Former secretary of state James Baker.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former US secretary of state James Baker has called on the Obama administration to hold firm on sanctions against Iran until verifiable mechanisms are in place to ensure the Islamic Republic’s compliance of any nuclear deal.
Writing an opinion piece for the Friday edition of The Wall Street Journal, the former top diplomat in the George H.W. Bush administration said he commends President Barack Obama’s efforts to solve a thorny issue without resorting to military force. However, he cautioned that Washington must rally its P5+1 allies to demonstrate steadfastness, particularly in light of Iran’s poor track record in adhering to international commitments.
“Iranian leaders quickly disputed key points about the White House’s description of the terms of the [framework] agreement,” Baker wrote.
“Among them was Iran’s demand that all sanctions be removed once a final deal is signed.”
“That is a far cry from the US 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.”
Baker added that any threat to keep the sanctions in place can be effective only if it is Iran that is perceived as the obstructionist party that refused the deal, not the US, particularly given the fact that European countries as well as others are eager to resume doing business with the Islamic Republic.
“If in the end there is no final agreement – and if the US 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,” the former secretary of state wrote. “The US would then be left with the option of only unilateral sanctions, which are far less effective. So it is critical that the US 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.”
“Clearly, much work must be done if there is to be a final agreement by the June 30 deadline,” Baker wrote.
Baker wrote that Iran’s history of obfuscation and nondisclosure of the extent of its nuclear infrastructure present obstacles for the Obama administration in ensuring an effective agreement.
“Experience shows Iran cannot be trusted, and so those... weaknesses need to be addressed and fixed,” the former secretary of state wrote. “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.”