Former President George W. Bush reportedly delivered a broadside against his successor’s foreign policies in a closed-door meeting over the weekend, ripping the pending Iran nuclear deal in what may be his most direct criticism to date — as Washington and Tehran resume talks.
Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Monday with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York. The U.S. and five world powers are trying to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran by the end of June.
But Bush, according to a report in Bloomberg View, warned that the deal would be bad for U.S. national security. The former president, who rarely criticizes or even comments on the Obama administration in public, was speaking at a closed-door meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday in Las Vegas.
At the session, Bush reportedly warned that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appears “smooth,” but said: “You’ve got to ask yourself, is there a new policy or did they just change the spokesman?”
At the heart of the pending Iran deal is a commitment by Iran to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. But while President Obama says those sanctions could snap back if needed, Bush reportedly cast doubt on that claim.
“You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren. That’s how Americans should view the deal,” he said, according to Bloomberg.
Bush also reportedly accused Obama of putting the U.S. in “retreat” and criticized Obama’s efforts to check the rise of the Islamic State.
Bush, according to the report, criticized Obama’s decision to take all troops out of Iraq after 2011, and called ISIS Al Qaeda’s “second act.”
The comments amounted to some of the most pointed criticism of the Obama administration from Bush since the former president left office. To date, he has largely avoided commenting on the current administration — though former Vice President Dick Cheney has been outspoken in his condemnation of Obama’s national security policies.
The Iran talks, though, have generated a heated international debate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing Congress at House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation, blasted the preliminary nuclear deal before it was even announced.
Critics like Netanyahu say it does not close Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, and merely delays that possibility while giving Iran access to funding by lifting sanctions.
Proponents, though, say the framework deal is better than the alternative options — including military conflict — and would allow international inspectors to ensure Iran is living up to its end of any agreement.