WASHINGTON – Even while top Iranian officials are calling for the development of nuclear weapons within the next four months, Sen. John Kerry insists as president he would provide Tehran with the nuclear fuel it wants for a pledge to use it for peaceful purposes only.
During the debate with President Bush Thursday, Kerry remarked that the U.S. should have given Iran the nuclear fuel it wanted.
“I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes,” Kerry said in a critique of the Bush administration’s handling of Tehran’s nuclear program, which the Iranians claim is only for civilian purposes.
The comments came in response to a question about whether diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the “nuclear problems” with North Korea and Iran.
“If they weren’t willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together,” Kerry said of Tehran. “The president did nothing.”
The stunning remarks by Kerry were reported only by WorldNetDaily and some analysts suggested the statements were misunderstood, taken out of context or simply a verbal gaffe by the candidate.
Under the heading: “Prevent Iran From Developing Nuclear Weapons,” the Kerry campaign makes the same point emphatically – that the U.S. should still give or sell the nuclear fuel Iran wants in exchange for a promise not to build nuclear weapons.
“A nuclear armed Iran is an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States and our allies in the region,” the campaign policy statement reads. “While we have been preoccupied in Iraq, Iran has reportedly been moving ahead with its nuclear program. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and leave the negotiations to the Europeans. It is critical that we work with our allies to resolve these issues and lead a global effort to prevent Iran from obtaining the technology necessary to build nuclear weapons. Iran claims that its nuclear program is only to meet its domestic energy needs. John Kerry’s proposal would call their bluff by organizing a group of states to offer Iran the nuclear fuel they need for peaceful purposes and take back the spent fuel so they cannot divert it to build a weapon. If Iran does not accept this offer, their true motivations will be clear. Under the current circumstances, John Kerry believes we should support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) efforts to discern the full extent of Iran’s nuclear program, while pushing Iran to agree to a verifiable and permanent suspension of its enrichment and reprocessing programs. If this process fails, we must lead the effort to ensure that the IAEA takes this issue to the Security Council for action.”
However, according to the latest intelligence reports, Iran has decided at the highest levels of government, to build its nuclear weapons program within the next four months. Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged his country’s weapons developers to step up work on making a nuclear bomb, a U.S. official said, according to Geostrategy-Direct, the global intelligence news service.
Citing an authoritative source in the Iranian exile community, the official said Khamenei met recently with senior government and military leaders regarding the nuclear weapons program.
Khamenei told the gathering, “We must have two bombs ready to go in January or you are not Muslims,” the official said.
Tehran has said the recent International Atomic Energy Agency resolution calling on Iran to halt uranium enrichment could lead to the country’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Officials of the Kerry campaign were unavailable this weekend.
In addition to the nuclear weapons threat, Iran test-fired a Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile, capable of reaching Israel, Sept. 18 and also in August. The missile is reportedly capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
During the debate, Bush said he wants to continue to work with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain to “convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.”
Responding to Kerry, Bush noted the U.S. already has sanctioned Iran.
“We can’t sanction them any more,” he said. “There are sanctions in place on Iran.”
Israel has said it wants to await the outcome of international pressure on Iran before it considers a pre-emptive military strike on reactors as it did in 1981 in Iraq.
At another point in the debate, Kerry also said he wants to end research on bunker-busting tactical nuclear weapons, which presumably could take out an Iranian reactor if his sanctions are ineffective.
Kerry said it “doesn’t make sense” for Bush to be pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons when the U.S. is trying to tell countries such as North Korea to disarm.
“You talk about mixed messages,” he said. “We’re telling other people, ‘You can’t have nuclear weapons, but we’re pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using.’”
“Not this president,” Kerry said. “I’m going to shut that program down, and we’re going to make it clear to the world we’re serious about containing nuclear proliferation.”