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Tearing Up Iran Nuclear Deal Will Be Disastrous, CIA Chief Warns Donald Trump

The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear deal would be “the height of folly” and “disastrous.”

During the election campaign, Mr. Trump railed against the deal, calling it a disaster and pledging to “dismantle” the historic accord, reached in 2015, in which Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions.

Mike Pompeo, a Republican whom Mr. Trump has chosen to succeed John Brennan as head of the C.I.A., earlier this month wrote on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

But in an interview with the BBC that was published on its website on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan warned that scrapping the nuclear deal would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to ignite an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons.

“First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,” he said in an interview with the BBC, which the broadcaster said was the first ever by a C.I.A. director with the British media. “I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”

Mr. Trump has professed admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, calling him a strong leader, and promised closer relations with Moscow, but Mr. Brennan, who was appointed by President Obama and will step down in January after four years, warned that the incoming administration needed to be skeptical about Russian promises.

“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” he told the BBC, reiterating the widely held view that Russia had carried out hacking during the United States election and blaming Moscow for the deteriorating situation in Syria.

He said he had spoken with officials in Russia about the hacking accusations and had warned them that such activity would have adverse consequences. The United States should not “stoop to their level,” he said, even as he stressed that there were other means to make sure Moscow understood unequivocally that the United States would not tolerate such practices.

He characterized the killing of civilians in Syria as “outrageous” and blamed the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow for the bloodshed, warning that Moscow had shown that it was willing to pursue its national interests, with a reckless disregard for the people affected by its policies.

“Russia is a country that will pursue its national interests, frequently to the detriment of the interests of the peoples of the countries wherein it operates,” he said.

He told the broadcaster that the United States should continue to support moderate rebels fighting against Mr. Assad’s forces in Syria as a bulwark against the “onslaught” being meted out by the Syrian government and its allies, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Alluding to the ferocious fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo in recent days, which has seen thousands of civilians flee for their lives, he said Russia had failed to show that it was a dependable negotiating partner and had prolonged the negotiating process with the aim of choking the city.

“I do not have confidence that the Russians are going to relent until they are able to achieve as much tactical battlefield successes as possible,” he said.

Mr. Brennan also took a strong stand against waterboarding, which he said had undermined the agency. The C.I.A. came under fierce international criticism after using interrogation methods like waterboarding in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, and President Obama has since banned the practice.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump pledged to bring back waterboarding and said he was open to unspecified methods he characterized as “a hell of a lot worse.” And even as he indicated in an interview last week with the The New York Times that he had heard persuasive arguments that torture was not effective, he has left the option open.

Mr. Brennan warned that the use of waterboarding would be rejected by most officers at the C.I.A. “Without a doubt, the C.I.A. really took some body blows as a result of its experiences,” he told the BBC. “I think the overwhelming majority of C.I.A. officers would not want to get back into that business.”

Mr. Brennan warned that despite its recent setbacks on the battlefield in Iraq and elsewhere, those Islamic State operatives responsible for waging attacks against the West remained “very active” and retained the means to continue their campaign.

He also said the incoming administration should be careful with the language it uses to characterize the fight against Islamic extremists, because of the risk of playing into the hands of terrorists. “The new team needs to be disciplined in the language that they use, the messages that they send, because if they are not disciplined, their language will be exploited by the terrorists and extremist organizations as a way to portray the United States and the government as being anti-Islamic, and we are not.”

Mr. Brennan told the BBC he was ready to sit down with the new administration and to outline the challenges.

“There are a lot of people out there who read the papers and listened to news broadcasts where the facts may be a bit — you know – off,” he said. “And so I want to make sure the new team understands what the reality is. It ultimately will be up to them to decide how to carry out their responsibilities.”

Via New York Times


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