EPIC MELTDOWN: CNN Panel Claims Leaving Iran Deal Makes U.S. Less Safe, Gives Iran ‘Propaganda Win’

From the moment President Trump ended his remarks announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Deal, it was DEFCON-1 at CNN with panelist after panelist losing their minds over the President’s decision. One after another, they almost universally claimed that leaving the deal had left America less safe, jeopardized progress with North Korea, handed Iran a “propaganda victory,” and destroyed “international unity.”

In other words, the world’s coming to an end and the rapture’s upon us.

 

 

CNN International Christiane Amanpour got the first crack, sneering about the supposed rise of interventionists and the very sight of “John Bolton standing at the door as you saw President Trump exit” symbolizing “the regime change crew” being “back in town” and “ascended.”

Amanpour mocked the notion of the Iranian regime collapsing anytime soon at the hands of the United States and then pivoted to callously arguing that leaving the deal has left America less safe (click “expand” to see more):

I think also he said things like, you know, we will not allow American cities to be threatened. Well, that's not Iran's missile program. That's actually North Korea's missile program that can reach the United States. And he said things like we are united with our allies. Well, that is clearly not the case around this deal....It was never going to possible at the time that they negotiated that deal and finally, I think to the questions by the reported were hurled at the president as he went out, how does this make America safer? It is incredibly difficult to try to fathom that sitting from here....So how does pulling out of it make you safe while you’re trying to deal with all the other thing when you have no plan B?

She ended by arguing that, without a doubt, “it’s back to military confrontation” with Iran because “[h]ow else do you work this out?”

Host Wolf Blitzer then teed up chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto (who was not labeled a former Obama administration official) to pan the move. Sciutto suggested that the President’s rhetoric being in the present tense to describe the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons means that, if true, he’s revealed new information and that must be flushed out.

Chief political correspondent Dana Bash went next, flaunting a text from “a senior European diplomat” that claimed Trump’s speech was “a disaster.” Bash also revealed that her source was upset that the U.S. and our allies have “no leverage anymore” against the Iranians.

Most stunning was what came next in an exchange between chief political analyst Gloria Borger and former Iranian prisoner, Washington Post reporter, and CNN political analyst Jason Rezaian about this move being a resounding victory for Iran (click “expand” to see more):

BORGER: Jason, I mean, can I ask you this question?

REZAIAN: Sure. 

BORGER: I mean, doesn't this give Iran a propaganda win? 

REZAIAN: Of course. Two points that I want to make really quickly. One, the President mentioned Americans, hostages held in Iran over the years and also the hostages currently being held in North Korea. I don't see a way out for these people now. There is no more — no more mechanism to negotiate with the Iranians. 

BLITZER: You are talking about the hostages in Iran?

REZAIAN: In Iran right now. 

BLITZER: Not North Korea. 

REZAIAN: Not North Korea. The five Americans currently being held in Iran and Bob Levinson, who we haven't heard about in 11 years, these people are going to get lost in the shuffle unfortunately. Secondly, the people of Iran were supportive of this nuclear deal when it started in 2015 because of the promise of a better economy, better economic situation coming out from under the weight of sanctions. If we reimpose those sanctions right now, their situation is going to get much worse. Yesterday, the Iranian currency hit its lowest rate against the dollar in history. That's going to get even worse. So, I think the rhetoric coming out of Tehran will be very strong, but I also think there will be a lot of disappointment from the people. 

The partisanship ramped up further with former Kerry State Department aide Tony Blinken, who was beside himself over what “a gift to the hardliners” the U.S. decision was because “[w]hatever leverage we had, the President just destroyed it by blowing up international unity.”

He continued, so click “expand” to behold Blinken’s apocalyptic talk that, surprisingly, caused CNN political analyst and former Meet the Press moderator David Gregory to mock him:

It took years to put together an international coalition to exert the kind of pressure to get Iran to the table. That, in one false swoop, in ten minutes, is gone. There is going to be profound disunity, not just with the Europeans, but with the Russians, the Chinese, countries that buy oil from Iran. That means our only solution is to go after our own allies, to sanction them, to stop for doing business with Iran. So, we are actually turning this into an internal battle among the good guys instead of keeping the focus on Iran and to the extent there is a need to put pressure on Iran for all the bad things it's doing in the region and beyond, that’s gone too. 

As for what Gregory said, he blurted out “now, come on” to Blinken about the U.S. not doing business with the Europeans anymore over this deal, correctly noting that “[t]he Europeans do lots of things that are not on the side of the United States,” including “before the Iraq War where they want to do business with these countries and maybe a tougher line needs to be taken with them and maybe something else could be constructed or maybe not.”

Former Trump campaign strategist David Urban was fiercely supportive of the President’s decision, but he was outnumbered and rebuked at every turn by panelists like Blinken and Borger.

If you were watching CNN Tuesday afternoon and took them seriously, it’s okay to come out of your doomsday bunker. We’re going to be okay.

To see the relevant transcript from May 8's CNN Newsroom, click “expand.”

CNN Newsroom
May 8, 2018
2:27 p.m. Eastern

CHRISTIANE AMAPOUR: Well, I was struck by John Bolton standing at the door as you saw President Trump exit. Look, this is the regime change crew. They’re back in town. They are ascended and it sounds very much like that is what President Trump is hoping for, they can squeeze and squeeze and squeeze until the regime he described collapsed. They’ve tried it many decades and it hasn't actually worked. I think also he said things like, you know, we will not allow American cities to be threatened. Well, that's not Iran's missile program. That's actually North Korea's missile program that can reach the United States. And he said things like we are united with our allies. Well, that is clearly not the case around this deal. Of course, everybody would rather see a better, bigger, and more comprehensive deal. But the allies had ideas of trying to do add ons or the like. It was never going to possible at the time that they negotiated that deal and finally, I think to the questions by the reported were hurled at the president as he went out, how does this make America safer? It is incredibly difficult to try to fathom that sitting from here. All those thing that he laid out about the danger of Iran, about his regional ambitions about supporting terrorism and the like, how does pulling out of one deal that constrains — and it does, no matter what the President says — the deal constrains Iran's nuclear program. So how does pulling out of it make you safe while you’re trying to deal with all the other thing when you have no plan B? It's very important also to remember that it was George W. Bush, along with his regime change crew, that decided to ditch the Clinton administration's deal with North Korea in the early 2000s. What did that do? They pulled out of the MPT. They kicked out the IAEA inspectors and now they are conducting nuclear blackmail because they actually do have nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. That is a possibility going forward. That is what the President has opened the door to. Now, whether Iran decides to stay in the deal, whether Europeans can make it work but that is the worst case scenario that, you know, it's back to military confrontation. How else do you work this out?

WOLF BLITZER: Yeah, the President warning the Iranians if they were to take those steps and begin that nuclear program, engage in ballistic missiles, “they will sufficient like few nations have suffered in the past.” He made that direct threat to the Iranians. Jim Sciutto, you’ve been covering this for a long time as well. Your thoughts? 

JIM SCIUTTO: Well, the President of the remarkable things he said during that ten-minute speech, he said something about what Iran is up to regarding its nuclear program right now. He used the present tense to say that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons today. To be clear, that was not included in the global threats assessment as delivered to congress in March of this year by the President’s appointed director of national intelligence as per my own reporting, speaking with intelligence officials in the last couple of days, the Israeli intelligence he reference there had did not change the U.S. assessment. In fact, that intelligence existed a number of weeks ago. If the President is privy to new intelligence that contradicts the already public U.S. threat assessment about Iran's nuclear program, then he owes the American people an explanation as to what that information is and, in fact, the relevant committees in Congress, the Intelligence Committee, the Senate armed services committee need to call back the director of national intelligence, Dan Coates and say do you stand by what you said in March, or Secretary of State Pompeo now on his way to North Korea, does he stand by what he said in April? Because if that is true there is something new that the President knows that the people and the Congress needs to know. If not, it raises a question as to whether the President is accurately presented what U.S. intelligence is regarding — North — regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The other point I would make is this, the president said that Iran will now want to sit down at the table and negotiate a new deal. It makes the case for that. America's European partners who are party to this deal, they don't believe that's the case. I met with a senior European diplomat yesterday who said they delivered that very same message to the President, that the pressures inside and outside Iran are such that it's extremely unlikely that they would. They have got domestic political pressures. The idea of going back to the table, our European allies don't see that as a realistic option.

DANA BASH: Can I just add to that? I just was texting with a senior European diplomat who was watching the President's speech to echo what Jim just said. He called it a disaster and I said what about this notion? Could he — could this sort of, from your perspective, crazy idea that ripping it up and starting over may actually work? And the response was, how could it? We have no leverage anymore? And that this was the leverage to get to this point. Now, we have seen the so-called madmen theory at least start to make inroads in a place like North Korea and I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy, and obviously not an accident that he connected Iran to North Korea because a lot of the questioning of the President pulling out of Iran was, well, what is the signal that North Korea is going to take from this, that the U.S. doesn't stand by its deals, why would North Korea make a deal with you? And he tried to turn that on its head and I also want to say one more thing. I interviewed then-candidate Trump the day that this deal was signed in July of 2015, about a month after he announced and from that minute, without even knowing the details, he said bad idea. I should be President and I should rip it up and do it differently. He also said that the Persians are great negotiators at the time. And he stands by that. 

GLORIA BORGER: Jason, I mean, can I ask you this question?

JASON REZAIAN: Sure. 

BORGER: I mean, doesn't this give Iran a propaganda win? 

REZAIAN: Of course. Two points that I want to make really quickly. One, the President mentioned Americans, hostages held in Iran over the years and also the hostages currently being held in North Korea. I don't see a way out for these people now. There is no more — no more mechanism to negotiate with the Iranians. 

BLITZER: You are talking about the hostages in Iran?

REZAIAN: In Iran right now. 

BLITZER: Not North Korea. 

REZAIAN: Not North Korea. The five Americans currently being held in Iran and Bob Levinson, who we haven't heard about in 11 years, these people are going to get lost in the shuffle unfortunately. Secondly, the people of Iran were supportive of this nuclear deal when it started in 2015 because of the promise of a better economy, better economic situation coming out from under the weight of sanctions. If we reimpose those sanctions right now, their situation is going to get much worse. Yesterday, the Iranian currency hit its lowest rate against the dollar in history. That's going to get even worse. So, I think the rhetoric coming out of Tehran will be very strong, but I also think there will be a lot of disappointment from the people. 

TONY BLINKEN: This is a gift to the hardliners in ramble. Whatever leverage we had, the President just destroyed it by blowing up international unity. It took years to put together an international coalition to exert the kind of pressure to get Iran to the table. That, in one false swoop, in ten minutes, is gone. There is going to be profound disunity, not just with the Europeans, but with the Russians, the Chinese, countries that buy oil from Iran. That means our only solution is to go after our own allies, to sanction them, to stop for doing business with Iran. So, we are actually turning this into an internal battle among the good guys instead of keeping the focus on Iran and to the extent there is a need to put pressure on Iran for all the bad things it's doing in the region and beyond, that’s gone too. 

BLITZER: Let me get David Urban into this. I just want to point. Tony was involved in the Obama administration helping put this deal together. 

DAVID URBAN: I’ve been friends with Tony for a long time, since the senate days. Since this deal was inked, not one thing has been done to roll back the IRGC and their efforts around the world; is that correct? I mean, what are the European allies — what has anybody done to halt the proliferation of Hezbollah, Hamas, sponsoring terrorism, acting as a proxy for Iran.

BLINKEN: That's where the bigger deal comes in. 

URBAN: No, but what I’m saying is —

BLINKEN: The President had an opportunity to bring Europeans —

URBAN: Nobody has been done anything since this deal was signed. Since then, we waited and waited hoping and wishing something was going to happen and it didn't happen. I think now something will happen.

DAVID GREGORY: Can I just make a point about that? I do think one of the challenges for the President is exactly on this point, which is why not use what coalition you have to target the bad actions the support for terrorism, the support for terrorism, the destabilizing of the area? Maybe he loses an opportunity to do that now and that is a significant challenge. On the other side of this, if the President and his team believe there was an original sin here and that was the deal that you were involved with negotiating, then why not try a different course? I don't think that we should accept as fact because there has been a big disruption here that everybody walks away and goes home, that the Europeans won't do business with us. Now, come on. The Europeans do lots of things that are not on the side of the United States. They did it before the Iraq War where they want to do business with these countries and maybe a tougher line needs to be taken with them and maybe something else could be constructed or maybe not. I'm saying this is hard, and I think inside an establishment reaction to this saying oh, well wait a minute here. He has broken some China here and only a disaster follows. I don't know that that's the case or not the case, but I think his supporters, and opponents of this deal who are not all supporters of Donald Trump, may say maybe we can take a new look at this and do something different. 

BLINKEN: But, David, that's exactly what happens happening and President Macron of France came and said we can do a bigger deal and we can put more pressure on Hezbollah. We can put more pressure on the IRGC defense force. We can put more pressure on their missile tests. We’ll keep the nuclear deal in place and then we will build on that was the bigger deal that President Trump actually had a chance to leverage. That's now gone. I think he’s blown up that promise.

URBAN: But, Tony, my simple point is why hadn't that been happening since this deal started? Why did this just start — did they come to that conclusion last week?

BLINKEN: So, actually, a lot of things were happening including from us, imposing sanctions as we said from the beginning this deal. Sanctions on Iran's other nefarious activities could and would continue. The Obama administration imposed them. Actually, strangely, this administration held back on imposing them. Hard to figure out, but the bottom line is that opportunity, which you are right, David, there was an opportunity and it was moving in that direct. Now it would seem to be gone. 

GREGORY: So, what's wrong? If we know and your reporting bears this out that they have not violated the deal. Now, you could believe they’re ambling toward a nuclear program but that they have not made progress under the grip this deal. What is the basis, aside from just being opposed to it in principle, to stopping it in its tracks?

URBAN: I think it’s a basically, original sin, there is never any, you know, mind meld this was a good deal to begin with, as Dana points out, when it was inked. Look, the JCPO — JCPOA was super controversial from the get-go. I mean, go look at — you can pull the statements from Schumer, so many other Democrats, this was not widely accepted as the best solution. 

BORGER: So then why not fix it?

URBAN: Oh, I understand —

BORGER: I mean, why not — 

URBAN: — the fix it, not nix a deal.

NB Daily Foreign Policy Iran Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CNN CNN Newsroom Video Government & Press Tony Blinken Jim Sciutto Wolf Blitzer Dana Bash Gloria Borger Christiane Amanpour David Gregory Donald Trump
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