President Barack Obama made a vigorous case for his nuclear deal with Iran Wednesday, warning lawmakers that rejecting diplomacy would lead to war and destroy US credibility.
Casting the debate over the agreement with Tehran as “the most consequential foreign policy debate” in a decade, Obama said Congress must not waver under pressure from critics whom he said history had already proven wrong.
“Many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal,” he said, urging lawmakers to instead choose an American tradition of strong diplomacy.
“Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any US administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option: another war in the Middle East.
“If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear program or the sanctions we have painstakingly built,” he warned.
“We will have lost something more precious. America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy. America’s credibility as the anchor of the international system.”
Positing the now unpopular Iraq war as a cautionary tale, Obama recalled president John F. Kennedy’s diplomatic efforts to engage a nuclear Soviet Union as a more worthy example to follow.
Obama’s remarks came at the American University, in Washington, where in 1963 Kennedy used a commencement address to argue vehemently for peace with the Soviet Union in the face of panic over a nuclear conflagration.
Speaking a year after the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy cautioned against brandishing US power to bring about the “peace of the grave or the security of the slave.”
Instead, he announced diplomatic efforts to check “one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms.”
“The young president offered a different vision,” Obama said. “Strength, in his view, included powerful armed forces and a willingness to stand up for our values around the world.”
Obama’s diplomatic deal would give Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, which Washington long believed was cover for building a bomb.