(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry says he does not know whether the Iranian regime truly wants to destroy America, but views its policy as one “of opposition to us and of great enmity.”
When Kerry appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday to defend the Iran nuclear agreement, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) asked him about Tehran’s policy in the light of the “death to America” chants common at events presided over by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hasan Rouhani.
“It is the policy of the ayatollah – if you can answer for him – that Iran wants to destroy the United States?” Poe asked Kerry. “Is that still their policy, as far as you know?”
“I don’t believe they’ve said that. I think they’ve said ‘Death to America’ in their chants, but I have not seen this specific.”
“Well, I kind of take that to mean that they want us dead,” Poe said. “That would seem like that would be their policy. He said that. That – you don’t think that’s their policy?”
“I’m not mincing words,” he continued. “Do you think it’s their policy to destroy us?”
“I think they have a policy of opposition to us and of great enmity, but I have no specific knowledge of a plan by Iran to actually destroy us,” Kerry replied.
“I do know that the rhetoric is uh, is beyond objectionable,” he said. “I know that we, you know, are deeply concerned with Iran’s behavior in the region, deeply concerned with their past activities. Which is why President Obama felt –”
As Poe interrupted to ask a further question, Kerry interjected, “If they did want to destroy us, they’ve got a much better shot of doing it if they had a nuclear weapon.”
The administration contends that the negotiated agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) cuts off the various pathways Iran has to developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew faced a grilling by members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and, last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Skeptical lawmakers, Democrats among them, raised numerous concerns about elements of the deal – including the fact it provides what the State Department contends is the world’s foremost terror-sponsoring regime with more than $100 billion in frozen assets early on – and much more in the longer term as sanctions are removed.
Congress has until mid-September to review and potentially vote on the JCPOA.
President Obama has pledged to veto any resolution that rejects the agreement; its opponents would have to garner a two-thirds majority to override such a move.