WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Obama administration will oppose Iran’s bids to destabilize the region “with every national security tool available,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, defending the Iran nuclear deal.
“In a letter that I am sending to all the members of Congress today, I make clear the administration’s willingness to work with them on legislation to address shared concerns about regional security consistent with the agreement that we have worked out with our international partners,” Kerry said in a major Iran policy speech Wednesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
One of the fears expressed by deal skeptics is that the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers will release tens of billions of dollars that Iran can use to increase its disruptive activities in the region and elsewhere.
Kerry and other Obama administration officials are lobbying hard to keep the U.S. Congress from killing the Iran deal by a Sept. 17 deadline. They hit a milestone Wednesday when Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., became the 34th senator to pledge to back the deal, guaranteeing that it would survive any bid to override U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledged veto should Congress reject the deal.
Kerry outlined his pro-Israel credentials, noting the number of times he has visited the country, including stops at towns vulnerable to rocket attacks by Iran-backed enemies.
“I am fully conscious of the existential nature of the choice Israel must make,” he said. “I understand the conviction that Israel, even more than any other country, simply cannot afford a mistake in defending its security.”
Kerry reviewed the close defense relationship between Israel and the United States and said he anticipated enhancements.
“We hope soon to conclude a new memorandum of understanding – a military assistance plan that will guide our intensive security cooperation through the next decade,” he said.
Most if not all Republicans oppose the deal, as do the Israeli government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, arguing that it will leave Iran a nuclear threshold state. Kerry said the provisions of the deal give the world time to counter any of its nuclear ambitions.
“If Iran at any time – at any time – embarks on nuclear activities that are incompatible with a wholly peaceful program, it will be in violation of the agreement forever,” he said.
“We will know of that violation right away and we will retain every option we now have to respond, whether diplomatically or through a return to sanctions or by other means. In short, this agreement gives us unprecedented tools and all the time we need to hold Iran accountable for its choices and actions.”