Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday shrugged off the rapid growth of Iran's nuclear capacity during the Bush years, insisting that the American invasion of Iraq had curbed Iranian nuclear ambitions.
"There was military action that had an impact on the Iranians when we took down Saddam Hussein," Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday." "There was a period of time when they stopped their program because they were afraid what we did to Saddam we were going to do to them next."
The invasion of Iraq in fact deeply strengthened Iran's hand in the region, ousting a traditional enemy of Iran and installing a new government far more sympathetic to the Iranian regime. Much of Iraq has effectively functioned as a client state of Iran for years.
Fox News host Chris Wallace pointed out to Cheney that Iran had no uranium enrichment centrifuges prior to the Iraq War, but had 5,000 of them by the time Bush and Cheney left office.
Cheney waved off the statistic. "I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East," he said.
Cheney also claimed that the Iraq invasion forced Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi to dispose of his own weapons of mass destruction -- a claim that was debunked several years ago.
In 2006, Time magazine reported that Hussein's ouster nearly derailed lengthy nuclear negotiations with Gaddafi. American and British leaders had been pressing since the Clinton years to cut a deal with Gaddafi that would require him to dispose of weapons of mass destruction. When Hussein was toppled, Time reported, Gaddafi nearly walked away from the talks, concerned that diplomacy with the United States would make him look weak in the face of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke about the shortcomings of the invasion of Iraq on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
"The fact of the matter is, we did it right in the first Gulf War. We had to listen to arguments for years afterwards about, 'Why didn't you go to Baghdad?' And the 2003 war came along and you saw why you didn't want to go to Baghdad," Powell said. "We had a clear mission, clearly defined and put resources against that mission and took out the Iraqi army in Kuwait, restored the government, what we set out to do."
"Once you pull out the top of a government, unless there's a structure under it to give security and structure to the society, you can expect a mess," he added.
Cheney's comments on Iraq came amid his criticism of President Barack Obama's recent diplomatic deal that aims to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Cheney said the U.S. is a "loser" in the pact, while the Iranian regime is "the only winner."
Supporters of the pact have noted that economic sanctions against Iran have not curbed its nuclear capacities, and that other nations will not be willing to enforce economic levies against Iran if the U.S. abandons the deal. They argue that rejecting Obama's agreement would leave war as the only remaining tool to deal with a potential nuclear threat.
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