President Obama challenged his critics Wednesday with a muscular defense of his deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program, describing the deal as the only path forward to avoid a military confrontation with the Persian nation.
“No one has presented to me or the American people a better alternative,” he said, during a midday press conference in the East Room, which seemed, at times, more like a lecture than a question-and-answer session. “I am hearing a lot of talk that this is a bad deal. … What I haven’t heard is what is your preferred alternative.”
“The reason is because there are really only two alternatives here,” he continued. “Either the issue of Iran receiving a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically or it is done through force.”
He said arguments that the deal should have addressed broader concerns about Iran, including the countries human rights record and support for terrorism, “defies logic and makes no sense.” “My hope is that building on this deal we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently,” he said. “But we are not counting on it.”
The agreement reduces the current Iranian stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, restricts its acquisition of new nuclear fuel for 15 years, and restricts its own research on nuclear technologies for 10 years. In exchange, Iran is rewarded with sanctions relief that could lead to hundreds of billions in economic boost to the economy, along with an ending of a conventional weapons arms embargo against Iran in five years and an embargo against ballistic missile technology imports in 8 years, if the country continues to live up to its commitments.
Republicans in Congress have vowed to attempt to block the deal, though the president has promised to veto any effort to change details of the agreement. There is little evidence that Republicans and Democrats who oppose the deal would be able to.
“I expect the debate to be robust and that’s how it should be,” Obama said. “I’m not betting on the Republican Party rallying behind this agreement. I do expect the debate to be based on facts and not speculation. And that I welcome.”
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