Christie at UANI: Predicts Trump Will Scrap Iran Deal; Lieberman: Iran Deal is Dangerous

by Heather Robinson

As President Trump on Tuesday at the United Nations threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the rogue regime attacks the U.S or its allies, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, addressing attendees of the United Against Nuclear Iran Conference (UANI) in midtown Manhattan, made a bold prediction: President Trump will scrap the Iran Deal.

Though Christie qualified that “It’s always dangerous to predict what Trump will do,” he said, “I’ll be surprised if [President Trump] doesn’t de-certify the [Iran deal.]”

As the world awaits the President’s decision regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – which is the formal name for what has become known as the “Iran Deal” – which Trump has described in the past as “the worst deal ever” – it is interesting to reflect on Christie’s words yesterday. After stating the above, the New Jersey governor added, “That’s not because of anything he’s told me, just based on knowing him for 15 years. … He will not stand idly by and let the balance of power in the region shift in the direction of Iran, which is what it’s doing.”

Also addressing yesterday’s UANI summit, which took place in the ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown, were former Connecticut Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman; former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; former Florida Governor and Presidential candidate Jeb Bush; former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton; and retired General David Petraeus. As news broke of President Trump’s fiery address at the UN just a few blocks away, all the statesmen – with the exception of Richardson – offered attendees dining on sautéed shrimp, salad, and chocolate tarts qualified support for Trump’s hawkish words that morning.

After the day’s panels concluded, Sen. Lieberman sat for a one-on-one interview with me, during which he offered a thumbs up to Trump’s statements, and explained why he has zero confidence that the Iran Deal – even if the Iranian regime honors its obligations – will prevent that country from getting nuclear weapons. He also recounted the history of American diplomatic efforts to bring North Korea into compliance regarding nuclear nonproliferation. (Please see further down in this post for Lieberman’s explanation about why the Iran Deal is, in his view, so dangerous).

While speaking on a panel called “Perspectives on U.S. Foreign Policy in the Trump Administration,” Bush was asked by moderator Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC to react to Trump’s breaking remarks at the UN. Bush said, “[Iran and North Korea] are regimes that need to be called out, and President Trump is good at that. This directness is helpful… What’s needed is coherent policy to back it up.

“Too much chaos and being unreliable creates danger because our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us if we don’t have a coherent foreign policy,” he added.

But, Bush said, he takes “comfort that generals with life experience” are on hand to advise President Trump.

In his opening remarks, Lieberman said, “The idea that the agreement would transform Iran into a moderate regime has proven to be totally unreal.”

Lieberman pointed out that under the deal’s terms, “military sites can’t be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)” and so he does not have confidence that the Iranian regime is not using military sites for nuclear development.

He spoke of the “history of past partnership between Iran and North Korea” and added, “Iran can squirm around and at worst delegate its nuclear program to North Korea.” He said that “Iranian officials at the highest levels” were present in North Korea for nuclear tests that took place in 2006, 2009, and 2013, and said “cooperation is deeper and stronger than we thought” between the two rogue nations.

Lieberman added that in his view, the U.S. should be providing more support to Iranian dissidents, and compared their plight to that of refuseniks in the former Soviet Union.

Richardson, as part of a panel called “Perspectives on U.S. Foreign Policy in the Trump Administration,” said he believes the U.S. under President Trump should preserve the Iran Deal, ensuring that Iran complies with its terms. He added that the U.S. should pressure Iran for human rights reforms and to release Americans believed to be currently held captive by the Iranian government, including U.S. FBI Agent Robert Levinson, who has been missing for ten years.

Other speakers included former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and General David Petraeus.

After the panels concluded, Lieberman sat down with me one on one. I asked him his thoughts on the breaking news of what Trump had just said at the UN regarding North Korea.

“President Trump’s words were not conventional diplomatic words, [and] it would be easy to criticize, but I don’t criticize him for it because we have tried everything else [with North Korea],” Lieberman said.

Pointing out that during the 1990’s, under President Bill Clinton, the U.S. engaged in diplomatic outreach to North Korea including providing money and food aid, and that under Kim Jong-il, the North Korean regime “took the money and ran,” Lieberman said, “It’s a case where we’ve tried everything else [and] the unconventional may be worth a try.”

He elaborated, “It’s questionable how much of that food aid even went to the people of North Korea, many of whom were, and are, starving and suffering.”

Of Trump’s words, Lieberman added, “If you use strong language, you have to be able to follow through if the other side doesn’t respond.”

Lieberman reiterated his concern that, since the JCPOA does not stipulate that Iranian military sites can be inspected, he has no confidence in the “Iran Deal.”

He pointed out that since Iran’s military sites have been used for nuclear development in the past, they must be open to inspections. At present, they are not, except by a process many view as cumbersome and that takes at least 24 days. Nor is he the only one concerned; last month U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States wants inspection of Iranian military and non-military sites – a request that was dismissed by Iran as “a dream.”

“How can we have confidence the Iranians are not using [military sites] for nuclear development?” asked Lieberman. He added, “The Iranians have a bad record of cheating.”

In our one-on-one, Lieberman reiterated his point that, because of what he described as the close relationship and cooperation between Iran and North Korea “dating back to the 1980’s,” the other danger in the Iran Deal is that Iran will just use the $150 billion it received in unfrozen assets as a result of the Iran Deal, and other money it continues to accumulate, to outsource its nuclear ambitions.

“Iran has the money to pay North Korea for nuclear development and ballistic missile development,” Lieberman told me, “It’s clearer and more sinister than we thought till now.”

Attendees interviewed after the summit concurred with the assessment that the Iran Deal should be scrapped.

“Once you sign any agreement with them, you know they will increase their nuclear development,” said Larisa Voloshin, an artist and former Soviet refusenik, of Staten Island. “It’s a criminal mindset.”

Most were supportive of the speakers’ assessment of President Trump’s hawkish words.

“The important thing is the clause, ‘If the U.S. or our allies are attacked,’” said Martin Rothstein, a lawyer, of the Upper East Side. “Then there’s no half measure. In such a case, you would have to hit them quickly and render them incapable of massive retaliation.”



Heather Robinson is a regular contributor to the New York Post. Twitter @HE_Robinson

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