The director of the CIA has warned US President-elect Donald Trump that ending the Iran nuclear deal would be “disastrous” and “the height of folly”.
In a BBC interview, John Brennan also advised the new president to be wary of Russia’s promises, blaming Moscow for much of the suffering in Syria.
In his campaign, Mr Trump threatened to scrap the Iran deal and also hinted at working more closely with Russia.
Mr Brennan will step down in January after four years leading the CIA.
In the first interview by a CIA director with the British media, John Brennan outlined a number of areas where he said the new administration needed to act with “prudence and discipline” – these included the language used regarding terrorism, relations with Russia, the Iran nuclear deal and the way in which the CIA’s own covert capabilities were employed.
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Russia’s role in Syria
Mr Brennan offered a bleak assessment of the situation in Syria arguing that both the Syrian regime and the Russians were responsible for a slaughter of civilians which he described as “outrageous”.
The administration of President Barack Obama has pursued a policy of supporting moderate rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria. The CIA director said that he believed the US needed to continue that support to help rebels withstand what he called an “onslaught” carried out by Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.
Russia continued to hold the key to Syria’s future, he said, but he expressed scepticism about its willingness to come to any kind of deal. He said Moscow had been “disingenuous” in their negotiating tactics, seeking to draw the process out in order to “choke” Aleppo.
“I do not have confidence that the Russians are going to relent until they are able to achieve as much tactical battlefield successes as possible,” he said.
The incoming Trump administration has suggested it may try to work more closely with Russia on a number of issues.
“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” Mr Brennan told the BBC, arguing Moscow had failed to deliver in the past.
Hacking the US election
On the role of Russia in trying to influence the US election by hacking and releasing information, the CIA director confirmed Russia had sought to carry out such activity but said he would defer to domestic counterparts as to the impact.
He did confirm that he had conversations with his Russian opposite numbers to challenge them over these actions and warn them that they would backfire.
The US should not “stoop to their level” or risk escalation by responding in kind to Russian hacking, but he said there were other ways of ensuring Russia understood such activity was unacceptable.