John Kerry
John Kerry Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended on Thursday the nuclear deal that was reached between Iran and six world powers, but said that the military option was still on the table if Iran fails to live up to its part of the agreement.

“I am absolutely certain without a reasonable doubt that Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, all countries in the region are safer today from the threat of the Iranian nuclear weapon than they were before the agreement that we made,” Kerry told Al Arabiya in an exclusive interview from Geneva.

If Iran does not execute the commitments it made with Western powers as part of the deal, “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do,” he stressed.

“It wouldn’t be a wise choice for Iran. We are convinced that we are on the right track because clearly the world would rather see us settle this peaceful rather than have a military confrontation,” he said.

The six-month interim agreement which was reached between Iran and six world powers went into effect this week. The United States has already formally lifted select sanctions on Iran, claiming Iran is taking step to curb back its nuclear program.

As part of the deal, Iran agreed to halt parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief in some of the sanctions. Iran is expected to receive the first $550 million installment of a total of $4.2 billion in previously blocked overseas funds on or about February 1. According to congressional aides, negotiations on a final nuclear agreement are to begin by mid-February.

On Wednesday, Iran’s foreign minister attacked the United States for distorting the terms of the agreement.

Speaking to CNN, Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted that the Obama administration was mischaracterizing the concessions by Iran in the six-month nuclear deal and stressed that his country never agreed to dismantle any part of its nuclear program in the interim deal.

In Thursday’s interview with Al Arabiya, Kerry also ramped up his criticism of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, calling him “the single biggest magnet for terrorists” and the only person who stands in the way of peace and the future of Syria.

“Yesterday you had 40 countries and organizations all of which with the exception of one were talking about a transition government and the need to have a change in Syria. The one that refused to talk about it was obviously the Assad regime,” Kerry said, adding that there’s no way that the opposition is ever going to consent to Assad being part of any future government.

“Assad needs to put Syria in front of Assad. This should not be about one man, one family; this should be about all the people of Syria and the future of Syria,” he told the network.

Regarding Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict, Kerry said, “Iran has to be engaged realistically and on a basis of honesty. Iran understands that the Geneva I communiqué calls for a transition government with full executive authority by mutual consent.”

“Iran clearly, has IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) personnel on the ground in Syria conducting military affairs,” Kerry said, adding that Tehran “is the principal supporter of its client, terrorist organization called Hezbollah.”