WATCH | CIA Director John Brennan is encouraging President-elect Donald Trump not to scrap the Iran nuclear deal, saying destroying the deal could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. He also said peace in Syria will not be possible until President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power.
In an exclusive interview with Circa, Brennan spoke candidly about the controversial Iran nuclear deal the Obama administration enacted in January, saying it has slowed Iran's ability to gather the materials needed to build nuclear warheads.
"What we don't need is for that deal to be scuttled because Iran will then take steps to move in a direction of a nuclear program, and the states in the region will also take into account what they need to do, and it could lead to a nuclear arms race," Brennan said.
Not perfect, but necessary
Brennan said the deal, which has been met by formidable opposition by the incoming Trump administration, is not perfect. But he added that the agreement is necessary.
"It's not a perfect deal, but it's a very good deal in my mind because it has stopped Iran from that march," he said.
"It has also, in my mind, given the opportunity for the moderate forces inside of Iran to become more ascendant so that Iran can be a more responsible regional and international player."
I don't see any prospect for long-term peace and stability in Syria unless and until Bashar al-Assad leaves power.
Brennan said President Bashar al-Assad would not have been able to hold onto power without the military backing of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. "As long as he is president of Syria, the Syrian people... will never give up the fight to displace them because he has the blood of so many innocent men, women and children on his hands."
Syria can survive only without Assad
Brennan warned that the insurgency will continue as long as Assad remains in power.
"I'm hoping that the terrorist forces will be destroyed while those individuals, the Free Syrian Army, are going to be able to prevail ultimately, not to bring the government down, but to displace Assad," Brennan said. "He needs to leave, the government needs to stay intact."
Targeting both Assad and terrorists
Brennan said the incoming Trump administration should focus on two things: Removing Assad from power, and ridding the region of terrorist networks.
The United States should pursue "political change in Damascus where you can have a government that is going to be more representative of the people and take into account the various elements of Syrian society, while at the same time we need to have a very vigorous and rigorous counter-terrorism effort," he said.
Americans 'would be quite proud' of CIA
Brennan, of course, couldn't divulge any secrets about current operations. But he said if Americans knew what the agency personnel were doing around the world they "would be quite proud."
"We cannot talk about a lot of them, because of the nature of our work and that we need to protect the people that work for us and with us," he said.