State Dep’t Sees Lots of ‘Big Words and Big Thoughts’ in Iran Warnings From Kissinger, Schultz

By Patrick Goodenough | April 9, 2015 | 1:08am EDT

Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 29, 2015. (Screenshot: SASC)

( – State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf sounded a dismissive tone Wednesday about warnings from two former secretaries of state about the nuclear agreement negotiated with Iran, saying she saw lots of “big words and big thoughts” in their evaluation but not “a lot of alternatives.”

Harf was asked during her daily press briefing about a Wall Street Journal column by Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, which a reporter pointed out “raised a lot of questions about the deal.”

“I think their piece was a little more nuanced than that,” Harf said, then also disputed another reporter’s suggestion that the assessment by the former secretaries of state was “pretty damning.”

Among numerous concerns raised in their piece, Kissinger and Schultz referred to the fact the agreement deals solely with the nuclear issue, and not with other aspects of Iran’s behavior in the region.

“Absent the linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony,” they wrote.

Matt Lee of the Associated Press quoted that sentence, and then asked Harf, “Not true?”

“I would obviously disagree with that,” the spokeswoman replied. “I think that an Iran backed up by a nuclear weapon would be more able to project power in the region, and so that’s why we don’t want them to get a nuclear weapon.  That’s what this deal does.”

“And I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives,” Harf continued. “I heard a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and those are certainly – there’s a place for that, but I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently.

“I know the Secretary [of State John Kerry] values the discussions he has with his predecessors, regardless of sort of where they fall on the specifics,” she added.

Harf said that in the course of outreach on the framework nuclear deal reached last week, Kerry had “spoken to a number of his predecessors that were former secretaries of state.”

Asked whether they included Kissinger and Shultz, she declined to “get into more specifics,” although when asked why not said she was “happy to check on the full list.”

Kissinger served as secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford from 1973-1977, and Schultz held the post under President Reagan from 1982-1989.

In their column, the two posed numerous questions about the agreement, ranging from whether the International Atomic Energy Agency would have the technical capability and resources to carry out a “daunting” regime of inspections required, to how the U.S. would offer guarantees to other states in the region to dissuade them from themselves pursuing nuclear deterrents.

Kissinger and Schultz also raised flags about the fact the framework agreement does not require Iran to permanently relinquish nuclear facilities and equipment; and about the fact that various restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities will fall away after 10 years in some cases and 15 years in others.

“The gradual expiration of the framework agreement, beginning in a decade, will enable Iran to become a significant nuclear, industrial and military power after that time – in the scope and sophistication of its nuclear program and its latent capacity to weaponize at a time of its choosing,” they wrote.

“Limits on Iran’s research and development have not been publicly disclosed (or perhaps agreed). Therefore Iran will be in a position to bolster its advanced nuclear technology during the period of the agreement and rapidly deploy more advanced centrifuges – of at least five times the capacity of the current model – after the agreement expires or is broken.”

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