John Kerry awkwardly joked Trump may not serve out his full term while explaining why he can’t tear up the Iran deal

John Kerry speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
World Economic Forum

DAVOS, Switzerland – US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday made a subtle joke suggesting that President-elect Donald Trump may not serve out his full term in office.

During a discussion in front of some of the economic elite here at the World Economic Forum, Kerry was explaining why he thought a Trump administration could not unilaterally pull out of the multinational nuclear deal with Iran, an action that was one of Trump’s most pronounced campaign promises on foreign policy.

“It will hurt for the endurance of a year, two years, whatever – while the administration is still there,” Kerry said, referring to what he said would be the consequences of pulling out of the multilateral deal. The remark drew laughter from the crowd, prompting a smile from Kerry.

The Iran deal was one example Kerry pinpointed to suggest that Trump would not be able to undo some of the Obama administration’s signature foreign-policy achievements – at least not right away or without help. The deal was negotiated by Iran and a group of world powers known as the P5+1 – China, France, Russia, Germany, the UK, and the US.

“I’ll bet you that our friends and allies who negotiated this will get together – and that Russia, China, Germany, France, and Britain will say, you know what, this is a good deal. We’re going to keep it,” Kerry said. “And Iran will keep it. And we’ll have made ourselves the odd person out. We’ll have injured our credibility in [a] conceivably irreparable way.”

Kerry clarified that he thought the description “irreparable” was too dramatic, saying instead that the US would be doing a “great injury to ourselves” if it were to back away from the deal.

Kerry’s remarks at Davos were his final planned in his official capacity at the State Department. Trump is set to take office Friday. His discussion with moderator Tom Friedman of The New York Times was wide-ranging, touching on some of the Obama administration’s biggest legacy points, including its relationship with Israel and the future of the Paris climate agreement.