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CIA director warns Trump it would be the 'height of folly' to scrap the Iran deal

 (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)
(Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)

In an unusual public warning, the head of the CIA said Wednesday it would be the “height of folly” and “disastrous” for President-elect Donald Trump to scrap the Iran nuclear deal.

CIA Director John Brennan said in a TV interview that ripping up the historic accord could allow Iran to resume its nuclear program and set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to acquire their own nuclear weapons.

“I think it would be disastrous” for the incoming Trump administration to renege on the deal with Iran, Brennan said in an unusually blunt interview with BBC.

“It could lead to a weapons program inside Iran that could lead other states in the region to embark on their own programs, so I think it would be height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement,” Brennan said.

It is extremely rare for the CIA director to issue a public warning to an incoming administration, and it suggests deep concern inside the intelligence community about Trump's intentions. 

During the campaign, Trump variously promised to dismantle or to revise President Obama's signature foreign policy achievement, an international deal that cut off Iran's ability to build or acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for easing of sanctions on its finances and oil industry. 

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Trump’s pick to replace Brennan as CIA director, also has been a vocal critic of the deal.

“I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” Pompeo wrote Nov. 17 on Twitter.

After meeting Trump at the White House after the election, Obama said they had discussed the Iran deal and that he hoped it would survive intact, noting that the United States would be acting alone if it sought to impose new sanctions.

The five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany negotiated the deal in 2015, and the U.N. later voted to enforce it. Implementation began in January, and no evidence has emerged to indicate Iran is violating its side of the agreement.

Obama administration officials want to brief Trump and his top advisors on classified details and assessments of the Iran deal, including monitoring systems put in place to verify Iranian compliance.

So far, Trump’s transition team has delayed receiving more than a handful of in-depth intelligence briefings.

“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,” Brennan told the BBC.

“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,” Brennan said.

Robert M. Gates, a former CIA chief and secretary of Defense, also called for preserving the nuclear deal.

“It would be a mistake to tear up the agreement at this point," Gates said in an interview on "CBS This Morning." "I think we would be the ones isolated, not the Iranians, because none of our partners who helped to negotiate that would walk away from it. But I think what the new president can do is push back against the Iranians."

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