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Dick Cheney faces surprise accusation on his own foreign policy

"So in fairness, didn’t you leave President Obama with a mess?" Cheney was asked by Fox News host Chris Wallace Sunday.

Two days before he's expected to bash President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, former Vice President Dick Cheney faced the surprise accusation that his own foreign policy decisions -- and woebegone military adventures in the Middle East -- have aided the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

“You and President Bush, the Bush-Cheney administration, dealt with Iran for eight years,” Chris Wallace, the host of "Fox News Sunday," pointed out in an interview Sunday. And during that time, the host continued, “Iran went from zero known [nuclear] centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000.”

Related: Cheney is still convinced he was right about Iraq

The Fox News host flashed that data on screen so no one could miss it, and added: “So in fairness, didn’t you leave — the Bush-Cheney administration — leave President Obama with a mess?” 

“Well, I don’t think of it that way,” Cheney countered. “In fact, there was military action that had an impact on the Iranians. It was when we took down Saddam Hussein. There was a period of time when they stopped their program because they were scared that what we did to Saddam, we were going to do to them next.”

“But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed.

“Well, they may well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney replied.

“No, no, no,” Wallace said. “By 2009, they were at 5,000.”

“Right,” said Cheney, who seemed to be losing air from somewhere in his lower back. “But I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East.”

On Tuesday, September 8, the former vice president will give a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran and its implications for U.S. security. The speech, which comes a week before the September 17 deadline for Congressional approval or disapproval of the deal, is expected to be a full-throated assault on Obama’s foreign policy.

Last month, he told Fox’s Sean Hannity that the Iran deal “put us closer to use — actual use of nuclear weapons than we’ve been at any time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.” And in a new book, co-authored with his daughter Liz, Cheney argues that the Obama administration’s work will “guarantee an Iranian nuclear arsenal.”

Many of the Republican presidential hopefuls have been equally caustic when it comes to Obama’s foreign policy. But Cheney, at least for now, refused to toss darts or deliver laurels on any of them, least of all Donald Trump.

“I don’t know the man personally,” he told Wallace of Trump. “I’m not getting into the business of getting into a dustup with any of our candidates,” he added. “I’m not going to judge any of the candidates until we get further down the road.”