U.S. President Barack Obama defended his high-stakes nuclear accord with Iran on Wednesday, and said without a deal there will be more risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East during.
“Without a deal,” Obama said, “there would be no limits to Iran’s nuclear program and Iran could move close to a nuclear bomb ... Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East,” Obama said during an East Room news conference.
He said that if the United States does not seize the opportunity for a deal, “future generations will judge us harshly.”
Obama is now spearheading an intense White House push to counter Republican critics in Congress and reassure nervous U.S. allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“Without a deal, the international sanctions regime will unravel, with little ability to re-impose it,” he said. “With this deal, we have the possibility to peacefully resolve a major threat to regional and international security.”
Obama said there would have been a risk of more fighting in the Middle East without a deal and that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs “in the most volatile region in the world.”
He warned that the deal shouldn’t be allowed to “slip away” because the opportunity “may not come again in our lifetime.”
He said the deal cuts off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapons program.
Meanwhile, Obama said: “Even with this deal, we will continue to have profound differences with Iran” with respect to “its support of terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East.”
He added: “Iran still poses challenges to our interests and values.”
He said it is in national security interest of the United States to prevent Iran from sending weapons to the Lebanese Shiite movement of Hezbollah or the Yemeni militia Houthi group.
Obama expects Congress debate
Obama said he expects a robust debate in Congress over the deal, which he said cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapons program.
Under the agreement, 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 program that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.
Obama has run into a storm of accusations from Republican lawmakers and close U.S. ally Israel that he gave away too much to Tehran.
Critics say the deal contains loopholes, especially in inspection procedures that Iran could exploit, and will provide Tehran with an infusion of unfrozen assets to fund its proxies in sectarian conflicts ranging from Syria to Iraq to Yemen.
Obama has vowed to veto any effort to block the deal and though he faces a tough challenge in the Republican-controlled Congress he is expected to prevail.
(With Reuters)SHOW MORE