Kerry Admits Iran Didn't Lose Right to Enrich, Goes After Pro-Sanctions Dems
Kerry accused Sherman of "really setting up a straw man."
"And it's really not a hard one to knock down because there's just no reality to the scenario you're drawing," he said. "…I don't know any administration that doesn't like to conduct its foreign policy on its terms."
New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires said one of his key concerns is who will determine if negotiations with Iran are "going well."
"Congressman, we will, obviously, the president of the United States, my team, will make the initial judgment. But we're accountable to you and to the American people through you. So we will obviously have to confer. We'll come up here. I'm sure you'll want to hear from us somewhere in the middle of this or somewhere in the process. And we will, needless to say, brief you in the appropriate places and in the appropriate manner," Kerry said.
He added under questioning that Washington and Tehran could mutually agree to extend the six-month negotiation period, as well.
"That would send a terrible message if we keep extending these negotiations," Sires said.
"I said, my expectation is that it will not happen," Kerry snapped. "It could, but I don't expect it. And my hope is that we get it done sooner rather than later."
"You know, I keep reading about the resolve of the Iranians to get this nuclear program done. And quite frankly, I just don't know if this diplomatic effort on their behalf is really serious," Sires continued. "Do you sense their sincerity in this?"
"It's not my job to measure sincerity or -- it's my job to lay down a process by which we can measure it," Kerry replied. "And thus far, they have indicated they're ready do things that make a difference. They haven't done them yet."
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) asked why the administration can't just work with Congress to figure out a timetable by which Iran would face repercussions.
"At some point why wouldn't it be in it our interests and the interests of our allies to make clear what will happen if the Iranians continue to push and extend and extend and there is no deal?" Deutch asked. "Why can't we work together in the interest of a negotiating position to help with diplomacy, to strengthen diplomacy in order to do that?"
"We've made it clear to them what the implications are of not being successful. They know what the stakes are. And we have told them there will not be new sanctions of any kind imposed while we are negotiating. So if Congress votes for new sanctions, Congress is going off on its own and it -- it raises a question," Kerry said.
"Most importantly, I'm not as worried about, you know how they interpret it, as I am worried about how our allies, our friends, our partners interpret it. They're part of this. And if the United States sort of just lumbers off on its own and does its own thing when we are working with those partners, they have a right to say, you know, we're a partnership."
Kerry told another Dem, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, that the administration doesn't want a sanctions bill "because our partners don't expect us to pass new sanctions while we're negotiating, and because our partners, if we pass them now, you know, could get squirrelly on the whole idea of the sanctions. I mean, they'll figure we're kind of doing our own thing and that we're not part of the team."
However, it was one of those key allies, France, that originally stood against the deal with Iran for not being strident enough or protecting Israel's interests.
Kerry told Cicilline that the administration opposition applies to anything bearing the name sanctions, even if the bill is enacted but the sanctions don't go into effect.
"Even if the sanctions are not imposed. It implies a lack of faith in the process and an unwillingness to play by the rules that our partners are playing by," Kerry said.
"We should tee it up and we should tee it up with a date-certain," Deutch said of a sanctions deadline by which Iran would have to comply with the interim deal.
"But 'teeing up' doesn't mean passing it here now," Kerry said. "You can't have a date certain until you know how your negotiations are working. You don't want to make a presumption."
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) branded the administration's policy "grovel but verify."
Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) noted that he worked on Kerry's presidential campaign, adding "one of my biggest disappointments politically was that you didn't become president."
"However, when it comes to this deal, I'm completely against it. I do think it's naive. And I don't think it makes us safer, unfortunately, and I don't think it makes our allies safer, especially Israel," Vargas added. "…You said: 'Has Iran changed its nuclear calculus? We don't know. We should be skeptical.' I'm not skeptical. I'm not skeptical at all. I don't think it's changed its calculus. I think it continues to want a nuclear weapons program."
"Well, first of all, Congressman, I'm really pleased that you think I would have made a good president. And I appreciate your support in that effort," Kerry said. "And I hate to disappoint you that I've come up with something in conjunction with the administration and our efforts that you think is naive."
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) asked Kerry if he believes it's still the goal of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to destroy Israel and the United States.
"I think their rhetoric is -- is dangerous and threatening, and, you know, incredibly counter-productive and damaging to any potential, you know, rational relationship, but…," Kerry replied.