Faced by inevitable criticism of the recently signed deal with Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama has written a staunch defense of the agreement.
In his piece for The Star Ledger, President Obama draws on the example set by President Kennedy during the Cold War, when he vowed to maintain peace through strong American leadership. Kennedy claimed that the way to peace was “based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions – on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.”
Op-ed sets out case for nuclear deal with Iran
Obama believes that generations of presidents have followed Kennedy’s lead, nullifying threats with international treaties rather than military action and “ultimately winning the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.” Obama claims that his administration has followed this tradition in its dealings with Iran and the threat of nuclear weapons.
He goes on to laud the fact that negotiations have led to “an arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” According to Obama the deal will ensure that Tehran cannot develop a bomb due to a comprehensive inspection and verification program.
The president later admits that the deal is not a perfect solution to ongoing issues with Iran, and he calls the ruling regime “dangerous and repressive.” Among the problems are support for terrorism, human rights abuses and threats against regional allies such as Israel, all of which need continued attention from the U.S.
Strong deal provides for “snap back” sanctions if Tehran breaks agreement
However the deal does provide a solution to a critical security concern, because the deal prohibits Iran from acquiring plutonium or enriched uranium necessary to build a nuclear weapon. In order to ensure this, inspectors have the right to monitor the entire nuclear supply chain and can visit any site in Iran that causes suspicion.
The main incentive for Iran is the lifting of economic sanctions, but Tehran will have to demonstrate its commitment to scaling back its nuclear program before that happens. Officials will have to start “removing centrifuges and getting rid of its stockpile of enriched uranium,” and if there is any sign that Tehran is attempting to renege on its side of the deal sanctions will “snap back into place.”
Obama calls the deal the “strongest non-proliferation arrangement ever negotiated,” and laments opposition from Republicans who had not even read the deal. He argues that he addressed each of their concerns in a speech earlier this month, and vows to continue to push the case for the deal in Congress.
Obama: deal will prevent another conflict in the Middle East
The president provides a stark choice for those who want to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon. In Obama’s eyes, there exists the possibility of a deal or military action. By way of illustration, he claims that while “this deal would set back Iran’s nuclear program for at least 15 years, provide unprecedented access and transparency indefinitely and permanently prohibit Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, military action would buy us a few years at best.”
This idea is consistent with Obama’s long-term policy, which he says changes the mindset that prioritizes military action and led to war in Iraq. In the interests of avoiding another costly conflict, Obama prefers to pursue diplomatic solutions. However he does admit that “if Iran does not abide by this deal, it’s possible that we won’t have any other choice than to act militarily.”
The piece is part of a campaign to drum up support for the deal among Senators. Assuming that every Republican Senator votes against the deal, Obama will need the support of 34 Senate Democrats in order to gain a presidential veto if Congress votes against the deal.
Lobbying for deal continues during Congressional recess
One high-profile Democrat, Sen. Robert Menendez, has spoken out against the deal. He is one of two Democrats who have pledged not to support the deal. On the other hand, a total of 23 Democrats have stated their support, which means that Obama needs just 11 more favorable Senators to push the deal through.
Although members of Congress have gone home for recess, and the president himself has been holidaying in Martha’s Vineyard for a large part of August, lobbying on the deal has continued. Lawmakers have been speaking out on the deal ahead of September’s vote, and Obama continues to reach out for support.
This Thursday the president sent a letter to New York Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler in defense of the deal. Critics seized on the news that Iranians would be involved in inspections of a sensitive military site, and the debate looks set to continue apace in the lead up to the vote.