'Romney RIGHT on Iran', 4-Star-Gen. Michael Hayden, Barack Obama, CIA, foreign policy, GOP, Iran, Islamic Republic, LIGNET, Mitt Romney, National Security, Obama unclear, Presidential Election 2012, Third Debate
By Jim Meyers and John Bachman
October 23, 2012
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden tells Newsmax that Mitt Romney was right — and President Obama wrong — when the GOP candidate said during the Monday debate that a nuclear Iran and not a terrorist attack was the biggest threat to America’s national security.
The retired 4-star Air Force General also says he is “not very hopeful” that negotiations with the Iranians will dissuade them from developing nuclear weapons. And he predicts that a President Romney would “review” Obama’s exemption of some of Iran’s major trading partners from imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Hayden served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from May 2006 until February 2009, shortly after Obama’s inauguration. He also served as Director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005, and is now on the Advisory Board of LIGNET.com, a Washington, D.C.-based intelligence analysis and forecasting service affiliated with Newsmax.
During Monday’s presidential debate, President Obama stated that the biggest national security threat was an attack by a terrorist organization, and Romney said it was a nuclear-armed Iran.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Hayden states who he thinks was right.
“I was advising the [Romney] campaign, but I did not advise the governor on this question. But I can tell you, I have been giving speeches now for three and a half years since I left the government. The general theme of the speech is what things keep you awake at night, and for three and a half years I have begun with Iran, a nuclear Iran, and pointed out that of all the things I left when I left the government, the one that has gotten increasingly dark, increasingly problematic, has been Iran.
“The governor’s choice was the one that I have been saying since I left government, and I frankly think it is the most destabilizing trend out there, should it come to fruition and the Iranians get the nuclear capability.”
The New York Times at the weekend reported that the United States may soon be in talks with Iran to slow down or stop its nuclear program. The president said last night during the debate that the report was “not true.”
Commenting on the possible negotiations, Hayden says: “If I recall, the source of the story in the Times was in the United States and not in Iran. That makes it a bit curious.
“Generally when I talk to public audiences, I say this is like one of those little white boards where you put two Venn circles on it. One Venn circle I label ‘what the Iranians are willing to give’ and the other Venn circle I usually label ‘what we in the West are willing to accept.’ I point out that I have great difficulty finding circumstances in which those two Venn circles overlap.
“I would not throw the opportunity to negotiate away, but I also would not use negotiations for an end point. I would continue the tough sanctions and even increase Iran’s diplomatic isolation. But frankly I am not very hopeful that we are going to get to where we need to be with Iran.
“I was struck yesterday that people actually asked ‘what does the deal look like’ and the president did not answer that.”
Hayden also comments on Iran’s progress on its nuclear program over the last four years.
“When we left, coming after the Bush administration four years ago, we did not leave any easy solution set for the incoming Obama team. This has been the devil’s own problem for three successive administrations.
“What I think the governor pointed out, what I know Congressman Ryan pointed out in his debate with the vice president, is granted that the sanctions are hard, granted the isolation of Iran is greater, but granted they have more centrifuges spinning now than they ever had and they have been able to produce four years’ worth of fissile material while we are lining all these things up.
“One thing that shocked me in the debate last night was a thought I believe should have been mentioned, that the goal is not to punish Iran, the goal is to make Iran change its mind. If you understand that is your goal, you are no closer to that than you were a week, a month, a year, or four years ago.
“Yes they are suffering, but they have not changed their minds. That’s the only relevant measure.”
President Obama has exempted some of Iran’s major trading partners, including China, from imposing economic sanctions on Iran.
Asked if Mitt Romney would end those exemptions if he wins the White House, Hayden responds: “I’m not in a position to predict the governor’s actions. But what I do think: Any prudent look at the sanctions would call you to review all of the exemptions that you currently allow.
“The objective here, as it was stated by the president yesterday, we have international unity and we are punishing Iran [but] every time you offer an exemption, that is not quite punishing Iran, and it is certainly not a reflection of international unity. So I would expect the governor to work long and hard at each of these.
“Back to point: They have not changed their minds yet and we need to continue to ratchet it up.
“A point that was not mentioned last night was that the severity of these sanctions is in at least some measure the product not of the executive branch, not of the president, but of the Congress. They have really held the president’s feet to the fire with regard to some of the sanctions.”
In Monday’s debate, Romney responded to Obama’s boast that under his watch Osama bin Laden has been killed and terrorist organization severely damaged. Romney said: “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.”
Hayden observes: The “can’t kill our way out of this” reference actually echoes.
“I have not shared this with the governor but that is very close to a thing I had while I was Obama’s CIA chief for the first three weeks of his administration.
“We had just had an operational success and I had briefed it at a National Security Council meeting, and after the meeting Rahm Emanuel, then Obama’s chief of staff, came over and poked me in my shoulder and said, ‘Hey, that’s a good job, Hayden thank you.’
“That one ‘thank you’ was [for] a counterterrorism success. But unless you are prepared to do this forever, you have to change the facts on the ground. That is going to require a completely different kind of effort. I think that was the thought the governor was trying to share yesterday.”
In his exclusive Newsmax interview, Hayden also discusses Romney’s handling of the Benghazi issue during the debate, America’s relationship with Israel, and Obama’s comments about the downsizing of the Navy.
And he charges that the president’s claim that he did not want to keep residual forces in Iraq after America’s withdrawal “doesn’t square with the historical record.”
Editor’s Note: See these other exclusive Newsmax stories:
- Hayden: Romney ‘Spot on’ on Iraq Policy
- Hayden: Romney Will Improve Relations with Israel
- CIA’s Hayden: Romney Was Right On Iran
- Hayden: Obama’s Military Comments Not ‘Presidential’
- Hayden on Libya: Key Question is What Happened Before Attack
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