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Ehud Barak, Israeli Hawk and No Friend of Iran, Urges Trump to Keep Nuclear Deal

WASHINGTON — Ehud Barak, the former Israeli leader known for his hawkish views on Iran, said it would be a “mistake” for President Trump to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, both because it would play to Iran’s advantage and because it would scuttle any hope of a negotiation with North Korea.

Barak, a decorated soldier who was prime minister and defense minister, is the latest and most prominent Israeli to urge Trump not to disavow the deal — a step the president is expected to take when he announces his broader strategy for dealing with Iran later this week.

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“Even if America decides to pull out of it,” Barak said in an interview on Tuesday, “no one will join — not the Chinese, not the Russians, not even the Europeans. It will serve the Iranians.”

Iran, he pointed out, is complying with the terms of the agreement. It will “continue to harvest” the economic benefits of the deal. But if Trump disavowed it, that would give the Iranians a pretext for resuming their drive toward a nuclear “breakout” capability, particularly in the latter years of the agreement, when the economic benefits are outweighed by Iran’s desire to join the club of nuclear states.

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The lessons of a broken deal will not be lost on North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, Barak said. “They will say it makes no sense negotiating with the Americans if they can pull out of a deal that has been signed, unilaterally, after a relatively short time.”

An unconstrained North Korea could impel Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons, he said. In the Middle East, Iran’s renewed drive for a bomb would pressure neighbors like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey to do likewise.

“Think what happens in the next generation if Iran turns nuclear,” he said. “It’s become almost inevitable that we are entering a totally different international landscape.”

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As Trump’s expected decision draws closer, other prominent Israelis are urging him not to decline to certify the agreement. Uzi Arad, a former top Mossad official who served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, traveled to Washington last week to lobby Republicans on Capitol Hill to preserve the agreement.

Meanwhile, Iran on Wednesday warned of a tough response if Trump presses ahead with his threats to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told lawmakers during a closed session of parliament that Iran ‘‘will never renegotiate’’ the deal brokered with the United States and five other world powers, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The nuclear agreement required Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying Iran will offer a ‘‘tougher response’’ if the United States breaks the agreement.

Trump is expected to decline this week to certify Iran’s compliance and refer the matter to Congress. He also is expected to target Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard with new sanctions. On Tuesday, the State Department offered $12 million for information leading to the location, arrest, or conviction of two senior leaders of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting that Trump’s speech will make clear ‘‘which is the rebellious government, and which is the side that violates international rules.’’

If the United States backs out of the nuclear deal, ‘‘it won’t be our failure at all, but a failure for the other side,’’ Rouhani said, according to state TV. He added that any effort to target the Revolutionary Guard would be a ‘‘double mistake.’’

‘Think what happens in the next generation if Iran turns nuclear.’

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Trump, who has called the nuclear agreement the ‘‘worst deal ever,’’ must recertify the measure by Oct. 15 because of unilateral conditions set by Congress.

British Prime Minister Theresa May meanwhile urged the United States to extend the nuclear deal, saying it is ‘‘vitally important for regional security.’’

May’s office said she and Trump spoke late Tuesday and both sides agreed their teams would remain in contact ahead of Trump’s decision on the pact.

The British government said Wednesday that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had called Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to underscore British support for the deal.

Johnson said the agreement ‘‘was the culmination of 13 years of painstaking diplomacy and has increased security, both in the region and in the UK. It is these security implications that we continue to encourage the US to consider.’’

The Foreign Office said Johnson also spoke to Zarif and would meet Ali Akhbar Salehi, Iran’s vice president and head of its nuclear agency, in London on Wednesday.

China, France, Russia, Germany, Britain, and the European Union all ratified the deal.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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