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Thursday 02 February 2017
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, predicts a "sea change" for US policy toward Iran, but hopes that President Donald Trump doesn't rip up the deal entirely.
Lieberman, who is the head of an advocacy group called United Against Nuclear Iran that opposes the deal, said Trump's presidency might be a good opportunity for the US to renegotiate the 2015 agreement with Iran that places restrictions on its nuclear program for a period of time in exchange for sanctions relief.
"When it comes to Iran and relations with the United States, the Trump election represents a sea change from the Obama administration, which negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement, did everything it could to defend it and protect it, did everything it could to really encourage a certain number of banks and others to do business in Iran, to a new president who's castigated this agreement as a terrible agreement, has even threatened to tear it up," Lieberman, who spent 24 years in the Senate and chaired the Homeland Security Committee, told Business Insider in an interview last week.
Lieberman would like to see the deal renegotiated.
"Our organization … is not recommending that the president tear up the agreement, but he might as a way to renegotiate it," he said. "What we're saying is, monitor the agreement, if you find the Iranians not complying as they already have ... call them out on it, and if they don't comply, then we can break out of the agreement. But also enforce the other economic sanctions against Iran for all of its other bad behavior."
He shares Trump's view that the Obama administration negotiated a bad deal.
"The Iran nuclear agreement I felt was a very bad deal, in part because it took all this pressure that was building up on the Iranian economy and spent it for an agreement that postpones but really doesn’t stop the Iranian nuclear program," Lieberman said.
Lieberman noted that the deal didn't change much of Iran's bad behavior.
"The Iran nuclear agreement was not transformational," Lieberman said. "It didn't change the nature of this regime. It still yells 'death to America,' it still suppresses the rights of journalists, labor unions, women's groups, gay groups, etc. in Iran, and it still supports terrorism more than any other country in the world, so if that's all true, they still ought to be sanctioned economically for all that bad behavior under existing law of the United States, European countries, and the United Nations. And there might be a way for the Trump administration to bring the Iranians back to the table to negotiate a better agreement."
Trump has suggested he might try to renegotiate the Iran deal, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has insisted that his country is not open to that possibility. Trying to rework the deal "is like saying that we should turn a shirt back to cotton," Rouhani said earlier this month.
But White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said around the same time that the deal is "on life support."
"I'm not here to declare one way or the other ultimately where this is going to go," he said.