Kerry Says He Didn’t Bumble Into a Syria Solution, Answered ‘Purposefully’

By

Between narrowly averting a strike on Syria and meeting with the Iranian foreign minister for the highest-level face-to-face talks between the two nations since 1979, it's been an intense few weeks for John Kerry. On 60 Minutes, the secretary of State recapped the dizzying developments with Scott Pelley, insisting that despite the lack of support from Congress and the American people, attacking Syria is still very much on the table. Or, as Kerry put it, the U.S. "reserves its prerogatives with respect to its national security interests," if Assad "plays games" or the "Security Council gets stuck again and refuses to enforce" its plan to destroy his chemical arsenal. As for the abrupt changes in strategy that left Kerry drumming up support for a strike shortly before Obama put the brakes on the plan, Kerry said, "Believe me, there was not an ounce of tension in this," adding that consulting Congress was a "courageous decision" by the president.

Kerry went on to thank the Russians for their help in pressuring Assad into a deal, but scoffed at the idea that he bumbled his way into a solution by alluding to a proposal that had secretly been in the works for some time. "I didn't walk into the room intending to say it because I didn't know what question I was going to be asked," said Kerry, "But I certainly answered it purposefully and intentionally. And Margaret Brennan [of CBS News] asked a terrific question. It was a good question. It deserved an honest answer."

Moving on to Iran, Kerry said President Hassan Rouhani's desire to reach a deal on Tehran's nuclear program in three to six months is entirely possible, and could happen "sooner than that depending on how forthcoming and clear Iran is prepared to be." When asked for an example of "one concrete step" Iran could make, Kerry offered up a few:

They could immediately open up inspection of the Fordow facility, a secret facility and underground in the mountains. They could immediately sign the protocols, the additional protocols of the international community regarding inspections. They could offer to cease voluntarily to take enrichment above a certain level, because there's no need to have it at a higher level for a peaceful program.

That's probably not going to happen, but it seems Kerry has learned that rattling off his diplomatic wish list is worth a try.