President Barack Obama says a historic nuclear deal with Iran will allow the international community to ensure the country does not develop a nuclear weapon.
“Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off,” Obama said from the White House as negotiators in Vienna announced the deal after years of negotiations.
The deal is now subject to Congressional scrutiny and Obama, who stood with vice president Joe Biden at his side, said his administration would provide “extensive briefings” on the deal. But he warned that it was important to consider the alternative, warning that without a global agreement it could mean “more war in the Middle East.
“I believe it would be irresponsible to walk away from this deal,” Obama said. “No deal means no lasting constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.”
“This deal is not built on trust, it is built on verification,” Obama said.
Congress has 60 days to review the package and Obama vowed to veto any legislation that looks to block the deal: “We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict,” he said. “And we certainly shouldn't seek it.”
Even Democrats have voiced skepticism over the deal: Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday he would support the deal only if it “prevents every Iranian pathway to develop a nuclear weapons capability.”
Republicans have been critical of the deal, with several presidential candidates vowing to scuttle it, but Obama said it should not be “a time for posturing or politics.”
Israeli officials heatedly panned the proposal and in the U.S., Josh Block, president of the Israel Project denounced it as a “bad deal that both enriches this tyrannical regime and fails to strip Iran of nuclear weapons capability.” He charged the deal would give Iran billions in cash and sanctions relief, shred the sanctions regime and “enable the Iranians to get away with hiding the full extent of their nuclear work, infrastructure, and know-how.”
The deal would represent a major foreign policy accomplishment for Obama, who has emphasized diplomacy over military might and he said it achieves “something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change, change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure,” Obama said.
The deal was the result of 12 years of negotiations on how to allow Iran to produce nuclear power while ensuring it can’t produce a nuclear weapon. One of the biggest sticking points for the Iranians had been the lifting of a U.N. arms embargo on conventional weapons.
The talks -- which were repeatedly extended after pushing past a June 30 deadline -- were the grandchildren of negotiations started in 2003, when the United States, fearing Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapon, and the so-called EU-3 – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – answered an Iranian proposal with extreme caution.
Throughout, the overall point of the negotiations has remained the same: Find a way to allow Iran to produce nuclear energy, yet stop it from taking the next step of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. The production of nuclear power is considered the right of any nation, as long as it can be done in a safe manner.
From their first days, the negotiations were plagued by mistrust on all sides, mistrust that all sides have agreed would require an ironclad deal to overcome.
Officials in Vienna announced the deal, saying it would “positively contribute to regional and international peace and security.” The full text of the deal will be made public later today.
“It’s a good deal for all sides,” said Federica Mogherini, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif repeated her remarks, speaking in Persian.
“This is the good deal that we sought,” Secretary of State John Kerry said from Vienna.