Condoleezza Rice has openly criticised the Obama administration for signing a nuclear arms deal with Iran calling it a “$100bn pact to destabilise the Middle East”.
Speaking publicly on the deal for the first time the former Secretary of State said although there were “good elements” to the agreement “the price paid was pretty high”.
Dr Rice, who was Secretary of State to George W Bush between 2005 and 2009, also said she feared the deal, signed by the P5+1 group - the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany along with the European Union - in Vienna earlier this year would create “an arms race in the Middle East”.
The 159-page Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action included 60 pages dedicated to listing the individuals and entities that will have some or all of the financial sanctions against them lifted and their assets - worth $100bn - unfrozen. It also left Iran with a “threshold” nuclear weapons capability.
Following the announcement the White House said that it had achieved “a long-term comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran that will verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon” and ensures that their nuclear program will be “exclusively peaceful”.
Dr Rice spoke out after giving a speech at Chatham House in London on Thursday on “Renewing the Transatlantic Alliance”.
When asked about the Iran nuclear deal she said: “I did not take a public position on this deal because I know how hard it is to be in there as opposed to out here. I know how hard it was to get this deal.
“I was one of the founders of the P5+1 along with [former UK Foreign Secretary] Jack Straw. As a matter of fact we did it at Jack Straw’s house in November 2006 so I’m a big supporter of having a two-track approach with the Iranians.
“This particular deal I think has some good elements but the price that was paid was pretty high. It’s entirely possible that they are already at threshold status and we will never know it.”
Supporters of the deal say that it will allow Iran to begin repairing an economy hobbled by decades of punishing sanctions that began in 1979, when revolutionaries overthrew the US-friendly government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and took American hostages.
Dr Rice, now Director of the Global Centre for Business and the Economy at Stanford University, said the deal reminded her of where the Bush administration was at when dealing with Iraq.
She said: “I fear that we are going to get into a lot of back and forth and disagreement about violations of the Iranians because… it’s never going to be black and white. One of the reasons why we had the Iraq problem was because we had uncertainty about what Saddam Hussein was actually doing. We had too many fights with the Russians and others about that. I fear we’re getting back to that.
“More importantly, $100bn for the Iranians to destabilise the Middle East? And by the way a lapse of the conventional weapons ban I fear is going to include an arms race in the Middle East, with the Iranians buying weaponry that won’t threaten the Israelis and the Saudis, it will threaten America denial capabilities. So it’s not a deal I care much for, but it’s there.”
Dr Rice said she would never recommend pulling out of the deal but hoped that the US, alog with European allies, would put a system in place to impose sanctions against Iran again it their behaviour was deemed “unacceptable”.
Her criticism puts her at odds with Colin Powell, who she replaced as Secretary of State in 2005. Mr Powell previously declared the Iran agreement “a pretty good deal.”
He recently said that critics are “forgetting the reality that [Iranian leaders] have been on a superhighway, for the last 10 years, to create a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program, with no speed limit”.
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