- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday said a potential agreement with Iran is the “best first step” toward quashing the country’s nuclear capabilities and that there is no daylight between the United States and Israel on the joint goal of preventing the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.

“We’re still hopeful,” Mr. Kerry said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The president’s policy is that under no circumstances will Iran get a nuclear weapon.”

Mr. Kerry, who briefed lawmakers privately on the status of international talks with Iran Wednesday, said that sanctions against Iran currently in place are working and asked Congress to refrain from adding more, saying that a hawkish posture from Capitol Hill might be seen by Tehran as an unwillingness to negotiate.

“Every senator is entitled to be skeptical, entitled to ask tough questions. They did yesterday, and they will, and we’ll answer them,” he said. “I believe that what we are doing — and the president believes this very deeply — is the best first step that will actually make Israel safer.”

Mr. Kerry said he’s spoken multiple times with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, and that they’re having a “very friendly and civil conversation” about the issue and that he respects and understands Mr. Netanyahu’s concerns.

“We disagree on a tactic,” he said. “We believe that you need to take this first step and that you will not get Iran to simply surrender and believe you’re dealing in good faith if after two years of negotiating, you don’t follow through on … what’s on the table.”

“What’s important here is we stand with Israel, firmly, 100 percent,” he continued. “There’s no distance between us on the danger of this program and the endgame for us is exactly the same: Iran cannot have a peaceful nuclear program that is, in fact, a deceptive program or a program geared to allow [them to] break out” militarily.