Meet the Press   |  November 10, 2013

1: Kerry exclusive: Iran nuclear talks break down

Secretary of State John Kerry visits Meet the Press to discuss the failed negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and what lies ahead for foreign policy discussions.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this sunday, two news-making one-on-one interviews. my exclusive with secretary of state john kerry . also the governor of new jersey just reelected, chris christie .

>> maybe the folks in washington, d.c. should tune in to their tvs right now, see how it's done.

>> is his landslide victory in new jersey the first step toward a 2016 presidential run? and will he be the favorite by the gop? are some democrats running scared while president obama promises for a broken promise?

>> i am very sorry they're finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.

>> the questions of confidences in the president. best-selling authors all with new books. joe scarborough , historian doris kearns goodwin . time's magazine's mark halperin , plus representative donna edwards . plus his essay on the meaning of gettysburg on lincoln's celebrated speech. i'm david gregory with all that ahead on sunday, november 10.

>>> good sunday morning. no deal despite hopes of a breakthrough. three days of negotiations in geneva failed to produce an agreement to freeze iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling international sanctions . and although all sides pointed to progress, iranian president rohani this morning insisted his country will not give up the right to enrich uranium. that is the critical step in the production of nuclear weapons . prior to rohani's comments, i spoke exclusively to secretary of state john kerry just moments after the talks had ended. secretary kerry, welcome back to "meet the press."

>> thank you. good to be with you, david .

>> the bottom line goal here is to prevent iran from producing or requiring a nuclear bomb . you said in the interim you want to complete halt on a weapons program. clearly there is not a deal yet. they are not in a position to give in to that demand. is that a fair statement?

>> no. i think it's a question, david , of working out the modalities by which it will be done, by which it can be verified, the ways in which ufyou have a set of guarantees that make absolutely certain that the goal of the president, to make certain that iran never has a nuclear weapon can be achieved. the first effort is to try to achieve it, obviously, peacefully. and you try to use an exhaust diplomacy in order to do that, but the president has taken no option off the table no matter.

>> but it sounds like something broke down here, because there was such anticipation that you were very close to a deal. the reporting is that the french thought it wasn't tough enough on the iranians. and you know the history. as the israeli prime minister rohani is a wolf in sheep's clothing, that this is what they do, they bide for time while they keep producing and they can play games. is there fear around the table that's what they're doing now?

>> no, that is not the fear around the table, and i would say a number of nations, not just the french, but ourselves and others, wanted to make sure that we had the tough language necessary, the clarity in the language necessary to be absolutely certain that we were doing the job and not granting more or doing something sloppily that could wind up with a mistake. this is serious business. and i think every country came there. this is the first time that the p-5 had come together with this kind of a serious set of possible options in front of it, with a new iranian government . remember that this has changed since the election. this is a new overture, and it has to be put to the test very, very carefully. so i think there was unity there, david , with respect to getting it right. and we always said, president obama has been crystal clear . don't rush, we're not in a rush, we need to get the right deal, no deal is better than a bad deal. and we're certainly adhering to that concept.

>> let me play you a comment that i think gets to the ultimate question of what does it mean to get it right? what is the bottom line demand of the united states ? the israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu has been out spoken about this this week. he was on this program late last month, and this is what he said about the prospect of a deal with iran . i want you to listen and i'll get your reaction on the other side.

>> i think the pressure has to be maintained on iran , even increased on iran until it actually stops the nuclear program , that is, dismantles it. i think any partial deal could end up dissolving the sanctions. a lot of countries are just waiting for a signal to get rid of their sanctions regime.

>> so a couple of points there. you want them to stop their weapons program. others, like the israeli prime minister saying, no, they've got to dismantle their infrastructure before they get the kind of economic relief that is part of this deal.

>> well, i'm not sure that the prime minister, who i have great respect for, knows exactly what the amount or the terms are going to be, because we haven't arrived at them all yet. that's what we're negotiating. and it is not a partial deal. let me make that crystal clear as i have to the prime minister directly. it is a first step in an effort that will lock the program in where it is today, in fact, set it back while one ngegotiates the full deal. and there will not be a relaxation of the pressure. you know, nobody has talked about getting rid of the current architecture of sanctions. the pressure will remain. there will be, hopefully, if this is arrived at, a means of absolutely guaranteeing that while the negotiation on the real end game takes place, iran 's program is not going to continue, is not going to grow. it seems to me that israel is far safer if you make certain that iran cannot continue the program. now, every day that we don't have it, they're continuing it. so i think the american people , and most people in the world, want the president of the united states with the awesome power that we have to exhaust all the diplomatic remedies before we resort to the use of military force if we have to. that option is not off the table. nothing is off the table, david .

>> but here's the question. if the only reason they're coming to the table now is because they feel the economic pain of sanctions, it's not just the israelis, it's the saudis, it's republicans in congress who have said -- if that's the only reason they're coming to the table, what's the rush? why not increase that economic pressure so you get not just a halt but actually get a dismantlement of the architecture which is the goal the president seeks?

>> because the president believes, as i do, that the pressure exists today, which is why they're willing to negotiate. i mean, look, i was there and i voted for these sanctions. we voted for these sanctions in order to bring around to the negotiating table. now that they're there, you have to act in some good faith in an effort to be able to move towards the goal you want to achieve. if, as their act of good faith, they freeze their program and allow us absolutely unprecedented access to inspection and do other things -- i'm not going to go into the list. but if they do the things we believe is necessary so that we can guarantee we know what is happening and we can move it back while we negotiate the end game , it seems to me you've got to do something that indicates your good faith. now, the president has made it clear, he will not reduce or change the overall core architecture of the oil sanctions, banking sanctions. iran will still be under enormous pressure precisely to complete the task. i think there is a lot of hype and an awful lot of speculation about what is going on here when all that is happening is an effort through the sanctions congress put in place to get negotiations when those negotiations hopefully produce an actual result. that's what we want to have happen.

>> as america's chief diplomat, are you being skeptical enough about a man who has been called a wolf in sheep's clothing, who wrote a book in which he talked about how they can continue work on their nuclear program while they gain confidence of the west, basically played games with the west? are you being skeptical enough?

>> david , some of the most serious and capable expert people in our government who spent a lifetime dealing both with iran as well as with nuclear weapons and nuclear armament and proliferation are engaged in our negotiation. we are not blind, and i don't think we're stupid. i think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe, and particularly of our allies, like israel and gulf states and others in the region. we are absolutely determined that this would be a good deal or there will be no deal. now, that's why it's hard. that's why we didn't close the deal here in the last couple of days. because we are together, unified, pushing for things that we believe provide the guarantees that israel and the rest of the world demand here. but one thing is clear, is that, you know, we're not going into a full deal and giving away something. we're talking about stopping their program where it is with enough guarantees to know that it is, in fact, stopped where it is while we then negotiate the full measure of the deal with our allies, with our friends, with all of the interested parties, advising at the table, consulting, and their interests well represented.

>> there is a broader criticism that goes beyond this that no doubt you've confronted in your extensive travels throughout that region. let me sum it up this way. it amounts to this criticism that the president appears reluctant to exercise power on the world stage. it's not just israel , it's egypt, it's saudi arabia . there is a feeling that the u.s. has abandoned critical friends in that region, in part because you're moving toward a deal with iran which could provide them tremendous economic relief when at the same time critics would say their major client, syria, has gotten a pass to murder their own people as long as they don't use chemical weapons . so that all of this is amounting to this reluctance to really exercise u.s. power. that is my description of that criticism, and please respond to it.

>> well, let me respond very directly to it, david . i couldn't disagree with it more. the president of the united states made his decision. he decided to use military force in syria. he also made a decision to respect the requests of many members of congress to come to them. and guess what? when he did, it was the members of congress, as you know better than anybody, who bought very significantly with the exception of the foreign relations committee of the united states senate which took the lead, but the house clearly indicated a very, very strong reluctance to be engaged. the president, before he had to make a decision of whether or not he would use force, anyway, succeeded in getting an arrangement with russia to remove the chemical weapons altogether. that would never have happened, that deal would never have come about if the president had not made his decision to use force. the president used force in libya. the president has been willing and made it clear that he is prepared to use force with respect to iran 's weapon, and he has deployed the forces and the weapons necessary to achieve that goal if it has to be achieved. let me just finish. the president has continued in afghanistan . he has sought a security agreement in afghanistan that is in the throes of being agreed on. it will continue american presence to complete the task in afghanistan . we can't let mythology and politics start to cloud reality here. this president has made it clear. he's also the president who has prosecuted al qaeda with an intensity and terrorists generally with an intensity unprecedented and way beyond the last administration.

>> mr. secretary, final question before you go. you gave some comments in light of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of president kennedy to nbc news that have now been widely broadcast and reported on. and in those comments, you said this. to this day, i have serious doubts that lee harvey oswald acted alone. that certainly would be surprising to a lot of people that those were your views. would you care to elaborate?

>> no. i just have a point of view. and i'm not going to get into that. it's not something that i think needs to be commented on and certainly not at this time.

>> do you think the conspiracy theory is his involvement with russia a motivation from the soviet union or cuba are valid at some level?

>> david , i'm not going to go into it. it's inappropriate and i'm not going to do more than say it's a point of view that i have, but it's not ripe or worthy or appropriate for me to comment further.

>> all right, mr. secretary. we thank you for your time very much.

>> thanks.