In the two weeks since [John] Kerry concluded the nuclear arms deal with Iran, he has given at least 18 interviews about the deal, plus a long press conference, four hours of Senate testimony, and an hourlong discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has strong talking points, and he makes a persuasive case for the deal. But Kerry has never been capable of staying on message. The more he talks, the more he reveals, and much of what he reveals isn’t helpful. Here’s what we’ve learned about what happened backstage — and what Kerry personally believes — from his 20-something public appearances.
1. Iran had already decided not to pursue a bomb. Whether or not this is true, Kerry seems to believe it. On the one hand, he told the Voice of America that the deal had to be cut and the necessary compromises had to be made now…But in other remarks, Kerry has undercut that claim.
2. Iran is right that we shoehorned the conventional arms embargo into the nuclear deal. Kerry told the CFR audience that our then–United Nations ambassador, Susan Rice, “slipped the arms embargo thing in at the very last minute” when the United Nations was adopting a resolution against Iran’s nuclear program. In the Senate hearing, Kerry explained that as a result, Iran “felt it was being rammed at them in the context of a nuclear agreement, and it had no business being part of a nuclear agreement.” Kerry says the United States and its allies scored a big win by continuing the embargo over Iran’s objections. But he also seems to admit it was a dirty win.
3. Iran has more will and stamina than we do. In many interviews, Kerry portrays the P5+1 as a weak-willed coalition that was about to splinter if the deal hadn’t been signed.