Hailing American diplomacy and asserting that the deal struck with Iran cuts off “all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon,” President Barack Obama also sought to address Israel’s concerns over the accord.
He said the US shares the concerns of Israel and other regional allies over Iran’s support for terrorism, “but that is precisely why we are taking this step: Because an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world.”
“We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security, efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before,” Obama vowed in early morning remarks from the White House.
He said it was incumbent on the US to “continue to test whether this region, which has known so much suffering, so much bloodshed, can move in a different direction.”
“It is possible to change,” he said, castigating Iran’s hardline stance to date, including its threats to “attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel.” This approach, he said, was “a dead end.” What was needed from Iran, he said, is a “different path… This is an opportunity, and we should seize it.”
Israel’s leadership has relentlessly attacked the deal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describing it Tuesday as a “historic mistake.”
Obama said the deal “is not built on trust, it is built on verification.”
All of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon are cut off under the terms of the agreement, he said, noting that Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges and get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of uranium.
In exchange, the president said Iran will receive phased sanctions relief as it fulfills the provisions in the deal.
Obama threatened to veto any congressional legislation that would seek to block implementation of the agreement. He said that no deal “means a greater chance of more war” in the Middle East.
“No deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East,” Obama said.
Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, spoke shortly after negotiators in Vienna announced the landmark deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade in exchange for billions of dollars in international sanctions relief. The president said the agreement, hammered out through nearly two years of negotiations, would cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb and give the international community unprecedented access to the country’s nuclear facilities.
Even with the world powers in agreement, Obama now must sell the virtues of the deal to skeptical lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Congress has 60 days to assess the accord and decide whether to pursue legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran or prevent Obama from suspending existing ones.
The president renewed his vow to veto any such legislation and urged lawmakers to consider the repercussions of their actions. He painted a grim scenario in which the rest of the world struck its own nuclear deals with Iran, leaving the US isolated. And without the limitations and verifications included in the deal announced Tuesday, Obama said he or a future US president would be more likely to face a decision about using US military action to prevent Iran from building a bomb.