Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday that any deal that the United States would make with Iran would include inspections of Iran’s facilities.
In an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Carter said a deal would not be based on “trust” but on “verification.”
These comments come after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged negotiators on Thursday not to accept a deal with the United States that includes “unconventional inspections,” tweeting that he is “neither for nor against” the deal.
The Obama administration faces an uphill battle in securing a deal with Iran amid mounting criticism in Congress and strong push back from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vowed that Israel would take military action, if needed, to stop Iran from developing its nuclear capabilities.
Here are other highlights from the interview:
Is the military option still on the table?
Carter said that the current framework for a deal with Iran does not take the military option off the table but added that it will currently not be used.
“We have the capability to shut down, set back and destroy the Iranian nuclear program and I believe the Iranians know that and understand that,” he said, referencing the military’s most powerful ground-penetrating bomb, the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP).
The MOP – which can explode 200 feet underground and is designed to destroy deeply buried and fortified targets – is ready for use, Carter said.
Carter added that the administration’s objective is to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon through negotiations, “rather than through military action because military action is reversible overtime.”
Is Iran working with North Korea?
Carter said that North Korea and Iran could be working together and have worked together in the past.
“In fact, North Korea worked with Syria, helped it build a reactor… North Korea is a welcome all-comers kind of proliferator,” Carter said.
Asked whether the United States is concerned that Iran and North Korea are working together, Carter said “well, it does concern us.”
But Carter added that Iranians “don’t need North Korea to teach them nuclear physics. They know plenty of it in Iran.”
Will the U.S. put boots on the ground to defeat ISIS?
Carter is President Barack Obama’s fourth Secretary of Defense and others who have held this position before him, have had foreign policy disagreements, particularity when it comes to the use of military force.
Carter said that he is ready to make the recommendation of putting boots on the ground to defeat ISIS, if he sees fit.
“We are not at that point yet” said Carter but added that he “would not hesitate to give that advice.”
Carter said that Obama “is very open to advice and very open to analysis” but that doesn’t mean that when “any of us makes a recommendation, he will accept.”
Carter said that both al-Qaeda and ISIS remain viable threats to the United States.
“If al-Qaeda was the Internet terrorists, these guys are the social media terrorists,” said Carter of ISIS.
Carter said that while Al-Qaeda’s power has been “reduced,” after over a decade of “pounding” by the United States, “they still have a serious preoccupation with direct attacks on the United States,” specifically citing recent victories in Yemen by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).