By Charles Davis
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is rumored to be President Obama’s next pick for secretary of state, but the web history of one White House staffer suggests the president’s team may be concerned about his defense of Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
In June 2009, just a few months after Obama’s inauguration, Kerry told the Financial Times that despite allegations from US politicians (if not their intelligence agencies) that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, the Islamic Republic has a right to enrich uranium for a civilian energy program. The George W. Bush administration’s stance that Iran had no right to such enrichment “was ridiculous,” he said. Kerry didn’t stop there:
“It was bombastic diplomacy. It was wasted energy. It sort of hardened the lines, if you will,” he added. “They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose.
As far as international law is concerned, Kerry was right; the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty grants each signatory the right to enrich uranium on its soil for peaceful purposes. But his statement wasn’t only at odds with Bush policy, it also clashed with remarks made by the secretary of state he hopes to replace.
During an appearance on the Sunday talk show, “Meet the Press” — just a few weeks after Kerry’s comments were published — Hillary Clinton said that while Iran had a right to “civil nuclear power,” it did “not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle” under its control. Obama, meanwhile, during a debate with challenger Mitt Romney, asserted that he intended to get Iran to “end their nuclear program” altogether.
Which brings us to Google. This afternoon, someone in the Executive Office of the President found a short piece I wrote in 2009 concerning the apparent Kerry-White House rift on enrichment. That’s probably not a sign that they think Kerry would substantively differ from the administration as secretary of state — since his remarks 3 years ago, Kerry has vigorously defended all aspects of Obama’s Iran policy — but an indication that they may be preparing to defend the Massachusetts senator against charges he’s “soft” (read: reasonable) on Iran.