Quitting Iran Deal a Bad Idea But Not End of World, Rice Says

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(Bloomberg) -- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal would send a message that the U.S. doesn’t stick to its commitments but wouldn’t be devastating to national security.

“I would probably stay in it because once you’re in an agreement, you don’t want to send the signal that the United States just turns its back on agreements that are there," Rice said during an interview Wednesday on Bloomberg Television’s “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations.” But, she added, it “won’t be the end of the world" if President Donald Trump withdraws from the agreement reached with Iran and six world powers, she said.

Rice, a Republican who served under Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, made her comments as the Trump administration weighs a May 12 deadline for withdrawing from or remaining in the nuclear agreement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the U.S. is considering next steps for the “flawed” deal. Trump has called the agreement “insane” and the “worst deal ever.”

While the president says no final decision has been made, the administration has in recent days signaled it’s more likely to leave the agreement, rebutting criticism that doing so would set a bad example just as the White House prepares for a summit with North Korea’s leader. Officials, including Trump, praised a presentation on Tuesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said newly obtained intelligence shows Iran lied in denying it was developing a nuclear weapons program in 1999-2003.

Netanyahu’s Documents

Rice -- who said she opposed the nuclear deal when it was reached during President Barack Obama’s administration -- echoed backers of the agreement, including Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry, in saying that the information detailed by Netanyahu either wasn’t new.

“While there was no new information in the Israeli dossier that Prime Minister Netanyahu just put out, there was information that shows a deepening concern about what the Iranians actually told the International Atomic Energy Agency at the beginning,” Rice said.

Rice, 63, who currently serves in a number of roles at Stanford University, also warned officials in the Trump administration to be wary of problems that could spring up during negotiations with North Korea over denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

The administration has “set the table pretty well" for negotiations, according to Rice, and "they’ve got a chance" to strike a deal with Kim Jong Un’s regime. But the country has a history of coming to the table when squeezed by sanctions and then not following through on actions, she added.

Rice, who was part of the national security team that responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and later advocated for the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, said she didn’t regret the decision to attack the Middle East nation, overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

"The thing I would do differently is how we rebuilt Iraq," she said. "I wish we hadn’t left in 2011."

She said she had no plans to return to government and wouldn’t run for office, even though she’s frequently been mentioned as a presidential or vice presidential candidate.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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