US Secretary of State John Kerry has claimed the nuclear deal signed with Iran is "as pro-Israel as it gets," and claims he "doesn't know" if the Iranian leadership is serious about destroying the State of Israel.
The comments were made in an in-depth interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, which was published Wednesday following intense lobbying for and against the deal as it heads to a fateful vote in Congress.
Kerry warned Goldberg that if Congress voted down the agreement it would "be the ultimate screwing" of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
"The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them. This will be the ultimate screwing," said Kerry. "He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point."
Kerry also claimed such an eventuality would lead to "moderate" Iranian leaders like President Hassan Rouhani being in "big trouble" for failing to secure a deal. The Obama administration regularly refers to Rouhani as a "moderate," despite the fact that under his watch support for regional terrorism has increased, and the number of executions of political prisoners has skyrocket to record levels.
The Secretary of State also rejected the notion that he had threatened Israel with international isolation if the deal was rejected as a result of its lobbying, claiming instead he was simply "warning" Israel.
"If you’ve ever played golf, you know that you yell ‘fore’ off the tee. You’re not threatening somebody, you’re warning them: ‘Look, don’t get hit by the ball, it’s coming.’"
He also repeated the White House's position that the agreement with Iran is good for Israel as well – despite near-universal opposition to it in the Jewish state.
"I’ve gone through this backwards and forwards a hundred times and I’m telling you, this deal is as pro-Israel, as pro-Israel’s security, as it gets," Kerry said, echoing statements by US Energy Secretary and fellow Iran-negotiator Earnest Moniz.
But perhaps the most perplexing part of the interview comes when Kerry is asked why he believes Israelis overwhelmingly oppose the deal.
"Because there’s a huge level of fear and mistrust and, frankly, there’s an inherent sense that, given Iran’s gains and avoidance in the past, that somehow they’re going to avoid something again," he admitted.
Yet America's top diplomat went on to dismiss such fears – based, upon his own admission, on past precedent – as purely emotional and irrational.
"It’s a visceral feeling, it’s very emotional and visceral and I’m very in tune with that and very sensitive to that."
He also claimed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's strenuous opposition was habitual and equally irrational.
"I think Bibi, for years, has had an article of faith in his political makeup and his perception of Iran and the challenges that Israel faces," Kerry posited. "He has come to a conclusion about Iran that they will find any means, and do anything necessary, to follow through on their threats."
When asked whether Iran's theocratic Islamist leadership – which regularly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, and works toward that end by arming and supporting a variety of terrorist groups – Kerry's answer is bound to raise eyebrows in Israel.
"I think they have a fundamental ideological confrontation with Israel at this particular moment. Whether or not that translates into active steps to, quote, “Wipe it,” you know… I don’t know the answer to that," Kerry said, going on the claim that the fact it hadn't destroyed Israel already indicated it wasn't really serious about doing so in the future either.
"I haven’t seen anything that says to me—they’ve got 80,000 rockets in Hezbollah pointed at Israel, and any number of choices could have been made. They didn’t make the bomb when they had enough material for 10 to 12. They’ve signed on to an agreement where they say they’ll never try and make one and we have a mechanism in place where we can prove that. So I don’t want to get locked into that debate. I think it’s a waste of time here."
Kerry's surprising analysis comes just days after Iran's Supreme Leader published a book outlining his strategy to eliminate Israel.
The interview with Goldberg – viewed as a key supporter of the Obama administration – comes on the same day the President himself is set to lobby American Jewish leaders to support the Iran deal.
It follows Netanyahu's own intense efforts to persuade US Jews to oppose the agreement. The Israeli PM held an unprecedented live webcast with US Jewish leaders Tuesday, during which he warned them supporters of the deal were spreading "misinformation" and attempting to stifle debate.