- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2016

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Monday that the world is safer now that major provisions of the historic Iranian nuclear deal were implemented over the weekend.

“The world is safer today,” Mr. Kerry said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Before we had this agreement, Iran had a completely invisible, unaccountable, unverified nuclear program.”

Iran had 19,000 centrifuges and enough material to make 10-12 bombs “and they were hurtling towards a program that was going to create inevitability of confrontation,” Mr. Kerry said.

“Today, that is not true,” he said. “That is entirely reversed.”

Economic sanctions on Iran were lifted Saturday after the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency determined that Iran has complied with its part of the deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Kerry said missile sanctions and human rights sanctions have been left in place. He also said a $150 billion figure in freed up money for Tehran - a number that’s been cited by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and other critics of the deal - is a “fictional number.”

“They will get about $55 billion over a period of time,” Mr. Kerry said. “They have massive needs within their country, and we will be able to track where this money is going [and] what is happening with it.”

On Saturday, Iran also released five Americans who had been held - four as part of a swap for seven Iranians held or charged in the U.S.

Mr. Kerry said in a separate appearance on CNN’s “New Day” he believes the Americans would have been released even if the sanctions had not been lifted.

“Yes - I think we had a separate track going on that,” he said. “That was not tied to implementation day. It happened to come together at that moment.”

Mr. Kerry also said that several years ago, the incident where 10 U.S. sailors were held by Iran and released after 14 hours in custody last week could have escalated even further.

“Our sailors regrettably, inadvertently went into Iranian waters,” he said on CNN. “The challenge is three or four years ago…we wouldn’t have known who to call. We would have probably had to call the Swiss, or maybe we’d have called the British.”

“[There] would have been no direct communication, and it could have grown into a major kind of hostage confrontation the way it had previously,” he said. “And there were people, by the way, in Iran now who certainly would have argued to hold onto them longer.”

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