James Baker: Iran Cannot Be Trusted

Former Secretary of State says that much work remains to be done before a final nuclear deal with Iran is reached.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Former Secretary of State James Baker
Former Secretary of State James Baker

James Baker, who served as the American Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush, said Friday that there should be no final agreement with Iran if it continues to insist that all the sanctions against it be removed once a final deal is reached.

In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Baker wrote that there are “substantial misunderstandings” about the deal reached between Iran and six world powers and added that it was clear that much work needs to be done before a final agreement.

“Iranian leaders quickly disputed key points about the White House’s description of the terms of the agreement. Among them was Iran’s demand that all sanctions be removed once a final deal is signed. That is a far cry from the U.S. understanding that sanctions will only be removed over time, as Iran meets its obligations. This different Iranian position may have been aimed at Iran’s domestic audience. But if Iran holds to it, there should be no final agreement,” wrote Baker.

“Arms-control negotiations are rarely easy, and there remain serious questions about more than the phasing out of sanctions. These include verification mechanisms (including access to Iran’s military bases for inspections); the “snapback” provisions for reapplying sanctions; and Iran’s refusal so far to provide historical information about its nuclear-enrichment program so that there is a baseline against which to measure any future enrichment. The proposed snapback and verification provisions, while still being negotiated, look like they will be particularly bureaucratic and cumbersome,” he continued.

“Experience shows Iran cannot be trusted, and so those four weaknesses need to be addressed and fixed,” wrote the former top diplomat, adding, “Yes, it would be good if we could have a verifiable agreement extending the current ‘breakout’ period for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons to one year from the current two-to-three months. And for that extension to last at least 10 years.

“As things now stand, however, if in the end there is no final agreement—and if the U.S. is seen to be the reason why—we could be in a worse position than we are today, because the United Nations and European Union sanctions would likely be watered down or dropped,” warned Baker. “The U.S. would then be left with the option of only unilateral sanctions, which are far less effective. So it is critical that the U.S. position on these issues be supported by most, if not all, of the other members of the P5+1 group, as the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are called.

“A great deal of negotiating is yet to come. That provides Secretary of State John Kerry, who has done a herculean task getting the talks this far, with an opportunity. In the coming weeks, he and other American diplomats should travel to the P5+1 capitals and convince their counterparts there to support non-negotiable positions on the four outstanding questions, positions that Iran must agree to if it wants to start reaping the substantial economic benefits a final deal can bring it,” said Baker.

“Iran should not be rewarded for waffling and re-trading. Even before it began complaining about the tentative agreement, Iran has reneged on prior agreements. Two days before a March 31 deadline, for example, Iran backed away from its pledge to send a large portion of its uranium stockpile to Russia, where it could not be used to make weapons. Our P5+1 partners should understand that if we can’t trust Iran to stick to its promises during negotiations, we cannot trust that it won’t resume its nuclear-weapons program after a final deal is reached,” he wrote.

The framework deal reached earlier this month would leave all of Iran's nuclear facilities intact, and limit the rate of its uranium enrichment for a ten-year window. President Barack Obama has admitted that after the limitations of the deal wear off, Iran will be able to reach a "zero" breakout time by 2028, meaning it could produce nuclear weapons immediately whenever it wanted to.

Top Iranian officials have declared they will start using advanced IR-8 centrifuges that are 20-times as effective as standard ones as soon as a deal is reached, meaning they would be able to produce a nuclear arsenal in a rapid timeframe.

Meanwhile, the European Union announced Thursday that the sides will hold fresh talks in Vienna on April 22 and 23 to build on the framework accord.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)