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Obama: Alternative to Iran nuclear deal is war

·Chief Washington Correspondent
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In an unapologetically pugnacious and partisan speech, President Obama on Wednesday sharply attacked some critics of his historic nuclear deal with Iran as deceptive war-mongers who championed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Obama accused the agreement’s Republican opponents of effectively making common cause with the Iranian hardliners who chant “Death to America” in Tehran’s streets and potentially putting the world on the path of another Middle East war.

“I know it’s easy to play in people’s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich, but none of these arguments hold up,” Obama said in a speech at American University. “They didn’t back in 2002, in 2003, they shouldn’t now.”

Obama said Americans “still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq” and underlined that “ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.”

Republicans responded angrily or dismissively, but the take-no-prisoners speech at American University highlighted a simple fact of congressional math: The White House needs only Democratic votes to save what would surely but Obama’s signature second-term foreign policy achievement. And it reflected his stated concern that enough of his allies on Capitol Hill might be going “squishy” on the agreement to endanger it when lawmakers vote in mid-September

See more: Obama pitches Iran deal as support looks ‘squishy’

Still, it was striking to hear Obama in one breath pin opposition to the deal in Congress on “kneejerk partisanship,” mock armchair nuclear scientists,” and scoff at Republicans saying the deal could have been tougher on Iran as “ignorant of Iranian society” or just deceptive or deluded.

“Those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy,” he said. “Walk away from this agreement, and you will get a better deal – for Iran.”

The agreement offers Iran some relief from crippling economic sanctions in return for steps designed to ensure that Tehran does not develop a nuclear weapon. Obama said the ban on the Islamic Republic getting an atomic arsenal would be “permanent” and backed up by intrusive inspections and monitoring. Critics charge that the agreement leaves too much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place to be sure.

Obama said walking away from the deal would leave the international sanctions regime in tatters and would ensure that he, or a future president, would be more likely to be forced to resort to military action to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“I say this not to be provocative, I am stating a fact,” he declared. “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.”

That drew an angry response from Israel, which took no formal public position on the Iraq War but lobbied against it. Its embassy in Washington called the accusation “utterly false” and “outrageous.”

While Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China back the deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been its most outspoken opponent overseas. And the potent American Israel Political Action Committee has been waging an all-out campaign to kill the agreement.

Apparently mindful of the pressure on Democrats from pro-Israel constituents, Obama acknowledged that some oppose the accord out of “a sincere affinity for our friend and ally Israel” and noted that Netanyahu “disagrees strongly” with the administration.”

“I do not doubt his sincerity, but I believe he is wrong,” Obama said. “And as president of the United States it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.”

The president’s blunt speech also drew a rebuke from a spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Cory Fritz.

“As Congress and the American people review this deal, President Obama’s rhetoric is raising far more questions than answers. Instead of offering facts and proving this deal will make America safer, the president is relying on partisan attacks, false claims, and fear,” Fritz said in a statement.

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