Beating Iran With Our Carrots and Ignoring Our Sticks

| General Michael Hayden
General Michael Hayden
Former Director, CIA and NSA

A bipartisan group of 115 American national security leaders, including 49 retired flag officers of the U.S. military; 19 former members of Congress and 29 former U.S. ambassadors, including five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel, issued a statement Tuesday backing the Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump has hinted he may jettison, with the backing of his incoming National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton.

Cipher Brief experts who signed the document included former CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence Gen. (ret.) Jim Clapper and former U.S. Special Operations Command chief Admiral (ret.) Eric Olson.

Hayden explains why he signed the statement, which follows below.

John Bolton will soon set up operations in the northwest corner of the West Wing as National Security Advisor. With him in place in the White House, and Mike Pompeo settling in as Secretary of State (assuming he is confirmed, as he was for his current CIA post), the stars seem to be aligning for the United States to exit the Iranian nuclear deal.

President Trump has clearly wanted to do this for some time, labeling the Iran deal, aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the worst deal ever, and the new appointments will remove some of the guard rails that previously tried to dissuade the president.

So the new appointments make leaving the deal a lot more likely. They don’t make it a good idea.

I was never a fan of the arrangement. I thought that we could have demanded a better deal, especially since Iran should have been the supplicant here, not us. They needed sanctions relief, after all. And the Obama team invoked more than one incident of bait-and-switch when selling the deal to Congress and the American people: think of abandoned or altered positions on no notice inspections, coming clean on past activities, and ballistic missiles.

Still, Iran is further away from a weapon with this agreement than they would be without it. And American intelligence is more knowledgeable about Iranian nuclear developments because of the deal and its inspection regime.

There is no doubt that Iran is a bad actor. We have tools to push back on that. Using the nuclear deal and re-imposing sanctions is like beating Iran with our carrots and ignoring our sticks. It could also prompt the Iranians to resume their nuclear program and it would no doubt isolate us from our European friends.

That’s why I signed on to the statement published below.

The Author is General Michael Hayden

General Hayden is a retired four-star General in the United States Air Force; he was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006-2009 and the Director of the National Security Agency from 1999-2005.

Learn more about The Cipher Brief's Network here.

CLICK TO ADD YOUR POINT OF VIEW

Share your point of view

Your comment will be posted pending moderator approval. No ad hominem attacks will be posted. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 Replies to “Beating Iran With Our Carrots and Ignoring Our Sticks”
  1. If we are as wrong about Iran as we were about North Korea twenty years ago, millions will die. This “deal” was easily the stupidest thing I have seen the US do in decades. We had Iran backed into a corner. And then we let them go. And paid them.

    1. When the nuclear talks with Bush started, Iran had something like 160 centrifuges. The Bush administration held out for zero enrichment and the talks want nowhere. Fast-forward to the Obama admin; when nuclear talks began in secret, Iran had over 20,000 centrifuges. If the maximalist approach was successful then why was the Islamic Republic able to increase the number of centrifuges 125X? Also, seems you forgot to add the words “back” to your “paid them” – as the money was Iran’s not the US.

  2. The 10 point argument sounds reasonable, at first. But the questions to ask are not about the promotion of diplomacy with enemies, or the maintenance of harmonious relations with European allies.
    The question to ask should be: “Does the current agreement guarantee that Iran will not acquire deliverable nuclear weapons?” The answer to that question is unquestionably: “No, it does not so guarantee!”
    That is the main criteria that should be used in deciding the wisdom of the US withdrawing from the agreement, in re-negotiating it, or in leaving it as-is.