CIA chief: Tearing up Iran nuclear deal would be Trump's biggest 'folly'

"It could lead to a weapons program inside of Iran that could lead other states in the region to embark on their own programs," says John Brennan.

November 30, 2016 10:20
3 minute read.
Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan has said it would be the "height of folly" for US President-elect Donald Trump to tear up Washington's deal with Tehran because it would make it more likely that Iran and others would acquire nuclear weapons.

"It could lead to a weapons program inside of Iran that could lead other states in the region to embark on their own programs," Brennan said in an interview with the BBC aired on Wednesday. "So I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement."

Former Mossad Director Efraim Halevy responded to the Brennan interview telling Israel Radio Wednesday that it was unclear if Trump would follow through on his threat to cancel the agreement with Iran.

Asked if Trump would follow-through on the threat, Halevy said “maybe he will - the question is if he can.”

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John Brennan. Credit: REUTERS

The former Mossad chief explained that even if Trump could cancel the agreement from the perspective of the US, “he cannot cancel the deal because there are five other countries also are parties” and the US cannot force them to cancel “and they will want to” keep the agreement.

With Iran threatening to respond to any major Trump provocations, Halevy said that since Iran is unclear on what Trump will do and what his impact will be, it will look more at how Russia and China observe the deal, since both countries have a strong interest in maintaining it.

Halevy noted that most of Iran’s gains from the agreement are with those countries and not with the US in any case.

He added that Iranian power in the region would only increase if the US walked away from the deal and others stuck with the deal.
Iran Foreign Minister Zarif hopes nuclear deal is kept once the dust settles

In his BBC interview, Brennan also referred to the Syrian crisis, suggesting that Trump should be cautious in trying to work with Russia.

"I hope there is going to be an improvement in relations between Washington and Moscow," he said.

"President-elect Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises. Russian promises in my mind have not given us what it is that they have pledged." The interview was part of a flurry of recent interviews that Brennan has given as he nears the end of a four-year tenure when he will step down in January.

Advisers to Trump have said he plans to strictly police the Iran nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the 45th commander in-chief has referred to as one of the worst ever negotiated in history.

In that light, many have predicted that he may crack down on some of the smaller Iranian violations of the deal that the Obama administration has chosen to downplay, but not abandon the deal entirely.

Following Trump's election, Iran urged him to remain committed to the international deal.

The agreement lays out the lifting of sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran's curtailing of both its uranium enrichment and plutonium nuclear programs for periods of 8, 15 and even 25 years as well as being placed under invasive surveillance by the IAEA.

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has said Trump will likely not pull the US out of the agreement. In a mid-November press conference in Washington, Obama said that he sees a "gap" between "reality" and the "rhetoric" of his successor, who has previously vowed to rip up the accord.

"We now have over a year of evidence that they have abided by the agreement. That’s not just my opinion. It’s not just people in my administration," he asserted. "That’s the opinion of Israeli military and intelligence officers who are part of a government that vehemently opposed the deal."

Michael Wilner and the Jerusalem Post contributed to this story.

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