Florida Senator Marco Rubio put Secretary of State John Kerry on notice Thursday that the next president is “under no legal or moral obligation to live up to” the Iran nuclear agreement.
Rubio, a Republican who is running to be that president, clashed with the country's top diplomat at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing over the parameters of the recently announced pact with Iran and major world powers to block Iran's paths to building a nuclear bomb for 10 to 15 years in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.
“This deal is your deal with Iran,” Rubio said. “The Iranian regime and the world should know that the majority of members of this Congress do not support this deal, and that the deal could go away on the day President Obama leaves office.”
Kerry wasn't buying it. “I am confident that the next president of the United States” won't “arbitrarily end” the Iran nuclear accord, he said, arguing that doing so would mean the U.S. sacrifices inspections inside Iran and enhances the country's incentive to build a nuclear bomb.
“I don't think any president would do that,” Kerry said.
Opening his questioning with a lengthy attack on the agreement, Rubio insisted the deal won't help the United States or Israel, and told Kerry the “only thing people this deal does anything for directly are the Iranian officials who want to continue to jail and execute the people who hate Israel and seek to wipe the Jewish state and its people from the face of the planet, who want to spread mayhem throughout the Middle East and continue to help Assad slaughter the Syrian people and perhaps kill some Americans and Israelis while they're at it.”
Kerry wasn't impressed.
“I listened to a long list of your objections about it. But there's no alternative that you or anybody else has proposed,” he told his former Senate colleague.
Rubio protested: “I sure have, Secretary Kerry.”
The secretary of state, for whom the deal is a major achievement, appeared in the Senate with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to spearhead the Obama administration's hard sell to Congress on the nuclear deal. Republicans are broadly against it, and Obama is working to prevent a bill to nix it from passing, or at least to pull together enough votes to sustain a veto that he has threatened. In a positive sign for Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, supports it. “I believe that this agreement is a major accomplishment,” she wrote in a July 20 letter to colleagues. “I am pleased that the response thus far from House Democrats has been so positive.”
Kerry disputed Rubio's line of questioning about whether the agreement would “require” the U.S. to defend Iran if Israel were to conduct an airstrike or otherwise go after the Muslim nation. He said he sees “no possible way” that the deal would put the U.S. in conflict with Israel and argued that the alternative to the agreement was “confrontation” with Iran.
“If you think the Ayatollah is going to come back negotiate again with an American, that’s fantasy,” Kerry said. “You're never going to see that, because we will have proven we're not trustworthy.”
—Kathleen Miller contributed to this report.