Former Vice President Dick Cheney accused the Obama administration of giving Iran everything it needs to wage a nuclear war on the U.S.
What Cheney left out was that Iran made significant advances with its nuclear program while he was in office.
With a nuclear accord with Iran all but guaranteed to survive a challenge from congressional Republicans, Cheney escalated the blame game between President Barack Obama’s White House and some former members of President George W. Bush administration over responsibility for spiraling turmoil in the Middle East.
“This deal gives Iran the means to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland,” Cheney said. “It is madness.”
Cheney, one of the chief architects of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, said the agreement negotiated by the U.S. and five other world powers with Iran would “accelerate nuclear proliferation” in the Mideast and enable the Islamic Republic to attack the U.S. or its allies.
While criticizing Obama’s handling of Iran, Cheney has struggled to explain the advancement of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program during the Bush administration. Iran had about 6,000 uranium centrifuges installed at its Natanz nuclear research facility at the start of the Obama administration in 2009, up from zero eight years earlier, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East,” Cheney said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday,” without specifically responding to a question from host Chris Wallace about Iran’s centrifuges.
Before Cheney began speaking Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the White House sought to preempt his argument with a video, distributed via social media, of Cheney’s past statements about the Iraq war titled: “Wrong Then, Wrong Now.”
Cheney’s warnings before the invasion that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction were wrong, and since leaving office he has frequently predicted devastating attacks on the U.S. by hostile nations or terrorist groups that have never materialized.
He again defended the Iraq war on Tuesday: “To argue that we should not have gone after Saddam Hussein is to argue that he still should be in place today,” he said.
He also said the Iraq invasion led to Libya’s former dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, offering to surrender his own nuclear program.
Cheney’s speech was interrupted by a protester from Codepink, an anti-war group that protested the Iraq invasion and is planning a series of events this week in support of the Iran deal.
“Dick Cheney’s a war criminal!” a young woman shouted before she was forcibly removed from the event. “Try diplomacy not war.”
Cheney did not address the woman, only saying “thank you,” after she was escorted out by security.
Cheney’s speech on Tuesday came 13 years to the day after the New York Times reported that Iraq was trying to obtain thousands of “aluminum tubes” to construct uranium centrifuges. Cheney confirmed the report -- initially attributed to anonymous Bush administration sources -- later that day in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
Ten days later, Bush delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly labeling Iraq “a grave and gathering danger” and citing the tubes as one piece of evidence for a nuclear program.
The Iraq Survey Group, which investigated Hussein’s alleged weapons programs after the invasion, determined that the tubes were most likely intended to build conventional rockets. No evidence ever emerged that Iraq tried to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.
Obama has argued that opposition to the Iran accord has been drummed up by many of the same people who supported the ill-fated invasion of Iraq.
“VP Cheney was wrong on Iraq, and now he’s making false claims about the #IranDeal,” Eric Schultz, the White House’s deputy press secretary, said on Twitter as Cheney spoke.
Cheney’s speech comes as several presidential candidates prepare to make public statements about the Iran deal. Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is expected to join Donald Trump at a rally for opponents of the agreement on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak on the deal Wednesday.
Congress returns to Washington on Tuesday after a five-week recess and lawmakers have until Sept. 17 to act on the agreement. As of Tuesday, 41 Democrats in the Senate have announced they will support the deal when Republicans, who have majorities in the House and Senate, attempt to advance a resolution of disapproval.
The Democratic support means that if the disapproval passes, Republicans won’t have enough votes to override a promised veto by Obama. Democrats also may have sufficient votes to filibuster such a resolution in the Senate, preventing it from ever reaching the president’s desk.
It isn’t clear if all 41 senators who have said they support the deal would also support blocking a vote on the disapproval resolution.