The extension of arms embargoes against Iran was a "victory" for U.S. negotiators in the nuclear talks, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday, because Iran had "a very legitimate argument" for lifting it immediately.
"We don't feel we lost anything in that whatsoever," Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
For many U.S. military officials and lawmakers, the eventual end of the arms embargo against Iran was an unpleasant surprise in the nuclear deal announced July 14. Critics say it could allow Tehran's theocratic regime to become more powerful and aggressive in the Middle East — even without nuclear weapons.
The international embargo is set to be lifted in five years, but it could be sooner if U.N. inspectors certify Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful before that. The possibility of an early embargo lift is one of the rewards for Tehran agreeing to put its nuclear weapons program on ice for a decade. Restrictions on ballistic missile technology will last longer, ending in eight years.
Even supporters of the deal are concerned that lifting the restrictions on arms will make Iran stronger without any corresponding limits on its behavior, possibly including being better able to threaten U.S. forces operating in the Persian Gulf.
But Kerry told lawmakers that U.S. negotiators had little choice, because three of the seven parties negotiating the deal — Iran, Russia and China — wanted the arms embargoes lifted with other sanctions, and were able to successfully argue that they had been imposed by the U.N. Security Council as an inducement to a nuclear deal.