Obama’s ex-intel chief slams Iran nuke deal as ‘wishful thinking’
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Obama’s ex-intel chief slams Iran nuke deal as ‘wishful thinking’

In sobering testimony, Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn details ‘severe deficiencies’ in pact, and warns it could push Israel into a corner

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd left) and Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council pose for photographers at the Chief of Mission Residence in Paris, France, to discuss Middle East concerns about an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, May 8, 2015. (AP/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd left) and Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council pose for photographers at the Chief of Mission Residence in Paris, France, to discuss Middle East concerns about an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, May 8, 2015. (AP/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

A former intelligence chief for the Obama administration on Wednesday tore apart an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, describing it as a “placeholder” suffering from “severe deficiencies” based on “wishful thinking” and warning that Iranian leaders would never give up their nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn systematically criticized three key elements of a deal aimed at curbing the weapons aspects of Iran’s nuclear program: inspections of sites, the removal of sanctions, and how long the agreement would delay an eventual Iranian bomb.

“To begin, the nuclear deal, that will likely be concluded this summer, suffers from severe deficiencies,” he began. “Iran has every intention to build a nuclear weapon.”

The comments came as negotiators from Iran, the US and other world powers have raced to clinch a deal that would lift sanctions in exchange for curbed nuclear activity by a June 30.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lobbied ferociously against the pact as it stands, saying it will “pave the way” to an Iranian bomb, and has repeatedly warned that the easing of sanctions would enable the Iranian government to continue sponsoring terrorism and fomenting unrest across the region.

Netanyahu’s objections have contributed to amped up tensions between Israel and the US, and particularly between the Israeli leader and US President Barack Obama.

Former DIA chief Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Flynn (photo credit: US government/public domain)
Former DIA chief Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Flynn (photo credit: US government/public domain)

Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said Israel’s leaders may take rash action if it sees Washington drifting away.

Israel “sees its primary ally and patron becoming increasingly distant and a hostile power is rising against it, which may lead Israeli leadership to undertake increasing rash or desperate actions in an effort to secure immediate gains,” he said.

Iranian rhetoric calling for the destruction of Israel is serious, he warned.

“Iran’s stated desire to destroy Israel is very real,” Flynn said and added that Iran has “contributed to the severe insecurity and instability of the region, especially the sub-region of the Levant surrounding Israel.”

“Israel lives under the threat of total annihilation from Iran and other Islamic radical elements in the region—something the United States must never allow, nor should we deal equally with those who spew this type of hatred and bigotry. We would not stand for it here in this country and we should not stand for it elsewhere in the world where our closest friends are at risk.”

US officials have generally sought to downplay fiery rhetoric from Iran, indicating that it would not affect the outcome of the emerging deal.

Flynn also derided the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1 as pointless given the impermanence of the pact being hashed out.

“It is clear that the nuclear deal is not a permanent fix but merely a placeholder,” said Flynn, who ended his term as the top military intelligence chief in August 2014. “The 10-year time frame only makes sense if the [US] Administration truly believes that it is possible for a wider reconciliation with Iran that is likely to occur, which will make the Iranian regime change its strategic course. That’s wishful thinking.”

The negotiating countries have until June 30 to reach a final, comprehensive agreement, with some countries suggesting there might be a deadline extension.

The United States says Iran has agreed in principle to enhanced inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency, particularly under the Additional Protocol that allows snap inspections. But according to Flynn, Iran’s refusal to give the inspectors free access to it sites will render any UN inspection efforts fruitless.

US President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, on May 12, 2015 (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)
US President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, on May 12, 2015 (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

“Iran’s leaders made it clear the furthest they will go is to allow international inspectors only ‘managed access’ to nuclear facilities, and only with significant prior notification. This makes it nearly impossible, as a matter of full transparency, to have real “eyes on” the state of Iranian nuclear development to include their missile program.”

Backers of the Iran deal, promoted by Obama as the best way to hold back Iran’s nuclear ambitions, say the threat of rapidly reapplying stiff economic and trade sanctions on Iran would ensure that Tehran complies with the terms of an agreement. However, Flynn rejected the notion outright.

“The notion of ‘snap back’ sanctions is fiction,” he said. “The Iranian regime is already more economically stable than it was in November of 2013, while the international sanctions coalition that brought Tehran to the table in the first place is showing serious signs of strain. It’s unreasonable to believe that under these conditions we will be able to put the ‘Regime Sanctions Team’ back together again.”

Flynn claimed that in their haste to reach a deal with Iran, the so-called P5+1 negotiating powers — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — ignored questionable aspects of Iran’s program. The intelligence community does not have a complete picture of Iran’s installations “nor can it guarantee that we have identified all of Iran’s nuclear facilities and processes.

“Iran’s nuclear program has significant – and not fully disclosed – military dimensions. The P5+1 dialogue with Iran has glossed over a number of such programs (including warhead miniaturization blueprints) in pursuit of an agreement.”

According to Flynn, these unaddressed factors signal “the true aim” of Iran’s program, an aim he has no doubt will remain a top priority in the wake of any negotiated settlement that leaves the Iranian nuclear effort “largely intact.” He further made clear he believes Iran represents a “clear and present danger to the region, and eventually to the world.”

“The perceived acceptance of Iran’s nuclear program is likely to touch off a dangerous domino effect in the region, as other countries, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, look for strategic counterweights to the emerging Iranian bomb,” he added.

“We, the United States of America, must comprehend that evil doesn’t recognize diplomacy and nations such as Iran will still maintain the intent of achieving nuclear weapon status.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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