WASHINGTON – President Obama said Thursday that the tentative agreement to contain Iran’s nuclear weapons program is “a good deal,” arguing that it is the best option for heading off another war in the Middle East or a nuclear arms race in the region.
In an afternoon announcement in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said the outlined agreement would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”
“If this framework leads to a final, comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer,” Obama said. “This has been a long time coming.”
The president’s remarks followed announcements by foreign ministers in Switzerland that the ongoing talks had finally produced “the key parameters” of a long-sought deal to ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its ability to build a nuclear weapon. The breakthrough paves the way for three more months of discussions among Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., to work out the final agreement.
“It is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives,” Obama said.
One part of the deal, international inspections that Obama called “unprecedented” in their intrusiveness, means Iran will have no way of hiding any nuclear activity that falls outside the parameters of the agreement, the president said.
“If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” he said. “If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.”
The deal is, he said, “our best option by far.”
Further talks still depend to some degree on how lawmakers respond to the outline of the deal. In less than two weeks, Congress returns to Washington from a recess and plans to take up measures both to weigh in on the merits of the deal as well as to step up sanctions on Iran.
If lawmakers approve either piece of legislation and can cobble together a two-thirds majority to override a certain veto from Obama, they could upend the delicate talks.
Republicans were immediately suspicious of Thursday’s development. U.S. Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton, chairman of the house Foreign Affairs Committee, said he is worried that the deal might curb Iran’s capacity to quickly build a nuclear weapon but leave intact its ability to gradually work toward a nuclear weapon beyond the 10-year limit on nuclear activity that the final deal is expected to call for.
“If inspectors are not going to be able to go into military installations and see what is going on,” Royce told CNN, “then we face the possibility of … not a ‘breakout, but a creepout.’”
But Obama advisors say they believe the deal’s framework is strong enough to win patience from lawmakers – or at least enough support that Republicans can’t pass a veto-proof measure to have the final say on the deal.