Today US Secretary of State John Kerry sat alongside Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz for a brutal afternoon of questioning before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the nuclear agreement arranged between the P5+1 and Iran in Vienna earlier this month.

Throughout the hearing, Kerry attempted to stand firm on his previous assertions that the deal Congress will be voting on in September is “all or nothing;” republican committee members, however, voiced skepticism about whether or not a “deal” with Iran was even possible. From the Houston Chronicle, via the AP:

“If Congress does not support the deal, we would see this deal die — with no other options,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday as he testified for the second time in a week, part of the Obama administration’s all-out campaign to sell the accord.

“Iran has cheated on every agreement they’ve signed,” said Rep. Ed Royce, the panel’s chairman. With Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew waiting to testify, he asked if Tehran “has earned the right to be trusted” given its history.

Few, if any, new details emerged from the more than three-hour hearing. Some committee members asked the three officials questions, while others used their time to read lengthy statements in opposition. That left Kerry visibly frustrated and several times he accused the members of misconstruing or misunderstanding the details of the agreement.

“Nothing in this deal is built on trust. Nothing,” Kerry said.

Kerry was asked what would prevent Iran from adhering to the agreement for a short time, and then, in effect, take the money and run toward building an atomic bomb.

Kerry said that was not a likely scenario. He said the Iranian government is under pressure to improve the economy in their country where half the population is under 30 years of age and wants jobs. And he defended the inspection protocol under the agreement, arguing that if Iran tries to develop a nuclear weapon covertly, the international community will know.

Committee members countered by arguing that a separate and confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA could jeopardize what oversight provisions the P5 did manage to put in place.

You can watch the first half of the hearing here (you’ll have to fast forward to around the 38 minute mark):



Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

…and the second half here:



Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

If you want an example of how the majority of this hearing went for Secretary Kerry, click into the second video and start paying close attention 40 seconds in, when Rep. Marino begins to question the witnesses. The exchange is ugly, and it’s representative of the content and tone of the majority of the hearing.

These congressmen are angry; but when you cut through the requisite political posturing and rhetoric, what you’re left with is the near-entirety of the committee expressing an absolute mistrust of Secretary Kerry, the Obama Administration, and the regime in Tehran.

The criticism was not limited to the right-leaning side of the aisle. Top Democrat Rep Eliot Engel (D-NY) read a list of concerns, but also urged his colleagues to review the deal carefully before casting a vote:

He also urged lawmakers to consider the alternative if they rejected the deal.

“Would renewed pressure bring the Iranians back to the table, if this deal fails?” he asked.

Still, Engel listed a litany of concerns he had about the deal. He said that under the deal, Iran could have more than a month to refuse international inspections of some sites.

“That potential length of time gives me pause,” he said. He also expressed concern that some military facilities are “off-site” from inspectors.

He also said he was “troubled by reports” on side deals made with the International Atomic Energy Agency on how Parchin, a military site, would be inspected.

And Engel expressed concern that restrictions on ballistic missiles and conventional arms would be lifted in five to eight years.

“I’d like to understand how we allowed this to happen,” he said.

Engel also questioned what Iran would do when sanctions are phased out, resulting in billions of dollars in relief.

“My fundamental concern is that 15 years from now, Iran will be off the hook,” he said.

My personal favorite zinger came toward the end of the hearing, and threw the whole scandal into full relief:

Congressman Reid Ribble asked the question we’ve all been waiting to hear the answer to: Why was the agreement not submitted as a treaty?

Kerry’s answer shocked everyone:

Hours of transcripts, but there you have it, in a nutshell. The Obama Administration shoved this through, over the heads of your elected representatives, because it was more convenient for them.

Sounds about right.