Top Obama adviser to Trump: Making fundamental changes to Iran deal a fantasy

Philip Gordon says US allies will not support revisiting nuclear pact.

January 24, 2017 20:54
2 minute read.
Philip Gordon, the former White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and Persian Gulf

Philip Gordon, the former White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf region. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A former top adviser to president Barack Obama said at a panel in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, that it is not realistic for US President Donald Trump to think he can make fundamental changes to the Iran nuclear deal.

“It is fantasy to think that fundamental changes of the [Iran] deal could be achieved,” Philip Gordon, a former top Obama administration official on Iran and the Middle East, said on Tuesday at an Institute for National Security Studies Conference panel discussion in Tel Aviv on the deal’s future under the Trump administration.

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Gordon then listed specific aspects of the deal which he did not believe the Trump administration would be able to change.

For example, he said President Trump would fail to change: the deal’s “sunset” provisions, which remove limits on Iran’s nuclear program when certain deadlines pass; the number of centrifuges Iran can continue to operate under the deal; and the modalities of the deal’s inspection regime.

If Trump’s team wants “to see a fundamental revision without the support of our allies,” Gordon said, “anyone who thinks they can call Iran back to the table to get Iran to agree to a 30-year” deadline for maintaining nuclear limits instead of the current deadlines of 6.5, 8.5 and 12.5 years, is kidding themselves, and will merely find the US itself more isolated.

“I can’t predict what Iran will be in 15 years, but let’s see if it [the deal] buys us 10 to 15 years. If it still wants to build nuclear weapons and remains a regular threat, then the US, EU, Israel will decide what to do then, but why provoke that crisis decision today?” he asked.

Gordon also predicted that even if the Trump administration does set a different tone in its dealings with Iran, at the end of the day there are structural geopolitical differences between US and Israeli interests.

Those differences mean “Israel’s threshold will probably always be in a different place” in terms of at what point it feels threatened by Iran.
Iran Foreign Minister Zarif hopes nuclear deal is kept once the dust settles

Former CIA director David Petraeus, who was also on the panel, called for Congress to pass “a bipartisan statement that Iran will never get to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level.”

Petraeus added that statement should be followed by saying “openly that US Central Command has the authority to carry out any operations necessary just in case” and to act “with allies in the region to do more to confront Iran.”

Petraeus, the general who commanded US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the US should consider rolling back Iranian aggression in the region by backing Saudi Arabia more strongly in Yemen.

He said that the US had acted problematically by slamming the Saudis for civilian casualties caused by its attacks against Iran-allied forces in Yemen, while failing to give it more advanced precision-guided munitions, while cutting off assistance in target selection.

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