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White House slams Obama, Clinton and Kerry over Iran

The unusually direct rebuke followed Obama's decision to wade back into the debate over Iran

by Jonathan Allen /
Image: U.S. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds the daily briefing at the White House in Washington
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds the daily briefing at the White House on Wednesday.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders slammed former President Barack Obama and his two secretaries of state on Wednesday over their criticism of President Donald Trump's decision to restore Iran sanctions and effectively withdraw from a nuclear deal with Tehran.

"Based on each of those individuals’ lack of success" in the foreign policy realm, Sanders said from the lectern in the White House briefing room, "they would probably be the last three people we would look to for advice and counsel."

Her comments about Obama and former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry — an atypically direct criticism of past administration officials by a current one — came a day after Obama took the rare step of condemning a move by his successor. Obama has largely steered clear of public policy debates, even as Trump has sought to dismantle most of Obama's domestic and foreign policy legacy.

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In announcing his decision to abandon sanctions waivers for companies and countries that do business with Iran on Tuesday, Trump called the original deal an "embarrassment."

"The fact is this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," he said. "It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace."

It was Clinton's State Department that first began discussing an agreement that would lift U.S. sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing its nuclear-weapons program. The deal was finalized in 2015 under Kerry, who took over two years before, at the start of Obama's second term.

After years of negotiations with Iran and several other nations, the agreement amounted to the signature foreign policy accomplishment of Obama's tenure.

"In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one administration to the next," Obama said in a statement Tuesday after Trump's announcement. "But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America's credibility, and puts us at odds with the world's major powers."

Clinton said that, following Trump's move, "our credibility is shot," while Kerry said Trump's action "weakens our security, breaks America’s word, isolates us from our European allies, puts Israel at greater risk, empowers Iran’s hardliners, and reduces our global leverage to address Tehran’s misbehavior."

In his address to the nation Tuesday, Trump pointedly noted that the pact was struck "under the previous administration" and referred to it as the "so-called Iran deal."

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