On April 11, President Barack Obama emphasized that a nuclear deal, if finalized, is the best way to curb Iran’s nuclear program. He claimed that a majority of technical experts think that the framework announced April 2 could lead to “a realistic, plausible, meaningful approach to cut off the pathways for Iran getting a nuclear weapon, and that it is more likely to succeed not only than maintaining current sanctions or additional sanctions, but more likely to succeed than if we took a military approach to solving the problem.” The following are excerpts from his remarks to the press at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City.
April 13, 2015
Now, with respect to Iran, I have always been clear: We are not done yet. What we were able to obtain was a political framework between the P5+1 nations and Iran that provided unprecedented verification of what is taking place in Iran over the next two decades that significantly cuts back on its centrifuges, that cuts of pathways for it to obtain a nuclear weapon, and that calls for, in return, the rolling back of sanctions in a phased way that allows us to snap back if Iran violates the agreement. That’s the political framework. That was not just something that the United States and Iran agreed to, but Iran agreed to a political framework with the other P5+1 nations.
Now, what’s always been clear is, is that Iran has its own politics around this issue. They have their own hardliners. They have their own countervailing impulses in terms of whether or not to go forward with something, just as we have in our country. And so it’s not surprising to me that the Supreme Leader or a whole bunch of other people are going to try to characterize the deal in a way that protects their political position. But I know what was discussed at -- in arriving at the political agreement.
What I’ve always said, though, is that there’s the possibility of backsliding. There’s the possibility that it doesn’t get memorialized in a way that satisfies us that we’re able to verify that, in fact, Iran is not getting a nuclear weapon, and that we are preserving the capacity to snap back sanctions in the event that they are breaking any deal.
And that’s why the work is going to be so important between now and the end of June to memorialize this so that we can all examine it. And we don’t have to speculate on what the meaning of a deal is going to be. Either there’s going to be a document that Iran agrees with the world community about and a series of actions that have to be taken, or there’s not. Part of the challenge in this whole process has been opponents of basically any deal with Iran have constantly tried to characterize what the deal is without seeing it.
Now, if we are able to obtain a final deal that comports with the political agreement -- and I say “if” because that’s not yet final -- then I’m absolutely positive that that is the best way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. And that’s not my opinion; that’s the opinion of people like Ernie Moniz, my Secretary of Energy, who is a physicist from MIT and actually knows something about this stuff. That’s the opinion of a whole bunch of nuclear experts who examined the deal.
Very rarely do you see a consensus -- “consensus” is too strong a word -- a large majority of people who are experts in the field saying this is actually a realistic, plausible, meaningful approach to cut off the pathways for Iran getting a nuclear weapon, and that it is more likely to succeed not only than maintaining current sanctions or additional sanctions, but more likely to succeed than if we took a military approach to solving the problem.
Again, that’s not uniquely my opinion. That is -- talk to people who are not affiliated with the administration, some of whom were skeptical about our capacity to get a deal done and have now looked at it and said if we’re able to actually get what was discussed in the political framework, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.
Now, there’s politics and political pressure inside of the United States. We all know that. The Prime Minister of Israel is deeply opposed to it. I think he’s made that very clear. I have repeatedly asked, what is the alternative that you present that you think makes it less likely for Iran to get a nuclear weapon, and I have yet to obtain a good answer on that that.
And the narrow question that’s going to be presented next week when Congress comes back is what’s Congress’s appropriate role in looking at a final deal. And I’ve talked to not only Bob Corker, but I’ve talked to Ben Cardin, the Ranking Member on the Democratic side. And I want to work with them so that Congress can look at this deal when it’s done. What I’m concerned about is making sure that we don’t prejudge it, or those who are opposed to any deal whatsoever try to use a procedural argument essentially to screw up the possibility of a deal.
Last comment I’m going to make on this. When I hear some, like Senator McCain recently, suggest that our Secretary of State, John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran, who’s provided exemplary service to this nation, is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what’s in a political agreement than the Supreme Leader of Iran -- that’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries. And we’re seeing this again and again. We saw it with the letter by the 47 senators who communicated directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran -- the person that they say can’t be trusted at all -- warning him not to trust the United States government.
We have Mitch McConnell trying to tell the world, oh, don’t have confidence in the U.S. government’s abilities to fulfill any climate change pledge that we might make. And now we have a senator suggesting that our Secretary of State is purposely misinterpreting the deal and giving the Supreme Leader of Iran the benefit of the doubt in the interpretations.
That’s not how we’re supposed to run foreign policy, regardless of who’s President or Secretary of State. We can have arguments, and there are legitimate arguments to be had. I understand why people might be mistrustful of Iran. I understand why people might oppose the deal -- although the reason is not because this is a bad deal per se, but they just don’t trust any deal with Iran, and may prefer to take a military approach to it.
But when you start getting to the point where you are actively communicating that the United States government and our Secretary of State is somehow spinning presentations in a negotiation with a foreign power, particularly one that you say is your enemy, that’s a problem. It needs to stop.
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