State's Harf Responds to Kissinger, Shultz Column on Iran: "I Heard A Lot Of Big Words And Big Thoughts"

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REPORTER: Henry Kissinger and George Shultz published a piece in the Wall Street Journal today that raised a lot of questions about the deal. These are diplomatic statesman types. Do you guys have any reaction to that? Do you think they were fair?

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, the Secretary has spoken to a number of his predecessors that were former secretaries of state since we got this agreement – or since the parameters – excuse me – we got the parameters finalized. And we’re having conversations with other senior officials. We are happy to have that conversation about what this agreement is, what it isn’t, the work we still have to do, and how we are very confident that this achieves our objectives. And that conversation will certainly continue.

QUESTION: Do you feel like this – having Henry Kissinger and others come out and say this, I mean, isn’t it kind of undermining your case a little bit? I mean, would you --

MS HARF: I think that their piece is a little more --

QUESTION: Have you talked to him?

MS HARF: I haven’t. I think --

QUESTION: I mean, has the Secretary spoken to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz?

MS HARF: I think their piece was a little more nuanced than that. And we are all for robust debate about what this looks like, and that’s why we are being very clear publicly – whether it’s the Secretary going out and speaking, having private conversations with former officials, having private conversations with Congress, classified conversations – to make the case for why this does what we say it does. And the we’ve always said the best way to defend this is to get a good deal, and that’s what we’re – we’ve done and what we’re working on for the next three months.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz?

MS HARF: I said he’s spoken to some of his predecessors here. I’m not probably going to get into more specifics.

MATT LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, why not? Because if he has --

MS HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: If he has spoken to Kissinger and Shultz, they clearly weren’t very persuaded because this is --

MS HARF: I’m happy to check on the full list.

QUESTION: -- their article, their column is far from nuanced, I think.

MS HARF: Really?

MS HARF: It basically says that this is --

MS HARF: You don’t think it’s nuanced?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’ve read it and it’s pretty --

MS HARF: I also read it.

QUESTION: Yeah? And you don’t think it’s pretty damning?

MS HARF: I wouldn’t say that it’s damning. I think that there are a lot of opinions on this and the Secretary is happy to speak to people to let them know what we’ve done, and that conversation will continue.

QUESTION: All right. Well, maybe there’s invisible ink or something like that or you’re reading between the lines.

MS HARF: Is there a question or are you just commenting?

QUESTION: Well, I want to know what you – you just reject it --

MS HARF: I’m not going to go line by line.

QUESTION: -- outright? I mean, they say --

MS HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- that this is a recipe for disaster, basically. You say no, clearly. I mean, you wouldn’t be pursuing something you thought was a recipe for disaster. Is that correct?

MS HARF: Correct, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. So one of the things they say is that “absent a linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony” in the region. Not true?

MS HARF: I would obviously disagree with that. I think that an Iran backed up by a nuclear weapon would be more able to project power in the region, and so that’s why we don’t want them to get a nuclear weapon. That’s what this deal does.

QUESTION: Back when --

MS HARF: And I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives. I heard a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and those are certainly – there’s a place for that, but I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently. I know the Secretary values the discussions he has with his predecessors regardless of sort of where they fall on the specifics.

QUESTION: Well, I guess one of the criticisms is that there aren’t enough big words and big thought – or people argue that there are not enough big words and big thoughts in what the Administration is pursuing, its overall policy, particularly in the Middle East right now, which has been roiled with unrest and uncertainty. And I think that’s what the point is they’re making. That you reject, it, I understand that. One of the --

MS HARF: Well, in a region already roiled by so much uncertainty and unrest --

QUESTION: Right. You don’t want to introduce the bomb. I understand that.

MS HARF: Correct. Think about – well, think about this, Matt. Think about either an Iran with a nuclear weapon. Think about how that would create even more instability. Think about having to utilize other options to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon and the kinds of instability that would lead to.

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