Defending the deal
Iran accord is only option to avert Mideast nuclear race: Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama vigorously defended the nuclear deal with Iran on Wednesday, casting the historic accord as the only possible way to avert a war with Iran and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
A day after the U.S., Iran and world powers announced the deal, Obama said the U.S. faces a “fundamental choice” — whether or not to embrace the opportunity to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully.
His remarks appeared aimed squarely at Congress, where lawmakers are discussing legislation to try to stop the deal’s implementation.
Under the deal announced Tuesday, Iran’s nuclear program will be scaled back and closely monitored as the U.S. and world powers seek to cut off Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon. In exchange, Iran will see biting economic sanctions eventually lifted, freeing up billions of dollars in oil revenue and frozen assets.
“I expect the debate to be robust, and that’s how it should be,” Obama said, imploring lawmakers who are skeptical of the deal to “remember the alternative.”
“Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the Middle East would feel compelled to develop their own nuclear weapons,” Obama said, adding that such a chain of events would risk a nuclear arms race “in the most dangerous region in the world.”
Opponents of the deal, including Israel, have lambasted the Obama administration for granting sanctions relief to Iran while it continues to fund terrorist groups in places like Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.
But the historic engagement with Iran — a top U.S foe since the 1979 Iranian Revolution — has sparked optimism in some diplomatic circles that it could lead to a broader detente between the two countries, with the U.S. and Iran teaming up to confront mutual concerns like the Islamic State group.
U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference at the White House in Washington Wednesday.