December 15, 2016
A veteran intelligence official slammed the Obama administration for ignoring a range of Iran’s destructive activities in order to preserve the nuclear deal, and advised the incoming Trump administration to harshly retaliate against Tehran’s illicit pursuits.
“We have held our response to a whole bunch of egregious Iranian activity … hostage to the preservation of the near-term nuclear deal,” Gen. Michael Hayden, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, said Wednesday during the Jamestown Foundation’s tenth annual terrorism conference.
Hayden’s remarks come amid criticism that the administration is trivializing Iran’s role in fueling the atrocities of the Syrian regime in order to salvage the nuclear agreement, which President-elect Donald Trump has called “the worst deal ever negotiated.” The administration has also drawn fire in recent days for downplaying Iranian plans to develop nuclear-powered vessels.
Hayden advised Trump to crack down on Iran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East, regardless of whether Tehran threatens to walk away from the nuclear deal.
“What they’re doing in Syria, what they’re doing in Iraq, what they’re doing with Hezbollah, what they’re doing in Lebanon, what they’re doing in Yemen, what they’re doing in the Gulf,” Hayden said. “I would push back and push back hard.”
“The fear is if you did that, if you pushed back, they’d walk from the deal,” he continued. “My response is, that’s their decision.”
The former CIA director cautioned against ripping up the nuclear deal, in part because doing so would be a “diplomatic nightmare.”
“The president-elect never said he’d rip up the agreement, he never did. He condemned it, he said he would renegotiate it, but he never said he would rip it up, and in fact, I think that’s okay,” he said.
The Obama administration has sought to bolster the nuclear deal in its final months, considering measures that would boost business with Tehran, as well as the further lifting of sanctions.