The odds of political success for the international nuclear agreement with Iran are, at least for now, quite good – the votes in Congress to derail the diplomatic deal simply aren’t there. President Obama, however, clearly isn’t taking anything for granted.
President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that rejecting his administration’s nuclear deal with Iran would be a historic mistake – and he called it the most important foreign policy debate since the invasion of Iraq.In a speech at American University in Washington, the president said that the Iran deal followed in the tradition of the decades of diplomacy that ended the Cold War without a single shot fired. And he said that many of the critics of the deal are the same people who exaggerated intelligence and misled the country about the costs of the war in Iraq.
For many, the fact that there was never any real accountability for those Iraq war proponents who failed so spectacularly is a point of ongoing frustration. Watching the president today, one got the sense the problem has occurred to him, too.
And to that end, Obama seemed eager to remind his Republican detractors of their familiar and costly misjudgments.
“For the last couple of weeks,” he noted, “I have repeatedly challenged anyone opposed to this deal to put forward a better, plausible alternative. I have yet to hear one. What I’ve heard instead are the same types of arguments that we heard in the run up to the Iraq war. ‘Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically.’ ‘We can take military strikes without significant consequences.’ ‘We shouldn’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone will fall in line.’ ‘Tougher talk, more military threats will force Iran into submission.’ ‘We can get a better deal.’
“I know it’s easy to play in people’s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich, but none of these arguments hold up. They didn’t back in 2002, in 2003, [and] they shouldn’t now.”
I’ve posted the video of the president’s remarks above, and the full transcript of the speech is already online, but I was struck by the forcefulness of the president’s case.
“What’s more likely to happen should Congress reject this deal is that Iran would end up with some form of sanctions relief without having to accept any of the constraints or inspections required by this deal. So in that sense, the critics are right. Walk away from this agreement, and you will get a better deal – for Iran. […]“As Americans, we should be proud of this achievement. And as members of Congress reflect on their pending decision, I urge them to set aside political concerns, shut out the noise, consider the stakes involved with the vote that you will cast.“If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear deal or the sanctions we have painstakingly built. 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.”
Republicans agree in American exceptionalism? They’re desperate to see the United States lead on the international stage? Here’s their chance to prove it. Kill the deal, sabotage American foreign policy, and our international standing suffers a serious, if not fatal, blow.
Postscript: Obama added one thing about Israel that I hadn’t heard before. “[B]ecause this is such a strong deal,” the president said, “every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support.”
Think about that for a second. Out of every country on the planet, literally only one has denounced the international nuclear agreement. I realize that for some lawmakers, that one country is the most important country, but it’s nevertheless a striking detail.