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James Baker, Bob Corker: Toughest Work Lies Ahead With Iran Nuke Deal

By    |   Thursday, 16 April 2015 10:41 PM

The devil is in the details of a deal to curb Iran's nuclear weapons program, according to former secretary of state James Baker and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.

In separate opinion pieces Thursday night, Baker — President George H.W. Bush's secretary of state, and Corker, the savvy Tennessee Republican who pushed through legislation, with White House support, to give Congress oversight on the deal — warned the hardest work lies ahead before a June 30 deadline to finalize an agreement with Tehran.

In an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, Baker decries that within days of the April 2 announcement of a tentative agreement, "it was apparent that there are substantial misunderstandings about a deal the administration has hailed as 'an historic understanding.'"

He noted that Iranian leaders disputed key points, asserting "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. … if Iran holds to it, there should be no final agreement," Baker writes.

But he said there also remain "serious questions" about "verification mechanisms," including access to Iran’s military bases for inspections; "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."

"Experience shows Iran cannot be trusted, and so those four weaknesses need to be addressed and fixed," Baker writes. "As things now stand … 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…"

He argues "a great deal of negotiating is yet to come," and Secretary of State John Kerry should travel to the countries involved with the talks to convince them "to support non-negotiable positions on the four outstanding questions…"

Meanwhile, Corker, in a piece for The Washington Post, hailed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers for "forcing the administration to bow to the inevitable role of Congress" in any nuclear deal with Tehran through its bipartisan "Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act."

"[I]t will ensure transparency," Corker writes, requiring the president to submit to Congress the details and all related documents regarding any final deal with Iran.

And it will provide oversight and let lawmakers review "all parts of an agreement before the president could suspend the sanctions on Iran that Congress put in place."

Finally, the bill "helps hold Iran accountable," including with provisions for a "snapback" of sanctions, Corker argues.

"It is clear that Iran and the United States have different views of what the political framework entails, particularly regarding the pace of the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran," he writes. "As the major world powers work toward a final agreement, we must remain clear-eyed regarding Iran’s continued resistance to concessions, long history of covert nuclear weapons-related activities, support of terrorism and role in destabilizing the region.

"Now is the time to tie any future relief of statutory sanctions with a formal process for Congress to assess a final accord."

Corker maintains Congress will serve "as a backstop" in the important process of a deal and "help empower our negotiators and lead to a better result in the talks and a stronger outcome for our national security."

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The devil is in the details of a deal to curb Iran's nuclear weapons program, according to former secretary of state James Baker and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.
Iran, nuclear, James Baker, Bob Corker, US, deal, Tehran, history, covert, actions
Thursday, 16 April 2015 10:41 PM
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