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Iran is trying to expand its empire much like Hitler's Germany before World War II, former CIA Director James Woolsey said Monday, citing Tehran's moves to exert its influence in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
"They are doing it on a highly ideological basis. They never cease chanting 'Death to Israel' and 'Death to the United States,'" Woolsey said in a CNBC "Squawk Box " interview. "They are an imperial power and trying to become more of an imperial power."
Woolsey called for a halt in the six-nation nuclear talks with Iran, which include the U.S. "Given Iran's aggressiveness and the fanaticism of its leaders, I don't think we can do a reasonable deal with them. They'll cheat."
Regardless of whether an agreement can be reached to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions with verification measures, the rogue nation could have nuclear weapons capabilities in a "year or so," Woolsey said. "If we stop the talks, clamp further sanctions, introduce far more competition than exists today into the oil business ... we could slow them down."
Speculating on why the U.S. is participating, he said, "I think the president wants a good relationship with Iran and an agreement so he can claim a diplomatic victory."
Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program entered a critical phase Monday, with differences still remaining less than two days before a deadline for an agreement framework that would be the basis for a final accord to be reached by the end of June.
Woolsey is chairman of the advocacy group Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He's held presidential appointments in two Republican and two Democratic administrations, mostly recently as CIA chief under Bill Clinton.