Secretary Kerry Explains the Iran Pact

The Iran pact can make the world safer and unlock regional opportunities, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says.

“The United States, our P5+1 and EU partners, and Iran have taken a measurable step away from the prospect of nuclear proliferation, towards transparency and cooperation,” Kerry said July 14 in Vienna. “It is a step away from the specter of conflict and towards the possibility of peace.”

The secretary spoke following the announcement that negotiators had reached a final deal to ensure Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful.

Saying that “all of us — not just the United States, but France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China, and the EU — were determined to get this right,” Kerry said that persistence paid off in an agreement that reduces Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, cuts the number of centrifuges it operates and expands the time it would take Iran to speed up its enrichment and produce enough fissile material for just one nuclear weapon.

President Obama also issued a statement on Iran July 14.

The agreement “will be implemented in phases — beginning within 90 days of the U.N. Security Council endorsing the deal, and some of the provisions are in place for 10 years, others for 25 years,” the secretary said, adding that certain provisions will stay in place permanently.

Kerry said that “this agreement addresses Iran’s potential pathways to fissile material for a bomb” by:

  • Prohibiting Iran from producing or acquiring either highly enriched uranium or weapons-grade plutonium for at least the next 15 years.
  • Capping Iran’s total stockpile of enriched uranium — now equivalent to almost 12,000 kilograms — at just 300 kilograms for the next 15 years.
  • Significantly scaling down uranium enrichment at Iran’s Natanz facility.
  • Restricting Iran’s uranium enrichment activities to its first-generation centrifuges for the next 10 years and halting uranium enrichment activities at Iran’s Fordow facility for the next 15 years.
  • Rebuilding Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak to ensure it cannot be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

The agreement “also gives us the greatest assurance that we have had that Iran will not pursue a weapon covertly,” Kerry said.

Inspectors will be able to access Iran’s declared facilities daily, and will also have access to the entire supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors “will be able to gain access to any location the IAEA and a majority of the P5+1 nations deem suspicious,” according to the secretary.

Acknowledging “how deeply the nuclear-related sanctions have affected the lives of Iranians,” Kerry announced that “the international community will be lifting the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran’s economy.”

That sanction relief will begin as soon as Iran meets its key initial nuclear commitments, the secretary said, but added that “some restrictions, including those related to arms and proliferation, will remain in place for some years to come.”

Kerry underscored that “no part of this agreement relies on trust. It is all based on thorough and extensive transparency and verification measures that are included in very specific terms in the annexes of this agreement. If Iran fails to comply, we will know it, because we’re going to be there — the international community, through the IAEA and otherwise — and we will know it quickly, and we will be able to respond accordingly.”

The secretary acknowledged the implementation phase would be hard work, but said there is reason for optimism.

If fully implemented, the agreement would “make the world safer than it is today, but it may also eventually unlock opportunities to begin addressing regional challenges that cannot be resolved without this kind of an agreement being in place in the first place. The past 18 months have been yet another example of diplomacy’s consummate power to forge a peaceful way forward, no matter how impossible it may seem.”