HASC Chair Adam Smith: Trump Is Backing Iran Into A Corner Without Any Clear Strategy Or Objective

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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith expressed confusion about several aspects of President Trump's strategy for dealing with Iran in an interview Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Smith said "it was very clear the president was legitimately torn as to what the correct approach was" in response to Iran shooting down a U.S. spy drone last week, but also said: "I think it was also clear that the administration, depending on who you talk to, there's a different policy."





"The National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has one idea of what the policy in Iran ought to be. I think the president has a different one. I think the Department of Defense has a different one as well. So they're moving towards different objectives and that, I think, leads to the tension and the sort of last-minute decision we all heard about," Smith continued.

"I think we need to take a step back here," he explained. "What is the policy? What are we trying to accomplish?"

"What's confusing to me is, when the president met with us he emphasized that the purpose of this campaign was to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Now, we've heard previously, from some other administration people, that it's about Iran's malign activity in the region and certainly there is plenty of it in Syria, in Lebanon and Yemen. But what's it about? What are you trying to accomplish? And if you don't know then what is the plan?"

"And why tear up the JCPOA?" he wondered. "I think that's the worst part... The nuclear accord. Because if your goal is to stop them from getting nuclear weapons. That agreement was working."

"So we do this maximum pressure campaign to cripple the Iranian economy to back them into a corner where our own intelligence people told us this is what Iran would do. And yet even though we knew they were going to do it we didn't know how to respond," he said. "And it's not getting them to the negotiating table. They're not there."

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Washington Congressman Adam Smith. Good morning to you, Mr. Chairman.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SMITH: Good morning. How are you?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very well. You met with President Trump before we knew he was going to carry out and then call back the strike on Iran. Were you surprised that it didn't happen?

REP. SMITH: No. I mean, based on the conversation we had, it was very clear the president was legitimately torn as to what the correct approach was in response. So it- it doesn't surprise me that he made a last second decision. I think it was also clear that the administration, depending on who you talk to, there's a different policy. I think the National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has one idea of what the policy in Iran ought to be. I think the president has a different one. I think the Department of Defense has a different one as well. So they're moving towards different objectives and that, I think, leads to the tension and the sort of last minute decision we all heard about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Cyber Command is now its own combatant command. And so, I want to know if you were in any way briefed or have any knowledge about what CBS News has confirmed, which is that President Trump authorized cyber- offensive cyber operations on Iran's missile and rocket systems -- the computers powering it.

REP. SMITH: Well, if I did I couldn't talk about it. So, the- I don't- I can't really talk about what the classified actions are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would something like that be sufficient retaliation for the downing of U.S. drone?

REP. SMITH: Well, I think we need to take a step back here to -- what is the policy? What are we trying to accomplish? I mean, we're in a conversation about what happened with the drone but the drone really was a part- was a small piece of a much larger picture and that is the maximum pressure campaign that this administration has put on Iran. And what's confusing to me is, when the president met with us he emphasized that the purpose of this campaign was to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Now, we've heard previously, from some other administration people, that it's about Iran's malign activity in the region and certainly there is plenty of it in Syria, in Lebanon and Yemen. But what's it about? What are you trying to accomplish. And if you don't know then what is the plan? The maximum pressure campaign on-

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president says he wants negotiations.

REP. SMITH: Right. But why tear up the JCPOA? And I think that's the worst part.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's the nuclear accord.

REP. SMITH: Right. The nuclear accord. Because if your goal is to stop them from getting nuclear weapons. That agreement was working. And I'll tell you based on my- what I've heard them say--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it's not now though is what the IAEA is starting to indicate that Iran is ramping up.

REP. SMITH: Because we walked away from it.

REP. SMITH: So we do this maximum pressure campaign to cripple the Iranian economy to back them into a corner where our own intelligence people told us this is what Iran would do. And yet even though we knew they were going to do it we didn't know how to respond. And it's not getting them to the negotiating table. They're not there.

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