A defiant President Barack Obama delivered his most detailed defense yet of the Iran nuclear weapons deal on Wednesday, warning that its demise would put America on the path to another war in the Middle East.
If the president wasn’t entirely convincing, he was certainly more persuasive than the critics who have launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to kill the agreement.
Obama said the vote by Congress next month is its most important foreign policy decision since the 2002 vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq. He noted that many of the same officials who pushed us into that misbegotten war are now loudly opposing the Iran deal without offering any plausible alternative short of a military strike.
“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.”
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Obama’s speech was timely.
The deal will surely be a major topic at the first Republican presidential debate Thursday night, when the candidates will be falling over themselves to bash it. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vehemently opposes the agreement, appealed to American Jews to fight it.
“I believe he is wrong,” Obama said.
He dismissed the idea that the United States can get a better deal, noting that Iran isn’t going to suddenly surrender its nuclear program. If the agreement is rejected, he said, it’s a “fantasy” to believe that our allies will continue their economic sanctions.
Obama vows to veto any measure killing the deal and is focusing on rallying enough Democrats to sustain a veto. Key Democrats came to his side this week, including several from California who are strong supporters of Israel.
“I understand and share Israel’s mistrust of Iran, and that is exactly why we need this agreement – which is not based on trust, but on an unprecedented inspection and verification regime,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank said while Congress must strengthen some provisions, the deal delays the need for military action for a decade or more.
“If Iran is determined to go nuclear, there is only one way to stop it and that is by the use of force,” he said in a statement. “But then at least, the American people and others around the world will recognize that we did everything possible to avoid war.”
That should be the bottom line for every member of Congress.