WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama warned on Wednesday that “some form of war” would be inevitable if Congress blocks the Iran nuclear deal next month.
In a policy speech at the American University, Washington, Mr Obama also warned that blocking the deal would accelerate Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.
“The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war,” he said. “Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.”
Vigorously defending the agreement the US and other five major world powers signed with Iran on July 14, Mr Obama said that only warmongers were opposing the deal.
“Many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal,” he said.
Mr Obama noted that the Republican decision to invade Iraq, and not the nuclear deal, helped Iran strengthen its position in the Middle East.
“More than a decade later we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq,” he said.
“Ironically, the single biggest beneficiary of the war in that region was the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Mr Obama claimed Republican opponents of the deal had no valid grounds to do so. Their rejection was only a “knee-jerk partisanship,” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism was “wrong,” he said.
Mr Netanyahu leads the campaign against the Iran deal and at a joint congressional session in Washington earlier this year, he urged American lawmakers to prevent the Obama administration from finalizing the deal.
“I believe he is wrong”, President Obama told his nation while offering a blunt assessment of Mr Netanyahu’s views.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, rejected Mr Obama’s criticism and claimed that there was a “growing bipartisan concern” over the deal.
Claiming that many Democrats from the president’s party were also supporting the agreement, he said the opposition to the accord was “widespread and well-founded”.
On Tuesday, Republicans introduced a bilateral legislation in the House of Representatives against the deal, which was also signed by some Democratic lawmakers.
But Republicans need 12 Democratic votes in the Senate to overcome a presidential veto and they are finding it difficult to do so.
Congress has 60 days to accept or reject the deal and send their recommendation to the president. President Obama has already said that he will veto any move to derail the deal.
The Republicans have a commanding majority in the House but only a simple majority in the Senate, which is not enough to vacate a presidential veto. In his 56-minute speech, Mr Obama also evoked the bipartisan anti-nuclear legacies of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, and urged lawmakers to rise above party politics.
He reminded lawmakers that they were engaged in “the most consequential foreign policy debate this country has had since the invasion of Iraq”.
“Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics when every foreign policy decision is read through a partisan prism,” he said.
Mr Obama claimed that the opponents of the nuclear accord had a common cause with Iranian hardliners. “It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus,” he said.
Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2015