Kerry Ducks Question: Must US Help Protect Iran From Sabotage?

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Testifying on Capitol Hill at the end of last week, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz sidestepped the question of whether or not the United States is obligated by the nuclear deal with Iran to protect Iranian nuclear sites against an attack through cyber warfare or other such sabotage.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) questioned the officials about a provision in the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers that states the P5+1 are obligation to provide “cooperation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and protection systems.”

Quoting this provision (10.2 of the agreement), Rubio pointedly asked Kerry and Moniz that if any country in the world decides to engage in sabotage against the Iranian nuclear program, does the deal obligate the United States to help Iran defend itself?

Having been given the nod by Kerry, Moniz first answered the question by avoiding it. “I believe that refers to things like physical security and safeguards,” Moniz said. “I think that all of our options and those of our allies and friends will remain in place.”

Upon being pressed by Rubio, Moniz said agreement does not obligate the U.S. to protect Iranian nuclear facilities from a physical attack.

Jumping in to deflect the question, Kerry said, “The purpose of that is to be able to have longer-term guarantees as we enter a world in which cyber warfare is increasingly a concern for everybody. If you are going to have a nuclear capacity, you clearly want to be able to make sure that those are adequately protected.”

Kerry further avoid the question by stating, “But I can assure you that we will coordinate in every possible way with Israel, with respect to Israel’s concerns …”

Rubio, unsatisfied with the answer pressed pointedly, “So, if Israel conducts a cyber attack against the Iranian nuclear program, are we obligated to help them defend themselves against the Israel nuclear cyber attack?”

Kerry, refusing to admit or deny that this was the case, merely responded by giving his assurance that the U.S. would “be coordinating very closely with Israel,” prompting Rubio to state, “That’s not how I read this.”

Laughing off the question, Kerry intimated that the U.S. would prevent Israel from engaging in such an attack, saying, “I don’t see any way possible that we will be in conflict with Israel with respect to anything we might want to do there.”

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org