The interim nuclear deal with Iran serves the interests of the United States and its allies and was not signed merely for political expediency, US President Barack Obama said at a fundraising dinner in California Monday night.
Obama praised the deal struck over the weekend in Geneva as a major achievement, as the Iranians agreed to pause their nuclear enrichment program, reduce “to zero” the amount of 20 percent enriched uranium in their possession and allow for “unprecedented inspections, in some cases daily inspections,” thus increasing the prospect that there will be a peaceful solution to the situation.
“Now that’s the right thing to do. It’s good for the United States, it’s good for our allies, it’s good for Israel,” Obama said. “Because I’ve said, and I will repeat, that I don’t take any options off the table as commander in chief when it comes to the security of the United States or our allies.”
The $16,200-per-person fundraising event was held at the Beverly Hills home of Israeli-American media tycoon and noted Israel advocate Haim Saban. It was attended by a large number of notable Democratic Party leaders and supporters, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, actor Tom Hanks, Senator Barbara Boxer and House members Xavier Becerra, Karen Bass, Judy Chu, Anna Eshoo, Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman.
Iran and the so-called P5+1, or five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, reached an interim deal Sunday whereby Iran agreed to curb most of its nuclear activities for six months, during which the sides will negotiate a final agreement. In exchange, the West has agreed to give Tehran some relief from sanctions that have effectively crippled its economy. However, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including its ability to enrich uranium, a key step in making bombs, remains intact.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes Iran is determined to produce a nuclear bomb, harshly condemned the agreement as a “historic mistake” and said Israel was not bound by the deal.
Obama, however, insisted that this was the right move and said he was committed to doing everything possible to avoid a military confrontation.
“I’ve spent too much time at Walter Reed [army hospital] — looking at kids 22, 23, 24, 25 years old, who’ve paid the kind of price that very few of us in this room can imagine on behalf of our freedom — not to say that I’m gonna do every single thing that I can to try to resolve these issues without resorting to military conflict,” he said. “And that’s what you should expect from me as president of the United States. That’s what the times demand. This is not politics. These are not games, and the stakes are extraordinarily high.”
Decisions on going to war must be made carefully, the president reiterated. “We don’t make them based on political expedience. We make them on the basis of our judgment — my judgment — about what we need to do to make America safe, which is the single most solemn responsibility I have as president of the United States.”
Despite the weekend fanfare, administration officials said key technical details on the inspections and sanctions relief deal must still be worked out before the agreement formally takes effect. Officials said they expected to finalize those details in the coming weeks. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he expected the deal to be fully implemented by the end of January, while European Union officials said they could start easing sanctions as early as December.
With a short-term pact in place, world powers will now set about trying to negotiate a broader agreement with Iran to permanently neutralize the nuclear program and assuage international concerns. Those talks will tackle the toughest issues that have long divided Iran and the West, including whether Tehran will be allowed to enrich uranium at a low level.
Iran insists it has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and many nuclear analysts say a final deal will almost certainly leave Iran with some right to enrich. However, that’s sure to spark more discord with Israel and many US lawmakers who insist Tehran be stripped of all enrichment capabilities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.