President Obama has made a passionate defence of the Iran nuclear deal ahead of a congressional vote which could block the agreement, which has been years in the making.
Speaking at American University Washington DC, he framed the decision as a choice between war and peace, saying “it is the most consequential foreign policy decision since Iraq war.”
He sought to cement support for the deal saying “the agreement cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb.”
Taking note of history he made reference to President Kennedy’s non-proliferation speech in 1963 made at the same location:
“52 years ago President Kennedy at the height of the Cold War addressed this same university on the subject of peace…The prospect of nuclear war was all too real…with all the threats we face today it’s hard to appreciate the threats back then.”
The deal has been largely criticised by Israel in particular by Prime Minister Netanyahu, but Obama argued it was the best way to avoid conflict with Tehran.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief. I recognise that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees, disagrees strongly, I do not doubt his sincerity. But I believe he is wrong.”
Congress has been under pressure from Israeli interest groups to reject the agreement. The Israeli Prime Minister said the decision was not about war or peace, but if congress voted to approve the deal, he said it would make war more likely by sparking a nuclear arms race.
The agreement seeks to relax sanctions on Tehran in exchange for a promise Iran will not develop nuclear weapons and submit to inspections of nuclear sites. Critics say that Iran cannot be trusted, however, supporters say that sanctions could be reimposed within a matter of days if Tehran violates the terms.
He urged Americans to contact their members of Congress to persuade them to back the deal saying, “It is surely the pursuit of peace that is most needed in this world so full of strife.”
Securing support for the deal could prove to be Obama’s most important foreign policy legacy as he heads towards the Oval Office exit.