Former Secretary of State John Kerry says leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt all pressured the US to “bomb Iran” before the 2015 nuclear deal was struck.
Kerry defended the deal during a nuclear weapons reduction forum in Washington on Tuesday.
Kerry recalled how he met Saudi King Abdullah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. All three leaders lobbied him for military action against Iran. “Each of them said to me: You have to bomb Iran, it’s the only thing they are going to understand,” he said.
But Kerry says that was “a trap” in many ways because the same countries would have publicly criticized the U.S. if it bombed.
“I remember that conversation with President Mubarak. I looked at him and said: It’s easy for you to say. We go bomb them and I bet you’ll be the first guy out there the next day to criticize us for doing it. And he went: ‘Of course, ha-ha-ha-ha!’” Kerry said. “It was a trap in a lot of ways. But more importantly, Prime Minister Netanyahu was genuinely agitating towards action.”
Kerry says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “genuinely agitating toward action.”
Kerry says he doesn’t know whether Iran will resume pursuing a nuclear weapon in 10 to 15 years after restrictions in the deal sunset. But he says it was the best deal the U.S. could get.
The former top US diplomat also criticized President Donald Trump for trying to undermine the deal. During the election campaign, the Republican nominee repeatedly called the agreement “a bad deal” and threatened to scrap it once elected. “That was a blatant over-simplistic political appeal to the American Jewish community. That’s all what it was, because most of those people hadn’t read the agreement,” Kerry said, adding that the rhetoric had “polluted the water” for American diplomacy.
Trump has since refused to recertify the agreement, arguing that the US got disproportionately few benefits from it, and referred the document to US legislators.