CBS Asks Iranian Official if Pompeo and Bolton Make War ‘More Likely’

In a softball exchange with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday’s Face the Nation, CBS anchor Margaret Brennan fretted that President Trump’s nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State and his appointment of former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton as National Security Advisor would “make military confrontation more likely” between the United States and Iran.

Worrying about the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, Brennan asked: “CIA Director Mike Pompeo was a very harsh critic of this deal when he was in Congress. He is very close to the President, now he’s the nominee to become Secretary of State. Do you read his nomination as a sign this deal is done?” Zarif derisively replied: “Well, every indication that the United States is sending – appointments, statements –  indicate to us and the international community that the United States is not serious about it’s international obligations.”

 

 

After wondering if the representative of brutal authoritarian regime could possibly “work with” someone like Pompeo, Brennan brought up Bolton:

Pompeo has spoken in the past about striking Iran. John Bolton, the President’s new National Security Advisor, has said the goal should be regime change in your country. Do you think that, as national security advisors, they’re going to be honest brokers with the President, presenting him with these diplomatic options?

She quickly followed up: “Are they – does this – their appointments –  make military confrontation more likely or do you still see the possibility to negotiate?”

For Brennan to suggest that U.S. government officials were the ones threatening war, while not asking a single question about Iran’s support of international terrorism was staggering. In fact, the only time the word “terrorism” was even mentioned in the lengthy interview was when Zarif absurdly claimed: “Iran has committed advisers in order to fight extremism and terrorism. We did that in Syria. We did that in Iraq. We did that in Iraqi Kurdistan. This has been a consistent policy that Iran has followed in the region.”

He was actually allowed to deliver that laughable statement without any push-back from Brennan.

Zarif’s appearance on Face the Nation was part of an American media blitz to lobby the Trump administration not to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Talking to the foreign policy publication The National Interest on Monday, he warned:

And now the United States is saying, “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is negotiable. But whatever I gave you, now I want it back.” Who would, in their right mind, deal with the U.S. anymore? This is the impact of President Trump’s policies’ long-term impact on the United States.

On Tuesday, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell eagerly cited that quote in order to urge the President to maintain the agreement. “That's a real signal about the upcoming North Korea talks,” she emphasized. One of her guests, New York Times reporter Peter Baker, agreed:

Well, I think that’s exactly right. What he’s trying to say is exactly what you said at the top, which is that, “If you blow up this deal, why should anybody else make a deal with you?,” specifically Kim Jong-un....Javad Zarif is trying to make that point to the President, “Don’t kill this deal if you really want a North Korea deal.” And his point is, “Look, you know, we had these talks, your side got some of what it wanted, my side got some of what it wanted, that’s what a deal is all about. You can’t simply tear it up again because you want more of what you wanted without giving us something more.”

Here are excerpts of Brennan’s April 22 exchange with Zarif:

10:45 AM ET

(...)

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said that if the U.S. pulls out the outcome will be “unpleasant.” What did you mean by that?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF [IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER]: It would lead to U.S. isolation in the international community. Everybody has advice, the administration, that this is not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States, and withdrawing from it would be seen by the international community as an indication that the United States is not a reliable partner.

(...)

BRENNAN: As you’ve said, the President, in your view, is unpredictable and unreliable. Are you saying no power, North Korea or anyone else, will come to an agreement with America if they break this?

ZARIF: The countries will make their own decisions. But obviously this would be very bad precedent if the United States sends this message to the international community that the length or the duration of any agreement would depend on the duration of the presidency, that would mean people will at least think twice before they start negotiating with the United States.

BRENNAN: But it sounds like –

ZARIF: Because negotiations involve give and take. And people will not be prepared to give if the take is only temporary.

BRENNAN: It sounds like you’re saying it’s President Trump’s move on this, you’re gonna see what he does on May 12th,  if he puts sanctions back on Iran, and then you’ll decide what the consequences will be.

(...)

BRENNAN: CIA Director Mike Pompeo was a very harsh critic of this deal when he was in Congress. He is very close to the President, now he’s the nominee to become Secretary of State. Do you read his nomination as a sign this deal is done?

ZARIF: Well, every indication that the United States is sending – appointments, statements –  indicate to us and the international community that the United States is not serious about it’s international obligations.

BRENNAN: Would you be able to work with him?

ZARIF: Well, as I said, the requirement for any international engagement is mutual respect. We will have to wait and see.

BRENNAN: Pompeo has spoken in the past about striking Iran. John Bolton, the President’s new National Security Advisor, has said the goal should be regime change in your country. Do you think that, as national security advisors, they’re going to be honest brokers with the President, presenting him with these diplomatic options?

ZARIF: Well, is that a diplomatic option? I think that has been –

BRENNAN: Well, that’s what I’m saying, though. Are they – does this – their appointments –  make military confrontation more likely or do you still see the possibility to negotiate?

ZARIF: Well, I think the United States has never abandoned the idea of regime change in Iran.

(...)

NB Daily Foreign Policy Iran Conservatives & Republicans CBS Face the Nation MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports Video Margaret Brennan Andrea Mitchell Peter Baker

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