Former CIA Head Leon Panetta: Iran Deal “Dangerous Gamble” Motivated By Fear

Leon Panetta at the opening of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

The Iran Nuclear Deal has been controversial to say the least, as Congress prepares to debate, and ostensibly pass, a resolution disapproving of it. Opposition to the deal is led by the Republicans who have a majority in both the House and the Senate, but some high-ranking Democrats have come out against it as well. Three Democratic Senators have publicly declared their opposition to the accord: Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Chuck Schumer of New York although it is being reported that the Senate does not have enough votes to override a Presidential veto of the disapproving resolution. Such a veto would mean that the deal would go forward and the resolution would amount to nothing more than a roll call of who was for and against, to be used in upcoming elections.

In an op-ed for the LA Times, former CIA Director Leon Panetta weighed in on the subject. Panetta served in the Obama administration as Director of the CIA from 2009 to 2011, and as Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013. Panetta, a Democrat, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993 and as President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997. With a very relevant resume such as that, his opinion is likely to carry significant weight, but whether it is enough to sway Senatorial votes remains to be seen.

His op-ed piece tries to strike a balance between the potential good of an arms deal, as a “part of a broader policy of containment,” but then goes on to list the numerous failures of foreign policy in the Middle East;

Let’s face it, given the situation in the Middle East, empowering Iran in any way seems like a dangerous gamble. Islamic State is on the march; the Arab Spring is in shreds; Syria and Yemen are failed states; Iran is supporting Syria’s Bashar Assad, Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen; the Saudis are fighting in Yemen; Egypt is fighting in the Sinai Peninsula; Hamas and Hezbollah are rearming to confront Israel; the Palestinians are languishing; Libya is fighting itself; Turkey is fighting ISIS and the Kurds.

Rather than pursuing a broad policy of containment, Mr. Panetta describes the administrations motivations as fear based.

The response of the United States to these threats is driven more by the crisis of the moment than by any overarching geopolitical or military strategy. The principal driving motivation appears to be to avoid being trapped by another war in the region.

He outlines what he considers to be crucial steps to achieving success with the Nuclear Deal, such as “Enforce the deal” which has been one of the major criticisms of the deal in the first place, poor enforcement, delayed inspections and “military sites” deemed off-limits. He also recommends that we maintain a strong military presence, something the Obama administration has been loathe to do. “Force projection by our naval, air and ground forces is vital for defending our interests,” Panetta wrote, “make it clear that force is an option.” Although he did say that it should never be the first option.

Practically every recommendation and requirement that Leon Panetta laid out has been neglected, paid lip service to or summarily ruled out by the administration. Public support for the Iran Nuclear Deal, or lack thereof, stands at roughly 2 to 1 against the deal, yet many Democrats, like the head of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have come out publicly in support of the deal. Like much of President Obama’s tenure in office, this is shaping up to be a purely partisan “accomplishment” passed by executive will and strict party line support. Though some in the party are defecting to the opposition, they party line is expected to hold up enough to stave off a veto and allow the deal to go forward, for better or worse.


About the Author

Jon Britton
Joining the U.S. Air Force right out of high school, Jon had the opportunity to experience many different parts of the world and different cultures. His post military career path, both white collar and blue collar, allowed him to work alongside both CEOs and average Joes. "Writing was never a goal or even vaguely contemplated as a career choice, it just happened, an accidental discovery of a talent and a passion." A passion that has taken him in many directions from explorations of the zombie subculture and writing zombie stories to politics and News. He is an avid "people watcher," political junkie and has a ravenous appetite for history and current events alike.