CIA chief labels Iran deal critics 'disingenuous'

CIA Director John Brennan speaks at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts April 7, 2015. (Reuters / Gretchen Ertl)
Tehran’s acceptance of the provisional agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program was a pleasant surprise, and critics of it are being disingenuous, the CIA chief told a gathering at Harvard University.

I certainly am pleasantly surprised that the Iranians have agreed to so much here,” CIA Director John Brennan said, speaking about the framework understanding reached last week in Switzerland. The deal envisions Iran drastically reducing its uranium stockpile and the number of enrichment centrifuges, agreeing to an extensive inspection regime and decommissioning a plutonium reactor.

Boy, nobody ever thought they would do that at the beginning," Brennan said.

Addressing the Harvard Institute of Politics’ John F. Kennedy Forum on Wednesday, the CIA director said the framework deal was “as solid as you can get,” and offered the best way of preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons.

I must tell you the individuals who say this deal provides a pathway for Iran to a bomb are being wholly disingenuous, in my view, if they know the facts, understand what’s required for a [nuclear] program,” Brennan said.

He credited the unprecedented sanctions regime with bringing Iran to the negotiating table, but acknowledged the Iranians’ failure to get their nuclear program to work properly – blamed on the US-Israeli Stuxnet computer virus – could have been a factor as well.

I think their inability to progress certainly helped slow that program,” Brennan said.

The hour-long event was hosted by Graham Allison, a Harvard professor and former dean of the school who’s been involved in US nuclear policy since the 1960s.

Brennan’s guest appearance at Harvard appears to be part of the administration’s media blitz to defend the nuclear deal from criticism from Israel and the Congressional Republicans. While the CIA director was at Harvard, President Obama spoke with National Public Radio (NPR), expressing hope that the deal would lead to a more peaceful Iran.

Ideally, we would see a situation in which Iran, seeing sanctions reduced, would start focusing on its economy, on training its people, on reentering the world community, to lessening its provocative activities in the region,” Obama said. “But if it doesn't change, we are so much better if we have this deal in place than if we don't.”

Read More: Obama: Historic deal reached on Iran nuclear program

Asked whether his possible Republican successor could revoke the deal upon taking office, Obama said that any president ought to be mindful of “traditions and precedents of presidential power” and knowledgeable enough not to question the executive branch’s capacity to negotiate internationally.

If that starts being questioned, that's going to be a problem for our friends and that's going to embolden our enemies,” Obama told NPR.