Obama Lashes Out at Nuke Critics

Admits deal won’t moderate Iran

President Barack Obama makes an opening statement during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington / AP
July 15, 2015

President Barack Obama lashed out at critics, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who argue that a recently inked nuclear agreement with Iran does little to rein in the rogue regime’s ability to construct a bomb, during a press conference Wednesday.

Asked to respond to those who have criticized the deal as dangerous for America, including members of Congress and other world leaders, Obama defended the agreement and urged those fighting against him to present a better alternative.

"I’m not concerned what others say about it," Obama told reporters.

The president also admitted that he does not expect the agreement to help to moderate Iran or dampen its support for terrorism across the globe.

"This deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior," Obama said, explaining that he hopes that it can lead to further dialogue with Iran on a range of regional issues, including the wars in Yemen and Syria.

"We’ll still have problems with Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, its funding of proxies like Hezbollah that threaten Israel and threaten the region," he said. "My hope is that building on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate in a way we expect nations in the international community to behave."

"But we’re not counting on it," he added.

Taking on his congressional critics, Obama dared them to present a deal that would be more effective in stopping Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb.

"With respect to Congress, my hope is that everyone in Congress also evaluates this agreement based on the facts, not on politics, not on posturing, not on the fact that this is a deal I bring to Congress, as opposed to a Republican president, [and] not based on lobbying, but based on what’s in the national interests of the United States of America.

"I am not betting on the Republican Party rallying behind this agreement," he admitted.

Neither those in Congress nor the Israeli prime minister—who described the deal as a "historic mistake"—have convinced Obama that a better deal is possible.

"Israel has legitimate concerns about its security relative to Iran," Obama said. "You have a large country with a significant military that has proclaimed that Israel shouldn’t exist, that has denied the Holocaust, that has financed Hezbollah, and as a consequence there are missiles pointed towards Tel Aviv."

"So I think there are very good reasons why Israelis are nervous about Iran’s position in the world in general," Obama continued. "For all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu, or for that matter, some of the Republican leadership that’s already spoken, none of them have presented to me or the American people a better alternative."

Referring to Netanyahu’s comments in particular, Obama said he had not heard a "preferred alternative" to the deal that was struck in Vienna on Tuesday.

"If 99 percent of the world community and the majority of nuclear experts look at this thing and say this will prevent Iran from getting a nuke bomb, and you are arguing either that it does not, or that even if it does, it’s temporary … you should have some alternative to present. And I haven’t heard that."

Obama issued a "challenge" to his critics to "read the agreement" and "explain specifically where they believe this agreement does not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons."

Asked whether the administration could have been tougher with Iran at the negotiating table, Obama demurred.

"There is nobody who thinks Iran would or could ever accept" a full dismantling of its nuclear infrastructure. "And the international community does not take the view that Iran cannot have a peaceful nuke program."

"So we don’t have diplomatic leverage to eliminate every vestige of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran," Obama said. "But we do have the leverage to ensure they don’t have a weapon. That’s what we’ve done."

The president also said he is not concerned about Iran’s claims it has gained a victory over the United States. Obama also is not concerned that embattled President Bashar al-Assad of Syria celebrated the deal as great for Tehran.

"It does not give me pause that Mr. Assad or others in Tehran may be trying to spin the deal in a way that they think is favorable to what their constituencies want to hear," he said. "That’s what politicians do."