Petraeus still making up his mind on Iran deal

Petraeus still making up his mind on Iran deal
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Hundreds of retired military officials have come out for and against the Iran deal, but one of the most prominent armed forces experts said he is still making up his mind.

President Obama's former CIA director and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus said in an op-ed this week he still has reservations about the nuclear agreement.

"Many members of Congress continue to grapple with the nuclear deal with Iran — and so do we," Petraeus wrote in The Washington Post with another former top Mideast official, envoy Dennis Ross. 

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Petraeus and Ross were two of five former Obama officials who signed an open letter to the administration in June during negotiations criticizing the pending deal and laying out specific parameters it should include.

"We know much about the emerging agreement. Most of us would have preferred a stronger agreement," said the June 24 open letter, published by the Washington Institute. 

The letter's other signatories — State Department official Robert Einhorn, former White House official Gary Samore, and retired Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James Cartwright — have all since come out in favor of the agreement.

Petraeus and Ross, in their op-ed, said there are benefits to the deal — namely that it would block uranium enrichment, plutonium separation and covert paths to a nuclear bomb for the next 15 years.

"Compared with today, with an Iran that is three months from break-out capability and with a stockpile of 10 bombs’ worth of low-enriched uranium, there can be little doubt that a deal leaves us far better off, producing a one-year break-out time and permitting the Iranians less than one bomb’s worth of material for the next 15 years," they wrote.

They added that if Congress successfully blocks the deal, they don't believe that a better one would be negotiated.

However, they said, their main concern is that the deal places "no limits on how much the Iranians can build or expand their nuclear infrastructure after 15 years. 

"In terms of the size of its nuclear program, Iran will be treated like Japan or the Netherlands — but Iran is not Japan or the Netherlands when it comes to its behavior," they wrote.

Although Iran could change in 15 years, they added, ”we cannot count on it.”

Petraeus and Ross said the president could address their concerns by making it clear that he would use military force to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, including producing highly-enriched uranium, even after the deal ends in 15 years. 

It is "critically important for the president to state this clearly, particularly given his perceived hesitancy to use force,” they said. 

They also recommended providing Israel the 30,000-pound massive ordnance penetrator (MOP), that could destroy Iran's underground nuclear facility at Fordow, and provide Arab allies more support.

"Providing the Israelis the MOP and the means to carry it would surely enhance deterrence — and so would developing options now in advance with the Israelis and key Arab partners to counter Iran’s likely surge of support for Hezbollah and other Shiite militias after it gets sanctions relief," they said.