Former Secretary of State John Kerry said both Israel and Egypt pushed the United States to “bomb Iran” before the 2015 nuclear deal was struck.
Kerry was defending the deal during the Ignatius Forum in Washington. He said kings and foreign presidents told the U.S. that bombing was the only language Iran would understand. But Kerry maintained that was “a trap” in many ways because the same countries would have publicly criticized the U.S. if it bombed.
Kerry said that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was “genuinely agitating toward action.”
Although he doesn’t know whether Iran will resume pursuing a nuclear weapon in 10 to 15 years after restrictions in the deal sunset, Kerry claimed it was the best deal the U.S. could get.
“Without exaggeration, the likelihood is very high that we would have been in a conflict” without the deal, he said.
In Israel, reaction from former ambassador to the U.S., MK Michael Oren, was scornfully dismissive:
Kerry “has a particularly acrimonious and sometimes obsessive place for us [Israel], and for the prime minister. He also thinks that the Iran nuclear deal was a historic diplomatic achievement. I personally feel that it was the collapse of American credibility in the Middle East and a significant danger to our future and the future of our children. That is a huge difference,” said Oren, who served in Washington from 2009 to 2011.
Oren disputed Kerry’s assertion that Washington was being pressured to bomb Iran, but rather that Israel and other allies urged a more credible military threat to back up the western negotiating stance vis-à-vis Tehran.
“Israel, along with other like-minded governments in the Middle East, understood that a credible American military option was the only way to resolve the Iranian nuclear threat, whether militarily or diplomatically,” he said, according to local media reports.
Oren said that while the Obama administration, including Kerry, framed it as an either/or situation – either a diplomatic solution or war, “nobody in the Middle East believed it, above all the Iranians.”
The alternative to the Iranian deal was not war, Oren argued, “but a better deal, and one of the ways you could get a better deal was to have a credible military threat. The irony was that the more credible the military threat, the less likely you would have to use it.”
Oren cited a controversial speech Kerry made in December 2016 in which he defended the American failure to veto an anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. as evidence of the former secretary’s distorted presentation of the facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Kerry gave an hour-and-a-half speech about the settlements, talking about how American ideals drove him to go against the settlements.” But he omitted any mention of the peace offers Israel made the Palestinians, the disengagement from Gaza, the thousands of rockets fired at the country, the 1,000 Israelis killed by suicide bombers, and the fact that the Palestinians walked away from the negotiating table. All of which “is indicative of a certain mindset toward Israel,” said Oren.