5+1 have made it very clear… that we are all united in this standard and that we are looking for the full compliance with the NPT… the Iranians need to understand there’s no other agenda here…

In response to questions by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Kerry reiterated his opposition to unilateral actions by the Palestinians at the United Nations. He also explained his position on how the United States will proceed at the United Nations with respect to combating anti-Israel bias:

Let me say categorically — and I think the Administration made this clear in its vote and its public statements — that we do not feel that unilateral steps are helpful to either side in any way. They are not a substitute for the parties negotiating and resolving the issues.

With respect to some of the funding on the collateral memberships […] we have found that we’re better able to actually protect against nefarious activity, in some cases resolutions which attack Israel or other things, we’re better able to affect that and negate it if we’re participating. If we cease to pay the dues and so forth or take a different attitude then we […] lose the opportunity to protect our friends which we want to have.

Now I will emphasize that they’re getting close to a line that would be very damaging. If there were any effort to take Israel for instance or any other country to the ICC, if there’s any effort to try to invoke other power, that’s the kind of unilateral action that we would feel very very strongly against and see it as extremely counterproductive. My hope is […] my prayer is that perhaps this can be a moment where we can renew some kind of effort to get the parties into a discussion, to have a different track than we’ve been on over the course of the last couple of years. […] Unilateral efforts are not helpful. We oppose them. And we don’t think […] symbolic or other kinds of efforts are what we need. We need real negotiation, we need real results, we need progress.

In addition, Kerry responded to Senator Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) about how he would pursue peace between Israel and the Palestinians:

President Obama is deeply committed to a two state solution. I’ve been reading lately speculation about whether or not he’s committed to process or what he thinks or believes etcetera. I think a lot of it is simply wrong […] The President understands the stakes and the implications in the Middle East and […] so much of what we aspire to achieve and what we need to do globally […] all of this is tied to what can or doesn’t happen with respect to Israel and Palestine. In some places it’s used as an excuse, in other places it’s a genuine deeply felt challenge. […] I personally believe-I’ve been at this for what, almost 29 years in this committee… I’ve watched all of it. I was on the lawn when we were there with the handshake […] I’ve been through seven Prime Ministers, nine in all, and two of them were the same […] I’ve seen Wye Plantation and Madrid and Oslo and Taba and so forth. We need to try to find a way forward and I happen to believe that there is a way forward. But I also believe that if we can’t be successful the door […] to the possibility of a two state solution could shut on everybody, and that would be disastrous in my judgment. So, I think this is an enormously important issue and I will never step back from my commitment to the state of Israel — which I have shown through the 29 years I’ve been here — but I also will not step back from my understanding of the plight of Palestinians and others who are caught up in the swirl of this…

Kerry also told Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s anti-Semitic comments were “reprehensible” and “degrading,” and called for an immediate apology.  

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