Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden was among many slamming the Obama administration's framework for a nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday, telling Newsmax that it turns Tehran into an "industrial-strength nuclear state" that could have its own weapon within a year.
"It took us 18 months to get to the outline of a framework and now we're going to get to the fine print in what, three months?" asked Hayden, who led both the CIA and the National Security Agency. "That shows you how difficult this is.
"We have just agreed that Iran will be an industrial-strength nuclear state and that it will never be any more than one year away from having a nuclear weapon," he said.
The United States and other world powers reached a framework with Iran
on Thursday that seeks to curb Tehran's nuclear program for at least a decade. The plan comes after eight days of marathon talks in Switzerland and is incumbent on a final deal being reached by June 30.
All sanctions against Iran would remain in place pending a final deal. They would only be suspended by the U.S., the United Nations, and the European Union after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran's compliance.
In a Rose Garden speech at the White House, President Barack Obama hailed the outline as "a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives."
He compared it to nuclear arms-control agreements struck by Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan with the Soviet Union that "made our world safer" during the Cold War.
"Today, the United States, together with our allies and partners, has reached an historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Obama declared.
"The issues at stake here are bigger than politics," he said. "These are matters of war and peace, and they should be evaluated based on the facts."
In Switzerland, Secretary of State John Kerry touted the outline as "a solid foundation for the good deal we are seeking."
The framework requires Tehran to shut down more than two-thirds of its installed centrifuges capable of producing uranium that could be used to build a bomb, dismantle a reactor that could produce plutonium, and accept intrusive verification.
Much of Iran's enriched stockpiles also would be neutralized.
Obama said verification mechanisms built into the framework agreed to in Switzerland would ensure that "if Iran cheats, the world will know it."
The president had invested significant political capital in the nuclear negotiations. The talks have strained the U.S. relationship with Israel, which sees Tehran as an existential threat, and deepened tensions with Congress.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later Thursday that he voiced his "strong opposition" to the deal in a telephone call with Obama.
"A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel," he said. "Such a deal would not block Iran's path to the bomb. It would pave it."
Obama also warned Congress that tightening sanctions against Tehran before a final deal is reached could scuttle the talks.
The only alternative to the outline was to "bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, thereby starting another war in the Middle East, and setting back Iran’s program by a few years," the president said.
"If Congress kills this deal — not based on expert analysis, and without offering any reasonable alternative — then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy," he later added. "International unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen."
But Republican criticism was virulent.
House Speaker John Boehner called it "an alarming departure" from the White House's original goals.
"My longtime concerns about the parameters of this potential agreement remain, but my immediate concern is the administration signaling it will provide near-term sanctions relief," said Boehner, who talked with Obama on Thursday afternoon. "Congress must be allowed to fully review the details of any agreement before any sanctions are lifted."
The Ohio Republican led a GOP delegation to Israel, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia over the past week.
"After visiting with our partners on the ground in the Middle East this week, my concerns about Iran’s efforts to foment unrest, brutal violence, and terror have only grown," Boehner said. "It would be naïve to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear program, and any economic relief, to further destabilize the region."
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the panel would vote later this month on a resolution requiring congressional review of any Iran agreement reached by June 30.
"A nuclear-armed Iran would lead to a less safe and less secure world, which is why the stakes are so high in the pursuit of a strong agreement that is fully enforceable, verifiable, and is in our national-security interests," Corker said.
"It is important that we wait to see the specific details of today’s announcement, and … we must remain clear-eyed regarding Iran’s continued resistance to concessions, long history of covert nuclear weapons-related activities, support of terrorism, and its current role in destabilizing the region."
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed Obama's notion that no deal meant war with Tehran.
"My biggest fear is a bad deal, which makes Iran a nuclear threshold state, will lead to an arms race in the Middle East," said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "In addition, it will put our closest ally in the region, Israel, at great risk.
"The impact of a bad deal with Iran are unimaginable to our own national security, the region as a whole, and our allies," he said. "We simply cannot take President Obama’s word that it is this or war."
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who also serves on the panel, said the outline proved that "the Obama administration is willing to settle for any deal instead of prioritizing a fundamentally effective deal.
"The Iranian regime has proven their word is worth just as much as the paper it is written on and cannot be trusted to drop their nuclear weapons ambitions," he said. "This framework is undoubtedly taking several steps back in our efforts to prioritize the safety and security of the U.S., Israel, and our allies."
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, another Armed Services committee member, characterized the framework as "only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons.
"These concessions also do nothing to stop or challenge Iran’s outlaw behavior," he said. "Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. Iranian aggression is destabilizing the Middle East. And Iran continues to hold multiple Americans hostage."
Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the outline sets "ourselves on a disgraceful path.
"President Obama may continue to put his trust in a nation that has time and time again publicly stated their desire to destroy America and one of her closest allies, but I will not."
North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, another member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, slammed Obama's "victory lap before a final deal is actually reached.
"Today's framework is far too vague for the U.S. to be immediately lifting sanctions," he said. "Without question, Tehran will consider today’s agreement, which allows it to keep its underground facilities intact, a huge victory."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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