Acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Wednesday dismissed a critique of the Iran nuclear agreement from former secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, by saying their comments amount to "big words" and that the two secretaries don't live in the real world.
Kissinger, who was secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and Schultz, who served under President Reagan, wrote an assessment of the Iran nuclear deal for the Wall Street Journal that said the agreement essentially ends the U.S. demand that Iran never obtain a nuclear weapon. They also sided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by saying the failure to link Iran's support for terrorism in the deal means the U.S. is accepting Iran's dominance in the region.
"Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts," they wrote. They added that Iran must accept "restraints on its ability to destabilize the Middle East," not just restraints on its nuclear program.
Harf insisted that the op-ed wasn't "damning" at all, and then dismissed it as a critique that came from two non-realists.
"I didn't hear a lot of alternatives," she said about the op-ed. "I heard a lot of, sort of, big words and big thoughts in that piece."
"In a perfect world, of course we would have an agreement that would do all of these things," she said on the idea of forcing Iran to accept other political restraints as part of the deal. "But we are living in the real world, and that's the responsibility of the secretary to negotiate where we can see if we can get this one issue dealt with. And that's how important it is."
State has continued to insist that it makes no sense to link Iran's nuclear commitments to a commitment to stop supporting terrorism, or to stop threatening Israel. Harf defended that position today by saying creating these links would make the talks "really hard."
"We have always said that once you start linking the nuclear issue, which is complicated enough on its own, with all these other issues, it's really hard to get anything done," she said.
Harf also insisted that because the tentative deal would commit Iran to some permanent transparency measures, the deal itself is permanent, even though many commitments would clearly expire after 10, 15, or 25 years.
"There is no sunset to this agreement," she insisted.
But Kissinger and Schultz warned that key elements clearly do expire, such as Iran's commitment to mothball thousands of centrifuges for 10 years. They say that limitation alone is something Iran will be able to exploit after a decade.
"Under the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer," they warned.