Israel’s Ambassador to the United States joined me this morning:
HH: Kirkuk is a city of a million. It includes Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians. And it looks like civil war is breaking out there in the neighborhood of Israel. I am joined by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. Good morning, Ambassador Dermer, thank you for joining me.
RD: Good to be with you, Hugh.
HH: This is not obviously on the border with Israel, but anything in the neighborhood has got to concern you. What is your reaction to the reports that we’ve got shooting between Iraqi and Kurdish forces this morning?
RD: Well, it’s unfortunate. I can only tell your listeners that the Kurds are a very pro-American population, and also very pro-American government. And I hope they get the full support they need to ward off any attacks against them.
HH: Now I am reading online that some people suspect Iran has orchestrated this in response to the United States’ decertification of the so-called deal with Iran. Do you put any merit to those reports, Ambassador Dermer, that Iran is pushing the Iraqi government to engage in Kurdistan, retaliation because of the Iran deal decertification?
RD: No, no, I’m quite confident that that’s not the case. I am confident that Iran is behind this with Shia militias in Iraq. But I don’t think it had anything to do with President Trump’s decision not to certify the Iran deal. Don’t forget, Iran has been working throughout the region – in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen, and elsewhere for years right now. So this is nothing that’s new. What was new is on Friday, when President Trump gave a speech that hopefully will change the whole trajectory of not only the U.S. relationship with Iran, but the international community’s relationship with Iran, and switch that from a policy essentially of containment to contain a nuclear-armed Iran and at best try to postpone that for a few years, but basically accept the fact that Iran will be a nuclear power, to one of prevention, which once was the policy of the United States, and was changed a few years ago. And I think that President Trump made a very, very important speech, even a historic speech on Friday to go back to a policy of prevention. That’s good for Israel. It’s good for the region. That’s why the Arab states came and supported it. And it’s good for the national security interests of the United States.
HH: It’s good for the world as well. The Iran deal, the so-called deal, is sort of a reverse Louisiana Purchase. It’s the worst deal in American history. And McMaster, General McMaster went on Fox News yesterday and I quote, the IRG is on a murderous rampage. Now that’s about as blunt as you get, Ambassador Dermer, but nobody picked up on it, and they seem to ignore the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force portion of it are all, they are always abroad, as the Athenians were in the days leading up to the Peloponnesian War. They’re always pushing somewhere.
RD: That’s right. And you can see their aggression over the last few years. Look, I don’t think people understand exactly what the nuclear deal did. What it was and what it did, essentially, it put everyone on cruise control toward a cliff, because in a few years, as you know, all of these restrictions that are put in place will sunset. They will be removed in a few years, and Iran will not have to sneak in or break into the nuclear club. They can simply walk into the nuclear club. And most of the conversation over the last three or four days has been is Iran complying with the deal or not. It’s not the relevant question. That’s like saying are we still on cruise control or not. the question is are we going off a cliff, and the answer is yes. And the President took a very, very important step to say he’s not prepared to go off a cliff. He’s not prepared to accept a world where a militant Islamic regime has nuclear weapons. He’s not prepared to do that. And he’s asking allies, the Europeans, he’s asking members of Congress, to work with him to try to fix it, to steer the car in a different direction. What he said is if they’re not prepared to do it, I’m prepared to steer us away from this cliff by myself. And that’s why his action was so important and so courageous, I have to say, because he could have kicked the can down the road. He could have said you know what? We’re going to go off a cliff in eight years, nine years, ten years, that’s going to be somebody else’s problem. But he didn’t. He has seized control of this policy and shifted dramatically America’s policy vis-à-vis the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world, Iran.
HH: Ambassador Dermer, can you clarify your understanding of the deal? Ought Iran to be opening its military bases to international inspectors, because I believe they ought to be under the understanding of the deal, and they are not.
RD: There’s no question. And what Iran, actually, it hasn’t been tested, because Iran has said that it will not allow its military sites to be inspected. They’ve declared that publicly. Now the U.S. and the Europeans at the time said all sites in Iran can be open for inspection. But everyone tried to fudge over this difference and not clarify it. That’s one of the things that a fix, a quote unquote fix of the nuclear deal, can achieve. The President can go to the Europeans and say to them are you prepared to stand with the United States, that if we ask to inspect a military site, and Iran refuses, that will be a meaningful violation of the deal? Yes or no? Now the answer of the Europeans should be yes. Another thing that he can do to fix the deal is he can go to the Europeans and say are you prepared to stand with us, with the United States, and hopefully with bipartisan support in Congress, that if Iran continues to develop its ballistic missile arsenal, and they’re developing intercontinental ballistic missiles not for Israel, we’re on the same continent as Iran. They’re doing it for Europe and the United States. Are you prepared to impose crippling sanctions on Iran if they continue with their ballistic missile program, yes or no? They should say yes, because they said they were against that. They said that they’re prepared to work on it. And finally, the most important fix to the whole deal is the sunset clause. The fact that at a date certain in the future, all of these restrictions that were temporarily put in place will be automatically removed. It doesn’t matter if Iran continues its path of aggression and terror. They can be classified by the State Department as a foremost sponsor of terror in the world in a decade, and all of those nuclear restrictions will still be removed. That’s why this deal was such a bad deal at the time, and that’s why the President is right to try to fix it. And the question will be can he get support in Congress and support in Europe for addressing the issue of the sunset clause? I hope he can, because if not, then he’s going to terminate the deal himself. And I think it’s exactly the right policy, and hopefully everyone who wants a future without a nuclear armed Iran will work with the President to fix this bad deal.
HH: The difficultly of remaining focused on this, though, Mr. Ambassador, and you know, this, is that we have a Korean crisis, we have a civil war in Kirkuk, and we’ve got Hamas and the PLO proclaiming everything is just hunky dory in Gaza. So it’s very difficult to prioritize and execute. How would you lay that out in terms of prioritization and execution of American national interest from your perspective as Israel’s ambassador to the United States?
RD: Well, I think the President took the most important step in his speech on Friday. There’s been a lot of discussion about how this affects U.S. credibility. I think U.S. credibility just went way up. I mean, it certainly went up in Israel. It certainly went up in the Arab world. I guarantee you it went up in Iran, and I think it went up in North Korea, because now they know they’re dealing with a president who is not just going to go along to get along. And just because large parts of the world advocate one policy, and even people within his own administration advocate one policy. The President is going to stand up to Iran, and he’s not going to accept a deal that is a terrible deal for the United States and for the world. I think the North Koreans are thinking today that they’re dealing with a president who is quite serious, and they’d better come to the table with serious proposals, because he’s not going to accept a fiction that will simply allow them to continue to develop their nuclear weapons program.
HH: Ambassador Dermer, the Telegraph reported on October 14th, the British newspaper the Telegraph, that Iran was responsible for a cyberattack on Parliament that hit dozens of MPs, including Theresa May, and that this brute force cyberattack in June lasted more than 12 hours, compromised 90 email accounts, was originally thought to be Russian, but it’s now been determined that it was Tehran’s first significant cyberattack on the UK. What is Iran’s, if you try and explain to us without any kind of spin, what are they trying to do?
RD: Look, Iran is a radical regime that is bent on global domination. It sounds ridiculous to people, because they think how could a, it’s not such a small country. It’s actually about half the size of Europe. But how could a country like that, with the GDP that it has, think that it’s on a path to global domination? But that’s what they think. You have a bunch of fanatics who took over a great country, Iran, in 1979. It’s not the people of Iran, by the way, Hugh, that you have a problem with. It’s the government of Iran. The people of Iran are actually a real pro-American people, by and large. The government of Iran is this radical regime that wants to export their revolution first in the Middle East, and that’s why they’re waging a war against the Sunni regimes, and then around the world. They want Mecca for breakfast, and they want Jerusalem for lunch, and New York for dinner. And this regime has all sorts of crazy ideas, and they’re systematically and methodically working to advance it. And here’s something that should concern everybody. If this regime gets nuclear weapons, it’s a hinge of history for the entire world. And I think you’re going to see Iran’s aggression grow much, much greater once they have those weapons. When this deal was signed two years ago, people said it would moderate Iran. Nothing of the sort has happened. They’ve become more aggressive in Syria, more aggressive in Lebanon, more aggressive in Iraq, more aggressive in Yemen, more aggressive in Gaza. All they became is richer. And now they have billions, tens of billions, and soon hundreds of billions of dollars in order to wage their war of aggression and terrorism against the whole world. So it’s very important to first fix a deal that will allow them to walk into the nuclear club, but also to counter this aggression. And that’s what the United States is doing. It’s a much broader strategy than simply dealing with the deal itself. It also is a strategy to counter that aggression, and that’s what they did, for instance, by essentially effectively designating the IRGC a terror organization.
HH: Let’s end there with one question. I had Afshon Ostovar on my MSNBC show and here on the radio. He’s the author of Vanguard of the Imam, in order to bring attention from America to the IRG and the Quds Forces. I didn’t make that much progress, but I believe General Mattis is very cold-eyed about the IRG. So when they play the clip of the General, the secretary of Defense, on Congress saying he believes they are complying with the deal, we ought not to read into that any kind of appeasement on his part. Do you agree or disagree with me, Ron Dermer?
RD: I completely agree. I mean, I’ve been in meetings with Secretary Mattis, and I think he’s very clear about the threat that Iran poses. I think the question of complying or not complying with the deal is not relevant. It’s not a relevant question, because the great danger of this deal, and this is what the prime minister of Israel said two years ago in his speech to Congress. You can play the tape. He said the greater danger is not that Iran is going to get to a bomb by violating the deal. The greater danger is that Iran will get to the bomb by keeping the deal. And this deal does not pause or park or freeze Iran’s nuclear program. As we speak, Iran is developing its nuclear program. They are doing R&D on advanced centrifuges. They are developing their ballistic missile capacity. So under this deal, Iran has a legitimate path to becoming a nuclear power not just with one bomb or two bombs, but an entire nuclear arsenal. And if you think Iran is a problem today, you ain’t seen nothing, yet if in a decade from now they’re allowed to walk into the nuclear club. Thankfully, the President took the first step in changing that policy.
HH: Ambassador Dermer, always good to talk to you, thank you for spending the morning with me.
RD: Thank you.
End of interview.