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Robert C. O’Brien On What Real Nuclear Disarmament Deals Look Like

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My friend and law partner Robert C. O’Brien joined me on the program today to distinguish previous nuclear disarmament deals from the fiasco deal with Iran announced today:




HH: I’m joined now by Robert C. O’Brien, my law partner, one of my law partners at the law firm of Arent Fox. You can follow him on Twitter, @RobertCOBrien. But he is a declared supporter of Governor Scott Walker’s campaign for the presidency, one of his national security team. I’m, of course, neutral in that, but I did want to check in with Robert to see what Team Walker thinks of this deal. Robert O’Brien, welcome to the program.

ROB: Thank you for having me on the show again, Hugh.

HH: Okay, what’s your reaction?

ROB: Well, the Governor’s reaction, first of all, is that this may be the worst deal in American diplomatic history, and it’s hard to argue with that analysis. I agree with that, and I think most dispassionate Americans who are looking at this see this as a very, very bad deal.

HH: How do you do the quick, everything gets distilled in America down to an elevator pitch. You’ve got to either win or lose an argument in a minute. What’s the minute moment against the Iran deal?

ROB: That one’s easy, Hugh. We lose this one because Iran gets to keep their nuclear program. We had six U.N. Security Council resolutions pass saying that they could not enrich uranium. They flouted those resolutions. They breached their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They had a clandestine nuclear program. They are not dismantling that program. It’s now being legitimized. A real nuclear deal looks like the one that was done with Libya, where the U.S. went in and physically dismantled the nuclear and chemical and biological capacity of Qaddafi and flew it out on American aircraft to South Africa towards the end of the Apartheid regime when President de Klerk totally eliminated the South African nuclear capacity, and decommissioned the six nuclear weapons and shut the program down under IAEA supervision, or Ukraine. Now of course, the Ukrainians are probably regretting that decision in 1994 to declare themselves a non-nuclear state and to remove all the nuclear equipment and capability from their countries. Those are examples of good nuclear deals. This deal leaves an entire nuclear program under the control of a revolutionary Iranian regime. That’s a very bad deal.

HH: That’s the first point that Ambassador Dermer made at the beginning of the show, that the vast nuclear infrastructure of Iran is basically undismantled, though the uranium enrichment is exported. He also said it’s temporary, that they will walk into the nuclear club in ten to fifteen years. Do you agree with that, Robert O’Brien?

ROB: I absolutely agree with that. They’re going to move towards it. In fact, the agreement expires in ten years, and so that comes to the second problem for us, and that is if you’re an American ally in the region, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, you’re extraordinarily concerned. Now everyone assumes, and you know, it’s taken for granted that the Israelis have a significant nuclear capability, but Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia do not. They have no other choice, I would think at this point, but to quickly seek their own nuclear weapons capability. And I expect that we’ll see significant proliferation taking place across the Middle East, because they don’t want, the Sunni regimes do not want to be outgunned on the nuclear front by a revolutionary regime in Tehran.

HH: This is also a wing and a prayer deal. It’s sort of like hoping as a Browns fan that the Patriots won’t be any good next year, and that the Steelers and the Ravens will give up. Is there any reason to believe that this agreement advances reform within the Islamic Republic of Iran?

ROB: No, there’s no reason to. Look, this regime has been a revolutionary regime since it took power in 1979. It’s held Americans hostage, American diplomats hostage. It continues to hold Americans, including a journalist hostage, and a former Marine hostage in Iran. There’s an FBI agent that’s missing in Iran. The Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force are responsible for killing literally hundreds of Americans on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a regime that was purchasing up until last year, Czech officials just came out and said that they had blocked sales of dual use nuclear technology to Iran within the past twelve months. So there’s nothing in the actions of Iran at any point, including recently, to suggest that they have any intent on following through on a deal and becoming a true member of civilized, the group of civilized nations. They’re a revolutionary regime. They’re bent on hegemony in the Middle East, and America and Israel are their sworn enemies. That has not changed. It won’t change. The only thing that’s changed now is that their nuclear program has gone from the underground bunkers to the open. It’s legitimate, and we’re going to give them billions and billions of dollars to further that program, their weapons programs, and allow them to pump that money into their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. It couldn’t be a worse deal.

HH: The Ambassador said it’s $150 billion dollars, Robert C. O’Brien, and that doesn’t sound like a lot of money to Americans who are used to trillion dollar deficits. But in fact, it’s an enormous capitalization of terrorism.

ROB: Right, and look, there is no doubt that that money will end up in Damascus and Bashar al-Assad’s hands. It’ll end up in Beirut in Hezbollah’s hands. It’ll end up in the Gaza Strip in Hamas’ hands. It’ll end up in Yemen in the Houthis’ hands. This is, in addition to doing to the Quds Force, to the Guard, the Revolutionary Guard in Iran, to their ballistic missile program, I mean, it really recalls today, I tweeted this out, and it’s been on my mind, Churchill had a lot to say in Parliament after the Munich deal, which was a very popular deal with Neville Chamberlain came back and said we have peace in our time. Churchill was one of the few who saw through that. And what he said was, “they should know that we have sustained a defeat without war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road.” This is not over. This is just the beginning of a very, very bad stretch for America. And it’s, you know, it’s heartbreaking to have seen this happen. This is not a diplomatic triumph. And the other thing that’s really a shame is we’ve had a tradition of at least some bipartisanship when we engage in major activity overseas. There will be very few, if any, Republicans in the House and the Senate, among the major presidential candidates save potentially Rand Paul, that will do this. This will be a straight party line vote in favor of opening with Iran and giving them a nuclear capability. And it’s a shame to see that, we’ve had a bipartisan consensus on Iran for many years. President Obama has cast that aside, and that’s a shame to see as an American.

HH: Now as a practical matter, I think we can beat the deal given that it’s so bad, but that requires concentrated effort, good focus and a lot of fine optics. Senator Graham agreed with me last hour the Senate should cancel its recess, should stay there and act like this is a Munich moment, because it’s awfully hard to persuade America that the time is urgent and the deal is a disaster if you go on vacation. Senator Thune kind of agreed with me, but he didn’t really. These Senators really like their vacation, Robert C. O’Brien. You know what Washington’s like in August. Nobody wants to be there. But if it truly is this bad, shouldn’t everyone stay on deck working?

ROB: Everyone should stay on deck. This is the type of moment for which you’re elected to be a United States Senator. If you don’t want to stay in August as a United States Senator to vote on this, you know, major diplomatic initiative of the Obama administration that most of the Americans don’t trust, which is a very deal for America, if you’re not willing to stay in August and try and stop this deal, I’m not, you know, I don’t want to go too far. I don’t know what Leader McConnell has to say.

HH: Yeah, you’ve got to act as…

ROB: But I would think if I was in the Senate, I’d want to stay there night and day fighting this thing, August, December, I don’t care what holiday is up. It’s important for the Senate to be in session. It’s important for the House to be there. There is a chance to shut this down if Democrats who can’t be thrilled with this, this deal, are willing to buck party discipline and buck their president and do something that would be good for America, and that is to shut this deal down.

HH: If they hear from everybody, but you need like a magnifying glass focus the energy and start the fire. Robert C. O’Brien, thank you for joining me. Follow him on Twitter, @RobertCOBrien.

End of interview.


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