In a nearly hour-long speech on Wednesday, President Barack Obama aggressively and passionately tried to sell to the American people the recently reached deal on Iran’s nuclear program, a major cornerstone of his foreign policy legacy.
Strongly pushing back on opposition to the deal, from both Congress and Israel, Obama stressed it would make the world safer. The alternative to a deal, he said, was war.
“The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war,” Obama said. “Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.”
Speaking at American University, Obama lambasted critics of the deal who have failed in coming up to alternatives. He said that the same individuals who are opposing the deal with Iran are the same ones who rushed for war with Iraq in 2003.
“I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls as president, but whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls, it’s not even close,” Obama said.
“Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prison, evaluated by headline-grabbing soundbites, and so before the ink was even dry on this deal, before Congress even read it, a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition.”
On recess until early September, the United States Congress is expected to vote up or down on the Iran deal which would place restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of many sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
Obama sent a stern warning to politicians in Washington about the consequences of voting down the deal.
“If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear deal or the sanctions we have painstakingly built,” Obama said. “We will have lost something more precious: America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy.”
If it rejects the deal, President Obama has stated that he will veto the measure. The White House is confident that the deal with Iran will ultimately stand, as they believe they are not enough members of Congress who oppose the deal to override any veto.
Obama signaled out Israel in his speech saying that “every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support” on the Iran deal.
Obama said that while he didn’t doubt Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s sincerity in opposing the deal, “he is wrong” in regards to his position.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has launched an aggressive campaign at home and in the Untied States for politicians and citizens alike to oppose the deal. In particular, Netanyahu is trying to win over Democratic members of Congress who remain on the fence in either supporting or rejecting the agreement.
A recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found 35 percent of Americans supporting the deal, 33 percent against it and 32 percent responding that they don’t know enough to have an opinion. The poll was conducted July 26-30.
Congress has until September 17 to vote on the deal and it remains to be seen whether today’s push by Obama will sway public opinion more in his favor.
President Obama ended his speech by urging Americans to “contact your representatives in Congress” and to remind them “of what is best in us and what we stand for.”
Whether this call will move their representatives to be more inclined to vote for the deal remains to be seen.