So much has been written on the Iran Nuclear Agreement already, for and against, that it’s difficult to keep up.

I finally sat down to read Jeffrey Goldberg’s important interview with Secretary Kerry in The Atlantic (August 5). It may be the most important piece I have read thus far and I urge you to read the interview in full.


Here are a few passages:

Kerry: The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them,” Kerry said. “This”—a congressional rejection—“will be the ultimate screwing.” He went on to argue that “the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.

I operate on the presumption that Iran is a fundamental danger, that they are engaged in negative activities throughout the region, that they’re destabilizing places, and that they consider Israel a fundamental enemy at this moment in time. Everything we have done here, Jeff, is not to overlook anything or to diminish any of that; it is to build a bulwark, build an antidote. If what Bibi says is true, that they are really plotting this destruction, then having the mechanism to get rid of nuclear weapons is a prima facie first place to start, and you’re better off eliminating the nuclear weapon if that’s their plan. Then we can deal with the other things.

Goldberg: Let me posit this analysis: that the deal is actually good, but then it becomes bad 10 years down the road. As a confidence-building measure, you’ve curtailed their ability to get to a bomb, but 10 or 15 years down the road, their breakout time shrinks back down to a month or two.

Kerry: Jeff, I fundamentally, absolutely disagree with this premise. It’s not true; it’s provable that it’s not true. And close analysis of this agreement completely contradicts the notion that there is a 15-year cutoff, for several different reasons. Reason number one: We have a 20-year televised insight into their centrifuge production. In other words, we are watching their centrifuge production with live television, taping the whole deal, 24-7 for 20 years. But even more important, and much more penetrating, much more conclusive, we have 25 years during which all uranium production—from mine to mill to yellowcake to gas to waste—is tracked and traced. The intelligence community will tell you it is not possible for them to have a complete, covert, separate fuel cycle. You can’t do the whole cycle; you can’t do the mining and milling covertly. So it’s not 15, it’s 25, and it’s not even just 25 [years].

The Additional Protocol provides the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] with the right and obligation to apply safeguards on all fissionable material in Iran to be sure that it can’t be diverted to a nuclear weapon. To do that, all non-nuclear-weapons-state parties have to bring into force a comprehensive safeguard agreement with the IAEA. The full safeguard agreement. The safeguard agreement requires them to maintain detailed accounting on all material that is subject to the safeguards and operating records of all the facilities. Now, in a civil nuclear program, all facilities are declared and all facilities are inspectionable. So every facility maintains 24-7 visibility. You can’t crank up—see, the comprehensive safeguards agreement provides for a range of IAEA inspections, including verifying the location, the identity, the quantity, and composition of all nuclear materials subject to the safeguards, and the design of the facility and so forth. So I can go on—there are even requirements about any kind of nuclear research that doesn’t involve nuclear material. There are requirements about undeclared facilities, requirements about inspections. [U.S. Secretary of Energy] Ernie Moniz and our experts tell me that if the Iranians notched up their enrichment half a degree, half a point—and by the way, enrichment for civil purposes is usually about 5 percent—They will not be able to get a bomb.“