A confident and combative President Barack Obama said Wednesday critics of his nuclear deal with Iran haven’t offered up a logical alternative.
“None of them have presented to me or to the American people a better alternative,” he said. “If the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through force, then those critics should say so.”
Obama said the international coalition would “unravel” if Congress overrides the deal, the United States’ prestige would diminish, and Iran could decide to go ahead and develop a bomb now.
Under the deal, Iran’s uranium stockpile shrinks 98 percent to well below the amount needed for a weapon for 15 years, with inspections continuing in perpetuity.
Addressing criticisms one by one, Obama:
Dismissed concerns about lifting the U.N.’s arms embargo after five years and its ballistic missile embargo after eight, saying there are other mechanisms that would allow the United States to protect its allies and interdict arms sent from Iran to others.
Disputed the idea that others could have negotiated a better deal, such as one eliminating every Iranian nuclear facility. “We don’t have diplomatic leverage to eliminate every vestige of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran,” he said.
Said no one had offered up a realistic alternative other than war.
Took offense at CBS News reporter Major Garrett’s question posing that he was “content” to sign the deal without the release of Americans detained in Iran and said he’s fighting every day for their release. “The notion that I am content, ... Major, that’s nonsense and you should know better. ... I’ve met with the families of those folks. Nobody’s content.” But he said it would have set a bad precedent to tie the fates of Americans held in Iran to the deal.
Acknowledged that some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire in 10 or 15 years, but said whoever is president then will still be in a better place than Obama is today because inspectors will be on the ground and Iran will still have committed to not building a weapon.
Touted that in addition to monitoring every step of the supply chain, Iran will face snapback sanctions if they cheat.
Acknowledged there are “legitimate concerns” about what Iran will do on other issues in the region, but said all of those issues would be worse if that country had a nuclear weapon instead of a deal preventing them from getting one.
Said, on the issue of Iran getting billions that could be used to finance terrorism, he didn’t think it would be a “game changer” overall and noted that Iranian leaders have promised their people a better economy.
The president, appearing feisty, also urged lawmakers to read the deal before commenting on it and seemed interested in taking on all questions on the issue — even at one point pulling out a card with talking points to make sure he’d gotten to all of them.
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