WASHINGTON (JTA) — A unilateral Israeli attack on Iran would be an “enormous mistake,” Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Kerry added Friday on NBC’s “Today” show that such an attack would have “grave consequences for Israel and for the region.”
He said a unilateral strike would set back Iran’s nuclear program by at most three years, and would spur Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
“If they bombed them, sure, I presume Iran would then have a reason to say, ‘Well, this is why we need a bomb’,” Kerry said. “And what Iran will decide to do is dig deeper because Israel does not have the ability, nor do we, to stop – unless we went to all-out war and literally annihilated Iran, which I don’t hear people talking about.”
Congress has two months to consider whether to reject the deal reached July 14 between Iran and six major powers to roll back sanctions in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Separately, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday in New York, Kerry said Israel’s isolation would increase internationally should Congress reject the deal.
“I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn it, our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed, and we would lose Europe and China and Russia with respect to whatever military action we might have to take, because we will have turned our backs on a very legitimate program that allows us to put their program to the test over these next years,” Kerry said.
Kerry revealed that in the talks he made clear that a military strike was an option and that he asked Iran to stop threatening Israel.
“I think the president has made it pretty clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon,” Kerry said at the Council on Foreign Relations forum. “He’s prepared to use military force if necessary in order to prevent that. And I will tell you in my conversations with the Iranians, we talked about it pretty directly, and they resent enormously any kind of threat. But I made it crystal clear that we had the capacity, and the president was prepared to use it.”
Asked if he pressed the Iranians to stop calling for the destruction of Israel, Kerry said he did.
“I also told them that their chants of ‘Death to America’ and so forth are neither helpful and they’re pretty stupid,” he said.
Kerry on Friday also addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York.
The over 100 Jewish leaders in attendance “raised questions about provisions to curtail Iran’s nuclear weapons program as well as concerns regarding Iran’s violations of human rights, its ballistic missile development program, ongoing threats against Israel, and expanding support for terrorist organizations,” a Presidents Conference release said.