Rogers: Kerry's 'secret' Iran talks an 'awful idea'

The chairman of the House Intelligence panel ramped up his criticism of the Obama administration's diplomacy with Iran on Thursday, saying it alienated U.S. allies and made a nuclear confrontation more likely.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) took aim in particular at Secretary of State John Kerry's back-channel talks with the Iranians through Oman over the past two years. He called the secret talks, which the administration says helped make last month's preliminary nuclear deal possible, an “awful idea.”

“Even if you like the deal — and I don't — you've created a level of suspicion now on the deal that makes our allies wary and empowers our adversary,” Rogers said at a conference sponsored by Al-Monitor and Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. “I've never seen our allies so upset. I've gotten calls from just about every ambassador in the region about how upset they were, first of all that there were secret talks.”

Rogers has a personal stake in the issue. He has complained that the White House left Congress in the dark about the secret talks. 

Rogers described the Iran talks as part of a pattern of negotiations that have left crucial allies in the dark. He said the agreement with Russia over Syria's chemical weapons program, which averted a U.S. strike in September, likewise angered many U.S. allies who have been gunning for more forceful action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. 

“The Russians cleaned up on us in exactly what we got in that particular deal,” Rogers said. “We paid a pretty heavy price with our allies for getting that deal and candidly not including our allies in the negotiations.”

The end result, according to Rogers, has been to make America less safe. He said the Iran deal failed to dismantle any of the three components to Iran's nuclear program — missile delivery, weaponization and enrichment — while beginning to unravel sanctions.

“We have upset a very delicate, long-term strategic alliance in the Middle East,” Rogers said. 

“By doing this deal that they're trying to sell as avoiding conflict, you may have actually escalated the possibility that the Israelis feel like they have to do something and … the possibility that the Saudis and others believe that they're going to have to acquire nuclear weapons in order to be, in their minds, a stabilization factor. So now we may have just tipped off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”

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