Kerry: Iran deal is the only way forward

Secretary of State John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on the nuclear agreement with Iran. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke for nearly an hour Wednesday morning on the merits of an  multinational nuclear deal with Iran at the National Constitution Center. The address came as the Obama administration appears to have assembled just enough support in the Senate to keep the agreement intact.

The deal has been condemned by Republicans in Congress and hammered in television ads, resulting in plenty of opposition in national polls.

Kerry’s speech was at times detailed, even technical. He said monitoring systems in the deal incorporate lessons from experience with North Korea. And he answered the charge that under the agreement Iran can build a secret weapons facility because it can delay inspections of suspicious sites for as long as 24 days.

“In truth, there is no way in 24 days or 24 months or 24 years to destroy all the evidence of illegal activity that has been taking place regarding fissile material, because of the nature of fissile materials,” Kerry said. “You can’t eliminate the evidence by shoving it under a mattress, flushing it down the toilet, or carting it off in the middle of the night. The tell-tale traces remain year after year after year.”

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Other arguments were more straightforward. He said the deal has advantages compared with what happens if it is rejected by Congress.

“None of the problems we’re concerned about will be made easier if it is rejected, none of them,” Kerry said. “Not Iran’s nuclear program, not Iran’s support for terrorism, not its human rights record, and not its opposition to Israel.”

“To oppose this agreement is, whether intended or not, to recommend a policy of national paralysis,” he added.

As things now stand, the administration appears to have 34 votes in the Senate, just enough to sustain a veto of congressional disapproval of the treaty. Kerry would like to get more support lined up.

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