A day after Iran and six world powers announced a historic deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear capabilities, President Obama took questions from reporters to defend it from congressional critics who say the plan fails to eliminate the threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“This nuclear deal meets the national security interest of the United States and our allies,” Obama said at a press conference on Wednesday. “It prevents the most serious threat, Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would only make the other problems that Iran may cause even worse. That’s why this deal makes our country and the world safer and more secure.”
Tuesday’s announcement from Vienna follows years of diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Iran and capped off an 18 day marathon conference led by Secretary of State John Kerry to finalize the plan’s details.
The deal, which is now subject to congressional scrutiny, was met with strong condemnation from conservatives both in the United States and Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a mistake and warned lifting economic sanctions in Iran would only “fuel their terror and military machine.”
On Wednesday, Obama specifically hit back at such criticism, suggesting rejections from members of Congress were primarily focused on playing politics rather than on the national interest.
Acknowledging that “legitimate concerns” surrounding Iran remain, Obama said, “For all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu and some of the Republican leadership that has already spoken, none of them have presented to me or the American people a better alternative.”
“We don’t have diplomatic leverage to eliminate vestige of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran, but we do have the leverage to ensure they don’t have a weapon. That’s exactly what we’ve done.”
In a statement shortly after the deal’s announcement, Obama vowed to veto any legislation blocking the plan’s implementation.