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Obama Defends Iran Nuclear Deal

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama has continued to defend the nuclear deal reached on July 14 between Iran and six worth powers, calling it "the strongest nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated."

Obama made the comments at an August 5 speech at the American University in Washington. He said the nuclear deal did not resolve all the United States' problems with the Islamic republic, "but it achieves one of our most critical security objectives."

Responding to Republican critics who on August 4 submitted a bill in the U.S. Congress rejecting the deal, Obama urged Americans to "assess the credibility of the arguments being made against diplomacy."

He noted that many Republicans announced their opposition to the deal before they had even read it.

Congress is expected to vote in September on whether to approve or disapprove of the deal. Republicans say they have enough votes against the accord to pass the legislation disapproving of it.

But the Republicans don't appear to have enough votes against the nuclear deal to override a presidential veto.

Obama warned that if Congress killed the deal, the United States would lose its credibility as "a leader of diplomacy" and "the anchor of the international system."

"Let's not mince words -- the choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war."

Obama noted that "many of the same people who argued for war in Iraq" were opposed to the nuclear agreement with Iran reached last month in Vienna.

Under the accord, Iran has agreed to significantly limit its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Obama said the United States did not have any illusions about the Iranian regime and the significance of its powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which has been accused of sponsoring terrorist organizations and proxy groups.

He said Iran could use some of its money from sanctions relief to fund "activities that we object to," but he suggested that it wouldn't be a game changer.

"The truth is Iran has always found a way to fund these efforts," Obama said.

"And whatever benefit Iran may claim from sanctions relief pales in comparison to the danger it could pose with a nuclear weapon," he added.

He said sanctions relief would not turn Iran into the region's dominant power. He noted that Iran's defense budget is one-eighth the combined budget of Washington's Persian Gulf allies.

Obama said the Republican critics of the nuclear deal had failed to provide a viable alternative.

"When we look at the argument against this deal, none of them stand up to scrutiny," he said.

Obama also noted that the only country that opposed the deal is Israel.

He reiterated his support for Israel's security and said he didn't doubt the sincerity of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been one of the staunchest and most vocal critics of the agreement.

But he said of Netanyahu, "I believe he is wrong."

Obama's speech is part of intensive efforts by the administration to rally support for the nuclear agreement. Opponents of the deal have also intensified their efforts.

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