TEL AVIV — CNN’s Chris Cuomo conducted a largely belligerent interview with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his New Day program on Tuesday in which the CNN host repeatedly interrupted and spoke over the Israeli leader, going so far as to confront Netanyahu about Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal.
During the interview, Cuomo suggested that the international nuclear accord with Iran is “better than nothing” and charged that Netanyahu’s speech yesterday revealing a secretive Iranian nuclear weapons archive “has been described as an unusually theatrical display for you.”
Yet Cuomo may have betrayed his own grasp of the subject matter when he tried to state the long form name for the international nuclear watchdog that reports to the United Nations, referring to the agency as “the IAEA, the International era – whatever.”
Clearly struggling to recall the full name, Cuomo looked down at his desk, likely at a piece of paper.
His co-host, Alisyn Camerota, chimed in to try to help him out. “The Atomic,” Camerota stated.
Cuomo then stated, “The Atomic Energy Agency. OK, they’re the watchdog that’s supposed to be doing the monitoring under the 2015 deal.”
The full name is actually the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Cuomo’s mishaps didn’t end there. About two minutes into the interview, Cuomo mistakenly referred to Iran as Israel.
“Even the U.S. statement from the White House changed from “has” to “had,” that Israel has an active nuclear program to had. And it seems to be that the message is, we knew this already,” Coumo stated.
He clearly meant to say Iran and not Israel. The White House on Monday altered an initial statement sent out by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that Iran “has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program,” changing the word “has” to “had” in an online version of the statement.
Later on his program, Cuomo again fumbled the full name of the IAEA, stating:
Now, there is pushback to this notion. The International Atomic Agency — Energy Agency — says that there is no evidence that Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons after 2009.
During the interview, Netanyahu pushed back against a suggestion from Cuomo that Israel may be “safer” under the U.S.-brokered nuclear agreement as opposed to having no deal with Iran.
Here is a CNN transcript of that section of the interview:
CUOMO: Well, the secretary of defense right now, Mattis, said we put this deal together assuming they would try to cheat. So it wasn’t done assuming that they would change as a state actor, Iran. Nobody went into it with their eyes closed to that, you know, that reality. But it’s better than nothing, right? If there were no deal in place right now, you would have no idea what was going on.
NETANYAHU: No, I disagree — I disagree with that.
CUOMO: And how would that make Israel safe? If by all accounts Iran has slowed or stopped what it was doing prior to the deal —
NETANYAHU: I disagree with that.
CUOMO: How would you be safer without a deal?
NETANYAHU: There are many premises that are incorrect in your — in your statement.
NETANYAHU: The first is, we’d be better off — we’re better off because we have this deal. No, you’re not, because this deal — the fact that you have a dangerous deal, the fact that Iran is keeping or not violating a dangerous deal doesn’t make it less dangerous. It’s completely flawed. It’s based on laws. It’s based on the fact that they have the nuclear weapon program and knowledge that they stored up. They didn’t come clean with it. And it’s also based on the fact that Iran will somehow be a docile neighbor. That’s not what’s happening. The opposite has happened. I said from the start, look, if you want peace, if you want security, you should have opposed that deal as structured.
I said that. I said that Iran is not going to be more pacific, more moderate once you sign the deal. And it’s exactly what has happened. Iran has done the very opposite. It’s taken in the money, the billions, and it’s using it to conquer Yemen, to fire rockets on Saudi Arabia, to colonize Syria militarily, to arm Hezbollah with the most dangerous missiles on earth, to call for Israel’s annihilation, to spread its totalitarian wins throughout the Middle East, and to oppress its people inside Iran to boot.
So the whole premise that this deal somehow guarantees a safer, more moderate Iran is wrong. This deal paves Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. If you got rid of it, the first thing that would happen is you would crash Iran’s money machine in which its pursuing its dreams of a conquest and empire. They’re funding it with billions — tens of billions of dollars their aggression throughout the region. And this deal facilitates it. If you take away the deal, they’re going to be in a huge economic problem.
Second thing, I think you have to insist that you actually dismantle the components that allow Iran to produce an arsenal of nuclear weapons. If you don’t and you do nothing, then I predict that what you do is head right into a wall. You would head into a terrible conflict and perhaps a terrible war in which Iran would be armed with nuclear weapons. That’s bad. If you want peace, oppose this deal.
Cuomo then grilled Netanyahu on Israel’s suspected nuclear weapons arsenal. Israel is widely believed to have possessed nuclear weapons since the 1940s or 1950s. As a policy, however, the government does not acknowledge it. Israel has never threatened to use nuclear weapons, and unlike Iran’s illicit program, Israel’s suspected program of many decades never prompted a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Here is a transcript of that portion of the interview:
CUOMO: A yes-no question for you. Does Israel have nuclear capabilities and nuclear weapons? Yes or no?
NETANYAHU: We’ve always said that we won’t be the first to introduce it, so we haven’t introduced it. And I’ll tell you one thing —
CUOMO: But that’s not an answer to the question. Do you have them or do you not?
NETANYAHU: — any country. It’s as good an answer as you’re going to get.