Are you a Daily Mail reader? I won’t lie, I usually read the Daily Mail for a laugh. Some of these stories they come up with… they’re just interesting and chuckle-worthy to say the least. I do, however, know that I should never read an article concerning a serious matter on the Daily Mail website. But alas, I torture myself every time and even worse, I always scroll down to the comments section to read the vile things people feel so confidently typing, but rarely say in person.
Some of the worst things I’ve read include:
Comments about how “Real” refugees shouldn’t have phones- Many refugees are fleeing war. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have possessions. Cell phones are no longer a first world standard. Get over it because I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of refugees don’t have these fancy contracts and money to spend speaking hours on the phone.
Comments about how “real” refugees shouldn’t be allowed to wear makeup- First of all, I saw the video this ignoramus was commenting on and the woman did not have makeup up. She was and is naturally gorgeous. Perfect contours, skin and thick eyebrows. She’s prettier than all of us put together. That comment was pure jealousy. Plus, considering everything these refugees have been through, so what if she gets to put on a tiny bit of makeup. She deserves to feel beautiful and like her normal self after the torment of fleeing her country and home.
Comments about how refugees are only in it for the benefits- You know what benefit they really want. The benefit of life!!! I can’t entertain that nonsense.
Comments about how Syrians should fight for their country- This is the silliest comment of all. Syrians have been fighting for their country for years. They’re not only fighting against ISIS, you know. They’re fighting against the Assad regime and the US and Russia and the whole list of countries that have been striking Syria. What weapons do these innocent civilians have that they can use against a whole world? The numbers don’t add up. The worst part is so many refugees are children. Do we really expect children to fight? Because if we allowed that the Daily Mail commenters would comment about how child soldiers are wrong.
Comments about how refugees desire to continue their education makes them economic migrants and not refugees- You realize that these people have had their entire lives come to a complete halt. They’ve literally been sitting around starving and waiting to die. A whole generation of young Syrians is growing up illiterate and unable to do basic math or know much about anything other than war. These refugees aren’t coming over just so they can take advantage of university education. No, if they could have stayed in Syria and continued their education they would have. But there are no teachers left in schools in Syria because there are no schools left. The schools that are left get used as shelters and makeshift community centers.
Comments about how “we” should bomb “them all”- That is an incitement of terror and makes you complicit in murder. Just putting that out there, you horrible human being. I have no problem with seeing ISIS and Assad terrorist thugs get blasted off this earth, however the legal thing to do would be to capture them and try them in a court of international law, in which they would be found guilty and live a long and tortuous life in maximum security prisons. But there is nothing casual about bombing an entire city, killing innocent civilians and calling them casualties.
Comments about how everyone in Raqaa is an ISIS terrorist and that if they weren’t they would have left- Yes, Raqaa is an ISIS headquarter. Yes, ISIS controls the city, but is everyone there a supporter of ISIS, no? But to openly oppose it would leave you dead or tortured. Why don’t people leave? They don’t have the money. Sure smugglers could get you out, but where would you go? The smugglers will take all your money, risk your life and leave you penniless on a raft in the Mediterranean or in the desert on the way to a desolate refugee camp or in some other destroyed part of Syria.
Comments judging refugees for being separated from their families- Seriously? Is this the Olympic category for most vile comment made? Because if it is, you win. People get separated from their families in all sorts of ways that most people would find inconceivable. But it happens all the time. Talk to anyone whose family has been through a war or some sort of catastrophe: I can guarantee you that a majority of people will tell you they have at least one family member that ended up alone or separated from the rest.
Comments about how refugees have “such nice tents”- This dude commented on how her tent was so nice that she couldn’t possibly be a “real” refugee and that she probably has all this money stashed away. How deep in the dirt is your head exactly? Much of this type of supplies has been provided by aid workers, charity organizations and normal human people with hearts that donated much needed goods, such as tents. Do you want to live on a tent on a street corner when it’s raining and cold? No, especially since winter is nearing. You’re just a horrible person for thinking this
Comments stating the run of the mill stereotypes- The long list of racial slurs, insults, and stereotypes that I won’t humor by listing. You know the type orientalist rubbish that is slanderous, libel, disgusting and horrible filth, but Facebook won’t take it down because they’re too worked up taking pictures down of women’s bodies.
My conclusions: Firstly, humans are awful. I don’t know how people can be awful. I doubt most of these hateful commenters could handle day in the life of a refugee. If you really think “we don’t owe them anything,” then you clearly have no idea how complicit our governments are in making Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world, the situation that they are in today.
Secondly, we haven’t learned from history one bit. These comments– ugh just look at some of the things people said during WWII about refugees. Please and compare those comments to now.
And lastly, I can’t be the only one who sees comparison in 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq with the Paris Attacks and the subsequent bombing of Raqaa.
Civilians, particularly children are innocent and pay the highest toll in wartime situations. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I know what the answers to terrorism, racism, discrimination and bigotry are. Offhand I would say education, but we all know the world isn’t that simple.
All I want is for people to think for 30 seconds before they type these horrible comments. I pray your ignorant minds become enlightened with knowledge, wisdom and empathy.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
September 2, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry Nuclear Agreement with Iran
September 2, 2015
National Constitution Center
SECRETARY KERRY: Dick, thank you so much for a generous introduction. I’ll say more about it, but I want to say good morning to all of you here. It is great for me to be able to be here in Philadelphia. I am delighted to see so many young people with us. I know school has started and I know the choice between coming here and sitting in class was a very tough one. (Laughter.) We’re glad you made the choice you did.
I am particularly grateful that Senator Lugar chose to come here this morning in order to introduce me and to reaffirm his support for this agreement. But I’m even more grateful for his service to our country over a course of a lifetime. As a former colleague of his on the Foreign Relations Committee, which he referred to in his introduction, I can bear witness that Dick Lugar is one of the true legislative pathfinders of recent times, with a long record of foreign policy accomplishments. And what he and Sam Nunn did is a lasting legacy of making this world safer. He is also someone who has consistently placed our country’s interests above any other consideration, and he has a very deep understanding of how best to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands. He is one of our experts when it comes to that judgment.
So it is appropriate that the senator is here with us this morning, and I think every one of us here joins in saying thank you to you, Dick, for your tremendous service. (Applause.) It’s also fitting to be here in Philadelphia, the home ground of this absolutely magnificent Center to the Constitution, the Liberty Bell, and one our nation’s most revered founders, Benjamin Franklin. And I must say I never quite anticipated, but this is one of the great vistas in America, and to be able to look down and see Independence Hall there is inspiring, I think, for all of us here.
I would say a quick word about Ben Franklin. In addition to his many inventions and his special status as America’s first diplomat, Franklin is actually credited with being the first person known to have made a list of pros and cons – literally dividing a page in two and writing all of the reasons to support a proposal on one side and all of the reasons to oppose it on the other.
And this morning, I would like to invite you – all of you, those here and those listening through the media – to participate in just such an exercise.
Because two months ago, in Vienna, the United States and five other nations – including permanent members of the UN Security Council – reached agreement with Iran on ensuring the peaceful nature of that country’s nuclear program. As early as next week, Congress will begin voting on whether to support that plan. And the outcome will matter as much as any foreign policy decision in recent history. Like Senator Lugar, President Obama and I are convinced – beyond any reasonable doubt – that the framework that we have put forward will get the job done. And in that assessment, we have excellent company.
Last month, 29 of our nation’s top nuclear physicists and Nobel Prize winners, scientists, from one end of our country to the other, congratulated the President for what they called “a technically sound, stringent, and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance … that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.” The scientists praised the agreement for its creative approach to verification and for the rigorous safeguards that will prevent Iran from obtaining the fissile material for a bomb.
Today, I will lay out the facts that caused those scientists and many other experts to reach the favorable conclusions that they have. I will show why the agreed plan will make the United States, Israel, the Gulf States, and the world safer. I will explain how it gives us the access that we need to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains wholly peaceful, while preserving every option to respond if Iran fails to meet its commitments. I will make clear that the key elements of the agreement will last not for 10 or 15 years, as some are trying to assert, or for 20 or 25, but they will last for the lifetime of Iran’s nuclear program. And I will dispel some of the false information that has been circulating about the proposal on which Congress is soon going to vote.
Now, for this discussion, there is an inescapable starting point – a place where every argument made against the agreement must confront a stark reality – the reality of how advanced Iran’s nuclear program had become and where it was headed when Presidents Obama and Rouhani launched the diplomatic process that concluded this past July.
Two years ago, in September of 2013, we were facing an Iran that had already mastered the nuclear fuel cycle; already stockpiled enough enriched uranium that, if further enriched, could arm 10 to 12 bombs; an Iran that was already enriching uranium to the level of 20 percent, which is just below weapons-grade; an Iran that had already installed 10,000-plus centrifuges; and an Iran that was moving rapidly to commission a heavy water reactor able to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for an additional bomb or two a year. That, my friends, is where we already were when we began our negotiations.
At a well-remembered moment during the UN General Assembly the previous fall, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had held up a cartoon of a bomb to show just how dangerous Iran’s nuclear program had become. And in 2013, he returned to that podium to warn that Iran was positioning itself to “rush forward to build nuclear bombs before the international community can detect it and much less prevent it.” The prime minister argued rightly that the so-called breakout time – the interval required for Iran to produce enough fissile material for one bomb – had dwindled to as little as two months. Even though it would take significantly longer to actually build the bomb itself using that fissile material, the prime minister’s message was clear: Iran had successfully transformed itself into a nuclear threshold state.
In the Obama Administration, we were well aware of that troubling fact, and more important, we were already responding to it. The record is irrefutable that, over the course of two American administrations, it was the United States that led the world in assembling against Tehran one of the toughest international sanctions regimes ever developed.
But we also had to face an obvious fact: sanctions alone were not getting the job done, not even close. They were failing to slow, let alone halt, Iran’s relentless march towards a nuclear weapons capability. So President Obama acted. He reaffirmed his vow that Iran would absolutely not be permitted to have a nuclear weapon. He marshaled support for this principle from every corner of the international community. He made clear his determination to go beyond what sanctions could accomplish and find a way to not only stop, but to throw into reverse, Iran’s rapid expansion of its nuclear program.
As we developed our strategy, we cast a very wide net to enlist the broadest expertise available. We sat down with the IAEA and with our own intelligence community to ensure that the verification standards that we sought on paper would be effective in reality. We consulted with Congress and our international allies and friends. We examined carefully every step that we might take to close off each of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb. And of course, we were well aware that every proposal, every provision, every detail would have to withstand the most painstaking scrutiny. We knew that. And so we made clear from the outset that we would not settle for anything less than an agreement that was comprehensive, verifiable, effective, and of lasting duration.
We began with an interim agreement reached in Geneva – the Joint Plan of Action. It accomplished diplomatically what sanctions alone could never have done or did. It halted the advance of Iran’s nuclear activities. And it is critical to note – you don’t hear much about it, but it’s critical to note that for more than 19 months now, Iran has complied with every requirement of that plan. But this was just a first step.
From that moment, we pushed ahead, seeking a broad and enduring agreement, sticking to our core positions, maintaining unity among a diverse negotiating group of partners, and we arrived at the good and effective deal that we had sought.
And I ask you today and in the days ahead, as we have asked members of Congress over the course of these last months, consider the facts of what we achieved and judge for yourself the difference between where we were two years ago and where we are now, and where we can be in the future. Without this agreement, Iran’s so-called breakout time was about two months; with this agreement it will increase by a factor of six, to at least a year, and it will remain at that level for a decade or more.
Without this agreement, Iran could double the number of its operating centrifuges almost overnight and continue expanding with ever more efficient designs. With this agreement, Iran’s centrifuges will be reduced by two-thirds for 10 years.
Without this agreement, Iran could continue expanding its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is now more than 12,000 kilograms – enough, if further enriched, for multiple bombs. With this agreement, that stockpile will shrink and shrink some more – a reduction of some 98 percent, to no more than 300 kilograms for 15 years.
Without this agreement, Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak would soon be able to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium each year to fuel one or two nuclear weapons. With this agreement, the core of that reactor will be removed and filled with concrete, and Iran will never be permitted to produce any weapons-grade plutonium.
Without this agreement, the IAEA would not have assured access to undeclared locations in Iran where suspicious activities might be taking place. The agency could seek access, but if Iran objected, there would be no sure method for resolving a dispute in a finite period, which is exactly what has led us to where we are today – that standoff. With this agreement, the IAEA can go wherever the evidence leads. No facility – declared or undeclared – will be off limits, and there is a time certain for assuring access. There is no other country to which such a requirement applies. This arrangement is both unprecedented and unique.
In addition, the IAEA will have more inspectors working in Iran, using modern technologies such as real-time enrichment monitoring, high-tech electronic seals, and cameras that are always watching – 24/7, 365. Further, Iran has agreed never to pursue key technologies that would be necessary to develop a nuclear explosive device.
So the agreement deals not only with the production of fissile material, but also with the critical issue of weaponization. Because of all of these limitations and guarantees, we can sum up by saying that without this agreement, the Iranians would have several potential pathways to a bomb; with it, they won’t have any.
Iran’s plutonium pathway will be blocked because it won’t have a reactor producing plutonium for a weapon, and it won’t build any new heavy-water reactors or engage in reprocessing for at least 15 years, and after that we have the ability to watch and know precisely what they’re doing.
The uranium pathway will be blocked because of the deep reductions in Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity, and because for 15 years the country will not enrich uranium to a level higher than 3.67 percent. Let me be clear: No one can build a bomb from a stockpile of 300 kilograms of uranium enriched only 3.67 percent. It is just not possible.
Finally, Iran’s covert pathway to a bomb will also be blocked. Under our plan, there will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities. As soon as we start the implementation, inspectors will be able to track Iran’s uranium as it is mined, then milled, then turned into yellow cake, then into gas, and eventually into waste. This means that for a quarter of a century at least, every activity throughout the nuclear fuel chain will receive added scrutiny. And for 20 years, the IAEA will be monitoring the production of key centrifuge components in Iran in order to assure that none are diverted to a covert program.
So if Iran did decide to cheat, its technicians would have to do more than bury a processing facility deep beneath the ground. They would have to come up with a complete – complete – and completely secret nuclear supply chain: a secret source of uranium, a secret milling facility, a secret conversion facility, a secret enrichment facility. And our intelligence community and our Energy Department, which manages our nuclear program and our nuclear weapons, both agree Iran could never get away with such a deception. And if we have even a shadow of doubt that illegal activities are going on, either the IAEA will be given the access required to uncover the truth or Iran will be in violation and the nuclear-related sanctions can snap back into place. We will also have other options to ensure compliance if necessary.
Given all of these requirements, it is no wonder that this plan has been endorsed by so many leading American scientists, experts on nuclear nonproliferation, and others. More than 60 former top national security officials, 100 – more than 100 retired ambassadors – people who served under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, are backing the proposal – as are retired generals and admirals from all 5 of our uniformed services. Brent Scowcroft, one of the great names in American security endeavors of the last century and now, served as a national security advisor to two Republican presidents. He is also among the many respected figures who are supporting it. Internationally, the agreement is being backed, with one exception, by each of the more than 100 countries that have taken a formal position. The agreement was also endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on a vote of 15 to nothing. This not only says something very significant about the quality of the plan, particularly when you consider that 5 of those countries are permanent members and they’re all nuclear powers, but it should also invite reflection from those who believe the United States can walk away from this without causing grave harm to our international reputation, to relationships, and to interests.
You’ve probably heard the claim that because of our strength, because of the power of our banks, all we Americans have to do if Congress rejects this plan is return to the bargaining table, puff out our chests, and demand a better deal. I’ve heard one critic say he would use sanctions to give Iran a choice between having an economy or having a nuclear program. Well, folks, that’s a very punchy soundbite, but it has no basis in any reality. As Dick said, I was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when our nation came together across party lines to enact round after round of economic sanctions against Iran. But remember, even the toughest restrictions didn’t stop Iran’s nuclear program from speeding ahead from a couple of hundred centrifuges to 5,000 to 19,000. We’ve already been there. If this agreement is voted down, those who vote no will not be able to tell you how many centrifuges Iran will have next year or the year after. If it’s approved, we will be able to tell you exactly what the limits on Iran’s program will be.
The fact is that it wasn’t either sanctions or threats that actually stopped and finally stopped the expansion of Iran’s nuclear activities. The sanctions brought people to the table, but it was the start of the negotiating process and the negotiations themselves, recently concluded in Vienna, that actually stopped it. Only with those negotiations did Iran begin to get rid of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium. Only with those negotiations did it stop installing more centrifuges and cease advancing the Arak reactor. Only then did it commit to be more forthcoming about IAEA access and negotiate a special arrangement to break the deadlock.
So just apply your common sense: What do you think will happen if we say to Iran now, “Hey, forget it. The deal is off. Let’s go back to square one”? How do you think our negotiating partners, all of whom have embraced this deal, will react; all of whom are prepared to go forward with it – how will they react? What do you think will happen to that multilateral sanctions regime that brought Iran to the bargaining table in the first place? The answer is pretty simple. The answer is straightforward. Not only will we lose the momentum that we have built up in pressing Iran to limit its nuclear activities, we will almost surely start moving in the opposite direction.
We need to remember sanctions don’t just sting in one direction, my friends. They also impose costs on those who forego the commercial opportunities in order to abide by them. It’s a tribute to President Obama’s diplomacy – and before that, to President George W. Bush – that we were able to convince countries to accept economic difficulties and sacrifices and put together the comprehensive sanctions regime that we did. Many nations that would like to do business with Iran agreed to hold back because of the sanctions and – and this is vital – and because they wanted to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. They have as much interest in it as we do. And that’s why they hoped the negotiations would succeed, and that’s why they will join us in insisting that Iran live up to its obligations. But they will not join us if we unilaterally walk away from the very deal that the sanctions were designed to bring about. And they will not join us if we’re demanding even greater sacrifices and threatening their businesses and banks because of a choice we made and they opposed.
So while it may not happen all at once, it is clear that if we reject this plan, the multilateral sanctions regime will start to unravel. The pressure on Iran will lessen and our negotiating leverage will diminish, if not disappear. Now, obviously, that is not the path, as some critics would have us believe, to a so-called better deal. It is a path to a much weaker position for the United States of America and to a much more dangerous Middle East.
And this is by no means a partisan point of view that I just expressed. Henry Paulson was Secretary of Treasury under President George W. Bush. He helped design the early stages of the Iran sanctions regime. But just the other day, he said, “It would be totally unrealistic to believe that if we backed out of this deal, the multilateral sanctions would remain in place.” And Paul Volcker, who chaired the Federal Reserve under President Reagan, he said, “This agreement is as good as you are going to get. To think that we can unilaterally maintain sanctions doesn’t make any sense.”
We should pause for a minute to contemplate what voting down this agreement might mean for Iran’s cadre of hardliners, for those people in Iran who lead the chants of “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” and even “Death to Rouhani,” and who prosecute journalists simply for doing their jobs. The evidence documents that among those who most fervently want this agreement to fall apart are the most extreme factions in Iran. And their opposition should tell you all you need to know. From the very beginning, these extremists have warned that negotiating with the United States would be a waste of time; why on Earth would we now take a step that proves them right?
Let me be clear. Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran; it would be broadcasting a message so puzzling most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend. After all, they’ve listened as we warned over and over again about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program. They’ve watched as we spent two years forging a broadly accepted agreement to rein that program in. They’ve nodded their heads in support as we have explained how the plan that we have developed will make the world safer.
Who could fairly blame them for not understanding if we suddenly switch course and reject the very outcome we had worked so hard to obtain? And not by offering some new and viable alternative, but by offering no alternative at all. It is hard to conceive of a quicker or more self-destructive blow to our nation’s credibility and leadership – not only with respect to this one issue, but I’m telling you across the board – economically, politically, militarily, and even morally. We would pay an immeasurable price for this unilateral reversal.
Friends, as Dick mentioned in his introduction, I have been in public service for many years and I’ve been called on to make some difficult choices in that course of time. There are those who believe deciding whether or not to support the Iran agreement is just such a choice. And I respect that and I respect them. But I also believe that because of the stringent limitations on Iran’s program that are included in this agreement that I just described, because of where that program was headed before our negotiations began and will head again if we walk away, because of the utter absence of a viable alternative to this plan that we have devised, the benefits of this agreement far outweigh any potential drawbacks. Certainly, the goal of preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon is supported across our political spectrum and it has the backing of countries on every continent. So what then explains the controversy that has persisted in this debate?
A big part of the answer, I think, is that even before the ink on the agreement was dry, we started being bombarded by myths about what the agreement will and won’t do, and that bombardment continues today.
The first of these myths is that the deal is somehow based on trust or a naive expectation that Iran is going to reverse course on many of the policies it’s been pursuing internationally. Critics tell us over and over again, “You can’t trust Iran.” Well, guess what? There is a not a single sentence, not a single paragraph in this whole agreement that depends on promises or trust, not one. The arrangement that we worked out with Tehran is based exclusively on verification and proof. That’s why the agreement is structured the way it is; that’s why sanctions relief is tied strictly to performance; and it is why we have formulated the most far-reaching monitoring and transparency regime ever negotiated.
Those same critics point to the fact that two decades ago, the United States reached a nuclear framework with North Korea that didn’t accomplish what it set out to do. And we’re told we should have learned a lesson from that. Well, the truth is we did learn a lesson.
The agreement with North Korea was four pages and only dealt with plutonium. Our agreement with Iran runs 159 detailed pages, applies to all of Tehran’s potential pathways to a bomb, and is specifically grounded in the transparency rules of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which didn’t even exist two decades ago when the North Korea deal was made because it was developed specifically with the North Korea experience in mind. Lesson learned.
The reality is that if we trusted Iran or thought that it was about to become more moderate, this agreement would be less necessary than it is. But we don’t. We would like nothing more than to see Iran act differently, but not for a minute are we counting on it. Iran’s support for terrorist groups and its contributions to sectarian violence are not recent policies. They reflect the perceptions of its leaders about Iran’s long-term national interests and there are no grounds for expecting those calculations to change in the near future. That is why we believe so strongly that every problem in the Middle East – every threat to Israel and to our friends in the region – would be more dangerous if Iran were permitted to have a nuclear weapon. That is the inescapable bottom line.
That’s also why we are working so hard and so proactively to protect our interests and those of our allies.
In part because of the challenge posed by Iran, we have engaged in an unprecedented level of military, intelligence, and security cooperation with our friend and ally Israel. We are determined to help our ally address new and complex security threats and to ensure its qualitative military edge.
We work with Israel every day to enforce sanctions and prevent terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah from obtaining the financing and the weapons that they seek – whether from Iran or from any other source. And we will stand with Israel to stop its adversaries from once again launching deadly and unprovoked attacks against the Israeli people.
Since 2009, we have provided $20 billion in foreign military financing to Israel, more than half of what we have given to nations worldwide.
Over and above that, we have invested some 3 billion in the production and deployment of Iron Dome batteries and other missile defense programs and systems. And we saw how in the last Gaza War lives were saved in Israel because of it. We have given privileged access to advanced military equipment such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to which the United States has sold this fifth-generation aircraft. The President recently authorized a massive arms resupply package, featuring penetrating munitions and air-to-air missiles. And 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.
And diplomatically, our support for Israel also remains rock solid as we continue to oppose every effort to delegitimize the Jewish state, or to pass biased resolutions against it in international bodies.
Now, I understand – I understand personally there is no way to overstate the concern in Israel about Iran and about the potential consequences that this agreement – or rejecting this agreement – might have on Israel’s security. The fragility of Israel’s position has been brought home to me on every one of the many trips I have made to that country.
In fact, as Secretary of State, I have already traveled to Israel more than a dozen times, spending the equivalent of a full month there – even ordering my plane to land at Ben Gurion Airport when commercial air traffic had been halted during the last Gaza War; doing so specifically as a sign of support.
Over the years, I have walked through Yad Vashem, a living memorial to the 6 million lost, and I have felt in my bones the unfathomable evil of the Holocaust and the undying reminder never to forget.
I have climbed inside a shelter at Kiryat Shmona where children were forced to leave their homes and classrooms to seek refuge from Katyusha rockets.
I visited Sderot and witnessed the shredded remains of homemade missiles from Gaza – missiles fired with no other purpose than to sow fear in the hearts of Israeli families.
I have piloted an Israeli jet out of Ovda Airbase and observed first-hand the tininess of Israel airspace from which it is possible to see all of the country’s neighbors at the same time.
And I have bowed my head at the Western Wall and offered my prayer for peace – peace for Israel, for the region, and for the world.
I take a back seat to no one in my commitment to the security of Israel, a commitment I demonstrated through my 28-plus years in the Senate. And as Secretary of State, I am fully conscious of the existential nature of the choice Israel must make. I understand the conviction that Israel, even more than any other country, simply cannot afford a mistake in defending its security. And while I respectfully disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the benefits of the Iran agreement, I do not question for an instant the basis of his concern or that of any Israeli.
But I am also convinced, as is President Obama, our senior defense and military leaders, and even many former Israeli military and intelligence officials, that this agreement puts us on the right path to prevent Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon. The people of Israel will be safer with this deal, and the same is true for the people throughout the region.
And to fully ensure that, we are also taking specific and far-reaching steps to coordinate with our friends from the Gulf states. President Obama hosted their leaders at Camp David earlier this year. I visited with them in Doha last month. And later this week, we will welcome King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Washington. Gulf leaders share our profound concerns about Iran’s policies in the Middle East, but they’re also alarmed by Iran’s nuclear program. We must and we will respond on both fronts. We will make certain that Iran lives up to its commitments under the nuclear agreement, and we will continue strengthening our security partnerships.
We’re determined that our Gulf friends will have the political and the military support that they need, and to that end, we are working with them to develop a ballistic missile defense for the Arabian Peninsula, provide special operations training, authorize urgently required arms transfers, strengthen cyber security, engage in large-scale military exercises, and enhance maritime interdiction of illegal Iranian arms shipments. We are also deepening our cooperation and support in the fight against the threat posed to them, to us, and to all civilization by the forces of international terror, including their surrogates and their proxies.
Through these steps and others, we will maintain international pressure on Iran. United States sanctions imposed because of Tehran’s support for terrorism and its human rights record – those will remain in place, as will our sanctions aimed at preventing the proliferation of ballistic missiles and transfer of conventional arms. The UN Security Council prohibitions on shipping weapons to Hizballah, the Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in Yemen – all of those will remain as well.
We will also continue to urge Tehran to provide information regarding an American who disappeared in Iran several years ago, and to release the U.S. citizens its government has unjustly imprisoned. We will do everything we can to see that our citizens are able to safely return to where they belong – at home and with their families.
Have no doubt. The United States will oppose Iran’s destabilizing policies with every national security tool available. And disregard the myth. The Iran agreement is based on proof, not trust. And 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.
This brings us to the second piece of fiction: that this deal would somehow legitimize Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. I keep hearing this. Well, yes, for years Iran has had a civilian nuclear program. Under the Nonproliferation Treaty, you can do that. It was never a realistic option to change that. But recognizing this reality is not the same as legitimizing the pursuit of a nuclear weapon. In fact, this agreement does the exact opposite. Under IAEA safeguards, Iran is prohibited from ever pursuing a nuclear weapon.
This is an important point, so I want to be sure that everyone understands: The international community is not telling Iran that it can’t have a nuclear weapon for 15 years. We are telling Iran that it can’t have a nuclear weapon, period. There is no magic moment 15, 20, or 25 years from now when Iran will suddenly get a pass from the mandates of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – doesn’t happen. In fact, Iran is required by this agreement to sign up to and abide by the IAEA Additional Protocol that I mentioned earlier that came out of the North Korea experience. And that requires inspections of all nuclear facilities.
What does this mean? It means that Iran’s nuclear program will remain subject to regular inspections forever. Iran will have to provide access to all of its nuclear facilities forever. Iran will have to respond promptly to requests for access to any suspicious site forever. And 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. 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.
Now, it’s true some of the special additional restrictions that we successfully negotiated, those begin to ease after a period – in some cases 10 or 15, in others 20 or 25. But it would defy logic to vote to kill the whole agreement – with all of the permanent NPT restrictions by which Iran has to live – for that reason. After all, if your house is on fire, if it’s going up in flames, would you refuse to extinguish it because of the chance that it might be another fire in 15 years? Obviously, not. You’d put out the fire and you’d take advantage of the extra time to prepare for the future.
My friends, it just doesn’t make sense to conclude that we should vote “no” now because of what might happen in 15 years – thereby guaranteeing that what might happen in 15 years will actually begin to happen now. Because if this agreement is rejected, every possible reason for worry in the future would have to be confronted now, immediately, in the months ahead. Once again and soon, Iran would begin advancing its nuclear program. We would lose the benefit of the agreement that contains all these restrictions, and it would give a green light to everything that we’re trying to prevent. Needless to say, that is not the outcome that we want, it is not an outcome that would be good for our country, nor for our allies or for the world
There is a third myth – a quick one, a more technical one – that Iran could, in fact, get away with building a covert nuclear facility because the deal allows a maximum of 24 days to obtain access to a suspicious site. Well, in truth, there is no way in 24 days, or 24 months, 24 years for that matter, to destroy all the evidence of illegal activity that has been taking place regarding fissile material. Because of the nature of fissile materials and their relevant precursors, you can’t eliminate the evidence by shoving it under a mattress, flushing it down a toilet, carting it off in the middle of the night. The materials may go, but the telltale traces remain year after year after year. And the 24 days is the outside period of time during which they must allow access.
Under the agreement, if there is a dispute over access to any location, the United States and our European allies have the votes to decide the issue. And once we have identified a site that raises questions, we will be watching it continuously until the inspectors are allowed in.
Let me underscore that. The United States and the international community will be monitoring Iran nonstop. And you can bet that if we see something, we will do something. The agreement gives us a wide range of enforcement tools, and we will use them. And the standard we will apply can be summed up in two words: zero tolerance. There is no way to guarantee that Iran will keep its word. That’s why this isn’t based on a promise or trust. But we can guarantee that if Iran decides to break the agreement, it will regret breaking any promise that it has made.
Now, there are many other myths circulating about the agreement, but the last one that I’m going to highlight is just economic. And it’s important. The myth that sanctions relief that Iran will receive is somehow both too generous and too dangerous.
Now, obviously, the discussions that concluded in Vienna, like any serious negotiation, involved a quid pro quo. Iran wanted sanctions relief; the world wanted to ensure a wholly peaceful nature of Iran’s program. So without the tradeoff, there could have been no deal and no agreement by Iran to the constraints that it has accepted – very important constraints.
But there are some who point to sanctions relief as grounds to oppose the agreement. And the logic is faulty for several reasons. First, the most important is that absent new violations by Iran the sanctions are going to erode regardless of what we do. It’s an illusion for members of Congress to think that they can vote this plan down and then turn around and still persuade countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, India – Iran’s major oil customers – they ought to continue supporting the sanctions that are costing them billions of dollars every year. That’s not going to happen. And don’t forget that the money that has been locked up as the result of sanctions is not sitting in some American bank under U.S. control. The money is frozen and being held in escrow by countries with which Iran has had commercial dealings. We don’t have that money. We can’t control it. It’s going to begin to be released anyway if we walk away from this agreement.
Remember, as well, that the bulk of the funds Iran will receive under the sanctions relief are already spoken for and they are dwarfed by the country’s unmet economic needs. Iran has a crippled infrastructure, energy infrastructure. It’s got to rebuild it to be able to pump oil. It has an agriculture sector that’s been starved for investment, massive pension obligations, significant foreign reserves that are already allocated to foreign-led projects, and a civilian population that is sitting there expecting that the lifting of sanctions is going to result in a tangible improvement in the quality of their lives. The sanctions relief is not going to make a significant difference in what Iran can do internationally – never been based on money. Make no mistake, the important thing about this agreement is not what it will enable Iran to do, but what it will stop Iran from doing – and that is the building of a nuclear weapon.
Before closing, I want to comment on the nature of the debate which we are currently engaged in. Some have accused advocates of the Iran agreement – including me – of conjuring up frightening scenarios to scare listeners into supporting it. Curiously, this allegation comes most often from the very folks who have been raising alarms about one thing or another for years.
The truth is that if this plan is voted down, we cannot predict with certainty what Iran will do. But we do know what Iran says it will do and that is begin again to expand its nuclear activities. And we know that the strict limitations that Iran has accepted will no longer apply because there will no longer be any agreement. Iran will then be free to begin operating thousands of other advanced and other centrifuges that would otherwise have been mothballed; they’ll be free to expand their stockpile of low-enriched uranium, rebuild their stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, free to move ahead with the production of weapons-grade plutonium, free to go forward with weaponization research.
And just who do you think is going to be held responsible for all of this? Not Iran – because Iran was preparing to implement the agreement and will have no reason whatsoever to return to the bargaining table. No, the world will hold accountable the people who broke with the consensus, turned their backs on our negotiating partners, and ignored the counsel of top scientists and military leaders. The world will blame the United States. And so when those same voices that accuse us of scaremongering now begin suddenly to warn, oh, wow, Iran’s nuclear activities are once again out of control and must at all costs be stopped – what do you think is going to happen?
The pressure will build, my friends. The pressure will build for military action. The pressure will build for the United States to use its unique military capabilities to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, because negotiating isn’t going to work because we’ve just tried it. President Obama has been crystal clear that we will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. But the big difference is, at that point, we won’t have the world behind us the way we do today. Because we rejected the fruits of diplomacy, we will be held accountable for a crisis that could have been avoided but instead we will be deemed to have created.
So my question is: Why in the world would we want to put ourselves in that position of having to make that choice – especially when there is a better choice, a much more broadly supported choice? A choice that sets us on the road to greater stability and security but that doesn’t require us to give up any option at all today.
So here is the decision that we are called on to make. To vote down this agreement is to solve nothing because none of the problems that we are concerned about will be made easier if it is rejected; none of them – not Iran’s nuclear program, not Iran’s support for terrorism or sectarian activities, not its human rights record, and not its opposition to Israel. To oppose this agreement is – whether intended or not – to recommend in its policy a policy of national paralysis. It is to take us back directly to the very dangerous spot that we were in two years ago, only to go back there devoid of any realistic plan or option.
By contrast, the adoption and implementation of this agreement will cement the support of the international community behind a plan to ensure that Iran does not ever acquire or possess a nuclear weapon. In doing so it will remove a looming threat from a uniquely fragile region, discourage others from trying to develop nuclear arms, make our citizens and our allies safer, and reassure the world that the hardest problems can be addressed successfully by diplomatic means.
At its best, American foreign policy, the policy of the United States combines immense power with clarity of purpose, relying on reason and persuasion whenever possible. As has been demonstrated many times, our country does not shy from the necessary use of force, but our hopes and our values push us to explore every avenue for peace. The Iran deal reflects our determination to protect the interests of our citizens and to shield the world from greater harm. But it reflects as well our knowledge that the firmest foundation for security is built on mobilizing countries across the globe to defend – actively and bravely – the rule of law.
In September 228 years ago, Benjamin Franklin rose in the great city of Philadelphia, right down there, to close debate on the proposed draft of the Constitution of the United States. He told a rapt audience that when people of opposing views and passions are brought together, compromise is essential and perfection from the perspective of any single participant is not possible. He said that after weighing carefully the pros and cons of that most historic debate, he said the following: “I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”
My fellow citizens, I have had the privilege of serving our country in times of peace and in times of war, and peace is better. I’ve seen our leaders act with incredible foresight and also seen them commit tragic errors by plunging into conflicts without sufficient thought about the consequences.
Like old Ben Franklin, I can claim and do claim no monopoly on wisdom, and certainly nothing can compare to the gravity of the debate of our founding fathers over our nation’s founding documents. But I believe, based on a lifetime’s experience, that the Iran nuclear agreement is a hugely positive step at a time when problem solving and danger reduction have rarely been so urgent, especially in the Middle East.
The Iran agreement is not a panacea for the sectarian and extremist violence that has been ripping that region apart. But history may judge it a turning point, a moment when the builders of stability seized the initiative from the destroyers of hope, and when we were able to show, as have generations before us, that when we demand the best from ourselves and insist that others adhere to a similar high standard – when we do that, we have immense power to shape a safer and a more humane world. That’s what this is about and that’s what I hope we will do in the days ahead.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
March 2, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry
At a Press Availability
Palais des Nations
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody, and thank you. And I apologize for keeping you waiting for a few minutes.
A little while ago, as I think you know, I had the opportunity to address the UN Human Rights Council here in Geneva. And since the United States made the decision to re-engage on the council, we have worked hard to try to drive a number of significant steps to be able to bring new levels of international attention to some of the world’s most egregious human rights violations, and also to focus on some of the worst abusers – particularly, obviously, we have focused on North Korea and Syria.
We’ve also worked hard to try to create new mechanisms that explore and address serious human rights infringements on the freedom of assembly, expression, and religion, and the rights of LGBT people. And as many of you know, just the other day, I had the privilege of making the appointment for Randy Berry as the first special envoy for global LGBT rights for the State Department.
Because of the important progress that we have seen over the course of the past five years, the United States very much continues to believe in the potential of the Human Rights Council, and we’re dedicated to try to work for its success. At the same time, however, as I mentioned earlier, we recognize that there are places where it needs to improve, and most notably, as I cited earlier, has been the excessive bias, in our judgment, on one country, on Israel. So we wanted to make it clear today that we think that that is an impediment that stands in the way of the progress that should be achieved here when we look at the wide array of the world’s ills and the many challenges that we need to speak out on with respect to human rights.
I made it clear that the United States will oppose any effort by any group or any participant to abuse the UN system in order to delegitimize or isolate Israel. And we think it’s important that for the right – for the council to be able to achieve the breadth of goals that it is faced with – the breadth of the – to address the breadth of the challenges that it currently faces, it really needs to break out of an older mold and begin to put the time and energy and major focus on some of those most egregious situations. And that is really what has happened within the Council over the course of the last five years, particularly if you look at the commission of inquiry work that has been done with respect to the DPRK and other work it has done.
I also met this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And we spent a fair amount of time discussing Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, and Iran. I reiterated the urgency of Russia’s leaders and the separatists that they back implementing the full measure of the commitments under the Minsk agreements and to implement them everywhere, including in Debaltseve, outside Mariupol, and in other key strategic areas. And I underscored this morning that if that does not happen, if there continue to be these broad swaths of noncompliance, or there continues to be a cherry-picking as to where heavy equipment will be moved back from without knowing where it’s been moved to, or if the OSCE is not able to adequately be able to gain the access necessary, then there would be inevitably further consequences that will place added strain on Russia’s already troubled economy. Now, obviously, Ukraine is just one of the issues, as I mentioned, that we focused on. And it’s only one of the issues, frankly, on which the United States and Russia together are focused.
This morning, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I also spoke at some length about Syria. The situation in Syria actually grows worse, if that’s possible for people to imagine. Almost three-quarters of the entire country is now displaced people – half of them refugees in mostly Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, but many of them displaced within the country and unable to move because of ISIL, Daesh, al-Nusrah, the regime, or some other extremist group.
So we spoke at length about steps that might be able to be taken in order to try to see if there is a potential of common ground. And we agreed that there is no military solution; we agreed there is a need for a political solution; and we agreed on the need of those countries who have been supporting people in this endeavor, in this conflict, to be able to search yet again to see whether or not there is a path either to Geneva 1 or to some hybrid or some means of ending the violence. And one of the things that drives that interest, that common interest, is the reality of Daesh, the reality of what is happening to Syria as a result of the presence of Daesh there and its use of Syria as a base for spreading its evil to other places.
We also talked about the Iran nuclear negotiations, where we are, together with the other P5+1 members – where we are all focused simultaneously on the need to elicit from Iran answers to questions about their nuclear program – not just answers for today, but answers that are capable of lasting well into the future in order to be able to provide people with a confidence that the program is, indeed, a peaceful nuclear program.
We continue to believe, all the members of the P5+1, that the best way to deal with the questions surrounding this nuclear program is to find a comprehensive deal, but not a deal that comes at any cost, not a deal just for the purpose of a deal; a deal that meets the test of providing the answers and the guarantees that are needed in order to know that the four pathways to a nuclear bomb have been closed off. And that is the task. And we hope it is possible to get there, but there is no guarantee.
Sanctions alone are not going to provide that solution. What needs to happen is that Iran needs to provide a verifiable set of commitments that its program is in fact peaceful. And that average people and experts alike looking at that verifiable set of commitments have confidence that they are sustainable, that they are real, and that they will provide the answers and guarantees well into the future.
Any deal must close every potential pathway that Iran has towards fissile material, whether it’s uranium, plutonium, or a covert path. The fact is only a good, comprehensive deal in the end can actually check off all of those boxes.
Now, I want to be clear about two things. Right now, no deal exists, no partial deal exists. And unless Iran is able to make the difficult decisions that will be required, there won’t be a deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That is the standard by which this negotiation is taking place, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply misinformed.
Now, we are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days. I want to say clearly that doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get a good deal. Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly, so is the security of all the other countries in the region, so is our security in the United States. And we are very clear that as we negotiate with Iran, if we are able to reach the kind of deal that we’re hoping for, then it would have to be considered in its entirety and measured against alternatives.
Second – I cannot emphasize this enough. I have said this from the first moment that I become engaged in this negotiating process, President Obama has said this repeatedly: We will not accept a bad deal. We have said no deal is better than a bad deal, because a bad deal could actually make things less secure and more dangerous. Any deal that we would possibly agree to would make the international community, and especially Israel, safer than it is today. That’s our standard. So our team is working very hard to close remaining gaps, to reach a deal that ensures Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively and verifiably peaceful, and we have made some progress, but we still have a long way to go and the clock is ticking.
That’s why I will leave here momentarily to head to Montreux to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif and continue the negotiations. And in the days and weeks ahead, we’re going to answer a very simple question. We’re going to find out whether or not Iran is willing to make the hard choices that are necessary to get where we need to be. I’m happy to take a few of your questions.
MS. PSAKI: Michael Gordon, New York Times. Right over here.
QUESTION: Sir, Minister Lavrov asserted in his address that the ceasefire in Ukraine was being consolidated, but you made clear that Russia cannot expect to consolidate its gains in Debaltseve and avoid economic sanctions. Did Minister Lavrov offer you any assurances that Russia would arrange for the separatists to pull back from Debaltseve? And how long is the Obama Administration prepared to wait before imposing those additional sanctions you’ve been talking about? And did he have any response to your assertion to Congress last week that Russians have lied to your face?
And lastly, you’re meeting shortly with Foreign Minister Zarif on the Iran issues. You told Congress last week that you hoped to know soon, “whether or not Iran is willing to put together an acceptable and verifiable plan.” What do you need to hear from Mr. Zarif today, and what do you need to get done over the next three days to stay on track for the framework accord? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Michael, first of all regarding Russia, it’s clear from the conversations that I’ve had with President Poroshenko as well as with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and the conversations that we’ve had in Washington in the aftermath of the Minsk negotiations, that there was not a clarity with respect to Debaltseve, which we obviously saw play out in the drama of the soldiers who were left there and who were fighting and who eventually fought their way out, with many being killed. What is critical here is that the maps that were agreed to show several different areas of drawback on both sides from the line of contact and according to the size of the weapon, the gauge of a particular weapon, they have to pull back different amounts.
Right now, the OSCE has complained to us, at least, that they have not been granted full access to be able to make those judgments, and particularly the end zones as to where items that have been withdrawn have actually been placed, whether they’ve been placed there or not.
So there’s been a kind of cherry picking, a piecemeal selectivity to the application of the Minsk agreements. And as we all know, shooting, shelling has still been going on and people have still been killed over the course of these last days. So there is not yet a full ceasefire, and it’s extremely difficult for the full measure of the Minsk agreement, which includes a political component, to begin to be implemented until you actually have the full measure of security that comes with OSCE monitoring and an actual ceasefire. So our hope is that in the next hours, certainly not more than days, this will be fully implemented. I might add, a convoy that came through from Russia passed across the border into the eastern part of Ukraine without being properly inspected also.
So these are the issues I raised with the foreign minister. He assured me that they are intent on seeing to it that the accord – that the agreements are, in fact, implemented. He said he would get back to me with respect to a number of the issues that I raised. And our hope is, indeed, that this will prove to be a road to further de-escalation rather than a road to disappointment, potential deception, and further violence. But that’s going to have to play out, obviously, over the course of the next few days. So I’m very hopeful that it will, in fact, be the start of a change which would be an improvement for everybody.
With respect to Iran, I really just articulated – I just said it – France doesn’t have to answer questions here, Germany doesn’t have to answer questions here, Great Britain doesn’t have to, China doesn’t, Russia doesn’t, the United States doesn’t. We’re not the ones who have been pursuing a program outside of international norms. Iran has posed the questions over the course of time sufficient to invite United Nations sanctions, United Nations Security Council resolution, and IAEA outstanding questions. Iran needs to answer those questions and Iran needs to give confidence to the world that its many articulations of a peaceful program can have the confidence of verification. Every arms agreement in history has been subject to verification to clear levels of access and knowledge and insight, transparency, that allow people to be able to measure that program.
And one of the reasons I make it clear to people that we’re not going to accept a bad deal is because we know that whatever agreement is reached here doesn’t suddenly get stuffed in a drawer and put away and disappear to be implemented; it is going to be scrutinized by people all over the world – leaders of countries, scientists, nuclear experts, every NGO involved in nonproliferation – not to mention, obviously, all the countries in the region most affected by the choices we are making, and all of the members of the United States Congress House and Senate.
This is going to be highly judged and we’re aware of that, and frankly, we would be either – well, I’m not going to – we just – we’re not about to jump into something that we don’t believe can get the job done. Now, there may be disagreements; if somebody believes that any kind of program is wrong, then we have a fundamental disagreement. And clearly, sanctions are not going to eliminate just any kind of program. You can’t bomb knowledge into oblivion unless you kill everybody. You can’t bomb it away. People have a knowledge here. The question is: Can you provide an adequate level of the management of intrusive inspections; structured, tough requirements; limitations; all the insights necessary to be able to know to a certainty that the program is, in fact, peaceful?
That’s what the IAEA was set up to be there for, that’s what the NPT is, that’s what the additional protocol – the NPT is. There are all kinds of tested components of this. This isn’t happening at first blush. This has been in effect for a long time with a lot of countries, and there are ways to be able to make certain that a program is peaceful and the test – what we’re looking for in the next days, Michael, is adequate satisfaction that this program is, in fact, going to be complying with its own promises, that it is a purely peaceful nuclear program.
MS. PSAKI: Frédéric Koller from Le Temps.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. You just said on Iran that sanctions cannot eliminate problems. And I would like to know – with the Ukrainian situation, it seems the conflict in Ukraine becomes more and more conflict between Russia and Western countries – Russia and United States. And I would like to know how to deal with these problems, knowing that United States threatens now Russia with more sanctions if the Minsk agreement is not implemented. And a few years ago, you were here in the – at the hotel – Intercontinental Hotel, and you started – well, it was Hillary Clinton at the time who started with this reset policy with Russia. What went wrong with Russia? And how to deal now with Russia? Comprehensive agreement somehow is needed between Russia and United States, I guess to deal with —
SECRETARY KERRY: How what? I’m sorry. I missed the last part. How to?
QUESTION: How to deal with Russia. We understand that Russia needs something more to build a new confidence with the United States and Western countries. When we hear Mr. Lavrov this morning at the Human Rights Council, he has very strong statement against United States and its values – it’s kind of clash of values. How to deal with today’s Russia?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it may be a clash of realities. I don’t see it as a clash of values. It seems to me that on sanctions, there’s a real distinction between sanctions that are calculated to have an impact on a nuclear program which is one set of choices for a particular country, and sanctions which are broadly adopted by many nations because of a violation of a norm of international law and which particularly have an impact on the – particularly have an impact on Russia’s choices at this particular moment, given a lot of other variables like oil prices, other exigencies that Russia faces.
So sanctions have obviously had a significant impact on Russia, and you try to use them in order to make a point about the choices that are available. And in the case of Russia, the ruble has gone down 50 percent, there’s been about $151 billion of capital flight, the bonds of Russia are now judged to be junk bonds, and the economic predictions are that Russia will be going into recession this year. So it’s obviously had a profound impact, but not sufficient that President Putin has decided that he isn’t going to pursue his particular strategy. It may change at some point in the future, but those are the things you have to weigh in deciding what alternative policies you may pursue or what alternative choices may be available.
I suspect that President Putin, as the months go on, is going to have to really weigh those things. And we’ve tried to make it clear to him and particularly to the Russian people we’re not doing this to hurt the people of Russia, we’re not doing this to make life difficult for all Russians. We’re doing this to try to affect the choices that their leaders are making in order to uphold the norms of international law. We’re here in a UN facility, and the United Nations is critical to the upholding of international standards of behavior. And the world has worked hard since World War II to try to adhere to a set of global norms of behavior, particularly with respect to respect for territorial integrity.
One of the cries that came out of the World War II experience was we can’t allow nations to make land grabs running over the territorial integrity of external borders, as we saw in the period leading up to and then during World War II. So we’ve really ingrained in international behavior this notion of the value of international borders and of upholding the sovereignty and integrity of nation states. That sovereignty and integrity has been violated over the course of the last months, and that’s the purpose of the sanctions that we put in place.
But our hope is, obviously, that we can get back to a better place of cooperation with Russia. I personally – I think President Putin misinterprets a great deal of what the United States has been doing and has tried to do. We are not involved in multiple color revolutions, as he asserts, nor are we involved in a particularly personal way here. We are trying to uphold the international law with respect to the sovereignty and integrity of another nation. And others have joined us. The fact is that Europe has the same sense of commitment to this. And our hope is that we can persuade President Putin and Russia that we’re prepared to cooperate with them as soon as they are genuinely prepared to uphold the agreements that they signed and to live by these international standards.
We have happily been able to find cooperation continue on other issues. Russia has been helpful in the context of the P5+1 talks. Russia was extremely engaged and essential in our success in getting chemical weapons out of Syria in the arrangement that we reached right here in Geneva. And we were able to work together to do that. Russia is sitting with us even now, as I discussed with you, and talking about ways we might – might, I underscore – be able to try to make some progress with respect to Syria and with respect to Daesh.
So even in the midst of this major disagreement over Ukraine, we are still finding ways to cooperate together, and I hope that if we can work through Ukraine, we will get back to a place where we are finding more to be able to cooperate on and less to disagree on. And I’m not going to get into resets or non-resets, but I think that sometimes events get in the way of the best-laid policies. But both countries have indicated, I think, a maturity with respect to the willingness to try to find ways to cooperate notwithstanding this fundamental disagreement over Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Unfortunately, we need to get on the road for our next meeting, so this will conclude this press availability. Thank you, everyone.
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