US President Barack Obama has issued a robust defense of the Iran nuclear deal. Obama stressed his prime concern was that Tehran should not develop nuclear weapons. He said there were two alternatives: diplomacy or war.
In his defense of the Iran deal, Obama stressed that his government still had its differences with Tehran, but said the accord offered the best path forward.
"It solves one particular problem which is making sure that they will not have a bomb," he said. "It will be a lot easier for us to check Iran's nefarious activities to push back against the other areas where they operate contrary to our interests or our allies' interests if they don't have a bomb:"
The president admitted there would be opposition to the deal in Congress, but said he hoped for a reasoned debate from lawmakers, including his Republican opponents.
"I am not betting on the Republican Party rallying behind this agreement," Obama said during a White House news conference. "I do expect the debate to be based on facts and not speculation or misinformation."
Negotiations or force
Obama also acknowledged the threat posed by Iran to Israel, in response to criticism of the deal from the Jewish state. Israel's cabinet voted unanimously to reject the deal on Wednesday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed the agreement "a historic mistake."
"We have huge differences with Iran. Israel has legitimate concerns about its security relative to Iran," said Obama. "What I've also said is all those threats are compounded if Iran gets a nuclear weapon."
"There are really only two alternatives here," said Obama. "Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through negotiation, or it is resolved through force. Through war. Those are the options."
The United States was imminently set to circulate a draft resolution on Iran to the Security Council, diplomats said on Wednesday, with a vote expected the following week. With all five veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - being party to the talks where the accord was forged, the document looks sets to be adopted.
However, the deal is likely to face opposition in the US Congress, which has 60 days to review the details. Republicans could prevent the lifting of sanctions, but Obama could veto them. Only a two-thirds majority in Congress would override the presidential veto.
Future lifting of weapons embargo
While the document envisages the lifting of sanctions enshrined in seven previous Security Council resolutions, it would leave in place a UN weapons embargo for five years, and a ban on the buying of missile technology for eight years. That part of the agreement looks likely to be a particular sticking point in Congress, with concerns that Iran might forward weapons to proxies such as Hezbollah ion Lebanon.
Iran has agreed to limit uranium enrichment and a reduction in the number of enrichment centrifuges it operates, as well opening up possibilities for the inspection of military facilities. Those concessions come in return for a lifting of many of the sanctions currently in place against the country.
Under the agreement, sanctions relief would be simultaneous with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifying "implementation of agreed nuclear-related measures by Iran."
As part of the Vienna deal, the p5+1 group of permanent Security Council members plus Germany would form a joint commission to handle complaints about breaches. Any complaint would see the sanctions re-imposed unless the Security Council decides otherwise as part of a so-called "snapback" mechanism.
rc/jil (AFP. AP, dpa, Reuters)