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Kerry Defends Iran Deal As U.S. Obtains Key Vote To Preserve It

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on the nuclear agreement with Iran in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 2.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on the nuclear agreement with Iran in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 2.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has defended the nuclear agreement with Iran in a speech that came shortly after the U.S. administration secured enough votes to assure the deal will not be rejected by the Congress.

In a passionate speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on September 2, Kerry said the congressional vote, due later this month, will matter "as much as any foreign-policy decision in recent history."

"President Obama and I are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the framework that we have put forward will get the job done," Kerry said, while noting that the deal had been endorsed by dozens of nonproliferation experts, former diplomats, and military officials.

Earlier in the day, Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski became the crucial 34th vote in favor of the deal that was announced in July in Vienna.

"No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime. I have concluded that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb," Mikulski said in a statement.

The agreement -- signed by Iran, the United States, and five other world powers -- limits Iran's nuclear program in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from sanctions.

Obama has vowed to veto the resolution if it passes. It would take 34 votes in the 100-member Senate to uphold his veto, and Democrats now have those votes.

Kerry said a rejection of the deal would damage U.S. credibility, lead to the unraveling of the multilateral sanctions regime, and the lessening of the pressure on Iran.

"Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran, it would be broadcasting a message so puzzling that most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend," he said.

He also reiterated the administration's stand that the agreement with Iran is based "on proof, not trust."

"There is not a single sentence of paragraph in the agreement that depends on promises or trust," Kerry said.

"Not one," he added.

Kerry said the accord prevented Tehran from producing nuclear weapons.

"Without this agreement, Iran would have several potential pathways to a bomb; with it, they won't have any," the top U.S. diplomat said.

He also reiterated Washington's support for its ally Israel and said that the United States will stand by the Jewish state.

In a letter sent to Congress on September 2, Kerry listed the billions of dollars the United States has provided Israel for security and military assistance.

Kerry wrote in the letter that the U.S. administration shares the concerns of many in Congress regarding Iran's continued support for terrorist groups, its propping up of the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and other destabilizing actions.

He added that Washington had "no illusion" that this Iranian behavior will change after the deal is implemented.

"That is precisely why we have been so focused on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Kerry argued in the letter.

In his speech in Philadelphia, Kerry also said that the United States would have "zero tolerance" if Iran violated the agreement.

"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," Kerry said.

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