Petraeus: Withdrawing From Iran Nuclear Deal Puts 'Greater Pressure' on Tehran

Former CIA director says he backs Trump's decision to leave accord

David Petraeus / Getty Images
June 18, 2018

Former CIA Director and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus said Sunday that he supports President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal.

Petraeus, who served as CIA chief during the Obama administration, made his comments at an event in Israel, arguing that leaving the accord puts greater pressure on Iran, the Jerusalem Post reported.

At a conference about national security and cyber issues at Tel Aviv University, Petraeus said he welcomes pulling out of the deal in order to better influence Iran—and not just regarding nuclear issues.

"[Withdrawing] will see much greater pressure on Iran, not just in areas covered by the nuclear deal, but also with regard to its missile program and Iran's malign activities … in the rest of the Middle East," Petraeus said.

Trump announced on May 8 that the U.S. would leave the nuclear deal, saying that the agreement is "defective at its core" and would lead to Iran being on the cusp of obtaining a nuclear weapon. The nuclear agreement, signed in July 2015, places restrictions on Tehran's nuclear program, many of which expire in about a decade, in exchange for large-scale sanctions relief.

After withdrawing from the deal, Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran and denounced the Islamic Republic's destabilizing activities in the Middle East.

Withdrawing from the deal led to an outcry from many observers in the media and several Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and senior officials in his administration.

Petraeus led the CIA in 2011 and 2012. He resigned in November 2012 following a scandal involving an extramarital affair.

At Sunday's event, the retired Army general was asked what pieces of advice he would give Trump regarding security issues, and he said to focus on America's critical infrastructure.

"I think I'd just limit it to one, and I would focus on the threats to America's critical infrastructure," he said. "My concern is the concept of idea of a cyber weapon of mass destruction but in the hands of an entity that's very hard to deter."

This is not the first time that Petraeus has expressed doubt about the efficacy of the Iran nuclear deal. Before Trump was elected, Petraeus said in 2015 that the deal could lead to further malign activities by Iran in the Middle East.