Erin Burnett: Jim Sciutto, thank you very much and OutFront now David Gergen, who served as advisor to four presidents, Jen Psaki, who served as White House communications director for President Obama and was a part, with John Kerry, of this deal itself, and Mark Dubowitz, who is the CEO for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also knows a lot about this deal. The two of you know more than pretty much anybody, except for maybe Zarif and Kerry themselves. David, let me start with you, though. Was this the right move, what the president did today, going against, at least the public utterances, of his top advisors?
David Gergen: It’s a huge and dangerous gamble on the part of President Trump, he’s gambling with what may lead to conflict down the road. Erin, to me, there was a big surprise hidden in this. We understood that he was not going to certify that Iran was in compliance, and then would turn it over to congress to figure out where to go from here. Today, he really raised the bar. He said ‘I’m not only not going to certify, but I’m telling the congress and our allies unless we get a new deal, unless we go to the table and negotiate a new deal that meets my satisfaction, we’re going to terminate the deal, we’re going to terminate the deal.’ That is going to make a much tougher future for where we go from here. The United States is now solidly isolated from its friends, its allies. The other nations that have signed this deal, there are 6 other nations that have signed it, and when the UK and Germ and Fran came out and said they’re sticking with the deal they’re not sticking with the United States, it really underscored major countries, he just doesn’t have the support of major countries to go back and renegotiate this.
Erin Burnett: And Mark, that’s the crucial question, right? That people, we need to be clear here, this is not a deal between the United States and Iran, right? There are other countries involved and the deal goes on without the United States. If the US gets out, it just loses any ability to see inside Iran’s nuclear program, right? I mean, you lose leverage at this point. Forget whether you like the deal or not, it is the deal. So, what is the point?
Mark Dubowitz: Erin, I think the point is to make it very clear to the Europeans that the United States is not going to prepare to live with a deal that gives Iran patient pathways to nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, because the restrictions on the program go away over time. And I think that signal has been sent to the Europeans, which is precisely the reason why French President Emanuel Macaron has come out on three occasions and said that as long as the United States keeps the deal, France is prepared to start to examine other issues to supplement or complement the deal, including dealing with the sunset provisions, Iran’s missile program, and of course Iran’s destructive regional behavior. And so you’ve seen a shift in the French position for sure, from a position of keep it, while others have been saying nix it, to a position today where the French are saying ‘we’re prepared to fix it as long as the United States under Donald Trump is not going to nix it.’
Erin Burnett: Jen, do these other countries, is Mark accurately portraying this? That they care so much that the US stays in that they’ll do whatever Trump wants to keep the US in?
Jen Psaki: No, I think you saw pretty clear responses from a number of leaders from around the world. You also hear privately from them about their concerns, about how erratic and reckless Trump’s statements about the Iran deal have been. I think Mark touched on a key point here that is not consistent with what Trump said, which is to keep and maintain the deal. I think everybody would like to address ballistic missiles, we certainly would have in the deal, and if deal making was about getting the art of the perfect we would have. But the question is ‘are we better off without this deal or better off with the deal?’ and I think most people in the national security team in the Trump administration, leaders around the world and people in the national security community feel we’re better off with the deal, though there are some additional things we need to address separately.
Erin Burnett: Well, you just heard the chairman of the joint chiefs, Trump’s chairman, saying ‘I do believe the agreement today has delayed the development of a nuclear capability by Iran.’ I mean, Mark, that’s a pretty significant saying. So you can say, and I don’t want to relitigate the deal here itself, but whatever you want to say about it, he’s saying it has delayed the development of nuclear capability. Isn’t that what it was designed to do?
Mark Dubowitz: Well actually, you know, Jen and her team actually talked about the fact that this deal was gonna cut off all pathways to nuclear weapons and now we’re acknowledging the reality, which is it delays it and delay is important. Delay is important because it gives time for this administration to work with our allies.
Erin Burnett (talking over Jen): I think they were pretty clear it was gonna delay it, right, by the term of the deal, 10 years. I remember having Jen on and, you know, holding her feet to the fire on this repeatedly, right, that they always said delay.
Jen Psaki (talking over Erin): Mark, they were public, they were public deals.
Mark Dubowitz: Well, actually Senator Kerry actually said ‘permanently cut off pathways’ so, I mean, the fact of the matter is, again, we don’t have to relitigate this, I think the more important thing is we all agree let’s keep the deal, let’s try to strengthen the deal, let’s build consensus with our European allies. And more importantly, I think the headline of President Trump’s speech today is let’s roll out a comprehensive policy using all instruments of American power to deal with Iran’s destructive behavior outside the deal, which I know Jen and David and everybody agrees needs to be done.
Jen Psaki: But that wasn’t what he announced today. He said he would rip up the deal, he would get rid of the deal, so what he created is a very dangerous and reckless tightrope walk here that puts members of congress in a difficult spot, puts our allies and partners in a difficult spot. No one is suggesting that it’s giving us more leverage to accomplish a deal on ballistic missiles, or some of the human rights abuses that we all have concerns about.
Erin Burnett: And David, how seriously do you take the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Mr. Salehi saying that this was tantamount to a declaration of war, and by that I’m’ referring specifically not to the president’s decision about the deal itself, but his treasury labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terror organization. They’re saying that’s tantamount to war.
David Gergen: I don’t think we should take that as representing all of Iran. There are different power centers in Iran, we need to listen to all of them before we really know what direction they’re going in.
Erin Burnett: Mhm.
David Gergen: So, I don’t think we’re on the edge of war in that sense and this wasn’t a declaration of war. What I do believe is there’s this distinction and if the president had said ‘we’re going to keep the deal, but we want to launch a separate negotiation with our allies and with Iran to figure out, you know, how do we handle this when the deal expires and what do we do about Iran’s behavior in the Middle East, those are very important to us going forward,’ I think we could have all said that’s fine. But that’s not what he’s saying. As Jen pointed out, what he’s saying is ‘Unless the deal is renegotiated and we’re getting out of it, we’re terminating it, we’re throwing it away.’ And that is what scares a lot of our allies and that is what’s going to unleash Iran, not in 10-12 years, it’s going to unleash Iran very quickly.
Erin Burnett: So Jen, do you think that that’s true? That Iran would get out of this deal and get on that fast track to a nuclear bomb?
Jen Psaki: Well, I think it’s a risk. And look, the situation we have now at this point is the hope that members of Congress will find their higher power here and not be partisan and not put snapback sanctions in place, because that would be a violation of the deal and if that happens then it could be a domino effect with our partners who have been in the deal, and with Iran, and then where are we left? Not in a better negotiating position, we’re left without monitoring and verification tools, without any visibility into what Iran is doing and I don’t think that’s better than where we were a few years ago.
Erin Burnett: All right, we’re going to leave it there. Thank you all so very much.