Panetta: Countries won't trust US if Iran deal is broken

Panetta: Countries won't trust US if Iran deal is broken
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Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Monday said he is concerned that countries will not trust the word of the United States following President Trump’s announcement he would not recertify the multilateral Iran nuclear deal.

“In foreign policy, in many ways, your word counts for a lot and when you tell someone you’re going to do something, if you fail to stick to your word, it sends a clear message to others ... that you can not trust America as a partner,” Panetta said during a Hudson Institute forum in Washington.

Panetta likened Trump’s move to that of his predecessor President Obama, saying it was a mistake for Obama to draw a "red line" on chemical weapons and then not retaliate with force against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime after it used chemical attacks on Syrian civilians.

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“When those chemical attacks did take place ... the failure to actually take action at that point sent a message that we would not stand by the word on the red line. I think that had an impact in terms of credibility of the United States and the world,” Panetta said.

“I think the same thing’s happening now with the failure to abide by our word on the nuclear agreement,” he added.

Trump earlier this month announced that the Iran nuclear deal was not in the United States' national security interests and that he would not certify it, though he stopped short of withdrawing from the agreement.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout," Trump said during a speech at the White House.

The president also did not ask Congress to impose additional sanctions on Iran, which would have likely resulted in a U.S. departure from the deal.

Trump instead requested that Congress pass new goals Iran would have to achieve in order to avoid getting hit with nuclear-related sanctions in the future.

Panetta said that while he believes there are flaws with the agreement, Iran is technically abiding by it by not developing a nuclear weapon.

“I think as a result of that we ought to continue to enforce that agreement,” he said.

Panetta also expressed concern that the issue has now been thrown to lawmakers as “Congress is having a hard time sometimes finding its way to the bathroom much less dealing with issues that involve an area ... far better for the administration, for the president to deal with.”

“Congress should hopefully develop a way to increase the enforcement of that agreement ... but in the end, to make clear that we’re going to continue to enforce that agreement,” he urged.

Enforcing that agreement gives the United States “the opportunity to work with our allies and try to apply both diplomatic and economic sanctions on Iran so that they will ultimately come to the table and negotiate on these other issues,” Panetta argued.

He continued, “That’s not going to be easy, under any circumstances, but the worst thing you can do is break your word.”