Obama urges passage of Iran nuclear deal in US Congress
US president says deal meets America’s national security requirements, but rules out restoration of diplomacy with Iran.
US President Barack Obama has urged the opposition-led Congress to support the nuclear deal with Iran, calling the agreement “a powerful display of leadership and diplomacy” by Washington DC.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Obama said that the deal achieved the goal of cutting off “every single path” Iran has to a nuclear bomb.
“I can say with confidence, that Iran will not be in a position to develop a nuclear bomb,” he said. “Based on the facts, the majority of Congress should approve it.”
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Both the House of Representatives and the Senate branches of Congress in the US are controlled by the opposition Republican Party. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a resolution giving them authority to review the deal within the next 60 days.
Obama has been holding an intense public lobbying campaign to convince Congress to approve the deal. He has also threatened to veto any measure against the Iran deal.
He said that in the absence of a deal, the international economic sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table will unravel, and the world community will be unable to put the sanctions regime together.
“Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the Middle East would feel compelled to develop their own nuclear weapons,” Obama said, adding that such a chain of events would risk a nuclear arms race “in the most dangerous region in the world.”
Obama however ruled out the re-establishment of a formal diplomatic relationship with Iran similar to Cuba in the near future.
Later, the White House published a readout of a phone call between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the US president thanked his counterpart for supporting the deal.
“The President thanked President Putin for Russia’s important role in achieving this milestone, the culmination of nearly 20 months of intense negotiations,” the statement said.
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Earlier to Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhiani also praised the deal as a political victory of his country.
He said that the agreement meant Tehran would no longer be regarded as an international threat.
“No one can say Iran surrendered,” Rouhani said. “The deal is a legal, technical and political victory for Iran. It’s an achievement that Iran won’t be called a world threat any more.”
Under the deal, sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations will be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb.
There was a time we doubted there could be a deal. It's a historic deal and Iranians will be proud of it for generations to come
Rouhani said the deal was not “perfect” but it was necessary to compromise.
“It was really difficult to preserve some of our red lines,” he said. “There was a time we doubted there could be a deal. It’s a historic deal and Iranians will be proud of it for generations to come.”
Among Iran’s main conditions, or “red lines”, at the talks were a refusal to accept a long freeze on nuclear research and development and a demand for a rapid lifting of sanctions.
But not everyone is happy with the deal.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, criticised the deal calling the decision “a historic mistake for the world”.Addressing his country’s parliament on Wednesday, Netanyahu insisted Israel was not bound by the agreement, suggesting Israel could still take military action against Iran’s nuclear program even if the deal proceeds.
“We will reserve our right to defend ourselves against all of our enemies,” Netanyahu said. “We have strength, and it is great and mighty.”
Israeli leaders were planning what is expected to be a lobbying effort in the U.S. Congress ahead of a review of the deal, starting with a visit to the U.S. by Netanyahu’s political rival, Isaac Herzog.