Former Secretary of State James Baker has taken a lot of heat from interventionists for not being sufficiently interventionist, but he apparently shares their opinion about the current Iran deal: it pretty much stinks.
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.
Experience shows Iran cannot be trusted, and so those four weaknesses need to be addressed and fixed. 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.
Baker specifically called out the so-called snap back provisions, sanction phaseouts, verification mechanisms, and historical Iranian nuclear baselines as being far too weak to be credible or useful in ridding Iran of its nuclear weapons capabilities.
A major sticking point for Baker was Iran’s demand that sanctions be ended immediately upon agreement to any deal.
“But if Iran holds to [that demand],” Baker declared, “there should be no final agreement.”