Full-Text Political Transcripts May 8, 2018: Former President Barack Obama responds to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Former President Barack Obama responds to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal

Source: BG, 5-8-18
There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.
The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest – it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish – its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes – with Iran – the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.
That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.
Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. So it’s important to review several facts about the JCPOA.
First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my Administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium – the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran’s nuclear program and achieved real results.
Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust – it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.
Fourth, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. That was not simply the view of my Administration. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire. The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.
Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior – including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained. Our ability to confront Iran’s destabilizing behavior – and to sustain a unity of purpose with our allies – is strengthened with the JCPOA, and weakened without it.
Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East. We all know the dangers of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. It could embolden an already dangerous regime; threaten our friends with destruction; pose unacceptable dangers to America’s own security; and trigger an arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it.
In a dangerous world, America must be able to rely in part on strong, principled diplomacy to secure our country. We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.

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Full-Text Political Transcripts May 8, 2018: President Donald Trump’s speech announcing the US is withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald Trump announces the US is withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal

Source: WH, 5-8-18

Diplomatic Reception Room

2:13 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans: Today, I want to update the world on our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror. It exports dangerous missiles, fuels conflicts across the Middle East, and supports terrorist proxies and militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al Qaeda.

Over the years, Iran and its proxies have bombed American embassies and military installations, murdered hundreds of American servicemembers, and kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured American citizens. The Iranian regime has funded its long reign of chaos and terror by plundering the wealth of its own people.

No action taken by the regime has been more dangerous than its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them.

In 2015, the previous administration joined with other nations in a deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program. This agreement was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

In theory, the so-called “Iran deal” was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon that will only endanger the survival of the Iranian regime. In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and, over time, reach the brink of a nuclear breakout.

The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity, and no limits at all on its other malign behavior, including its sinister activities in Syria, Yemen, and other places all around the world.

In other words, at the point when the United States had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime — and it’s a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash — a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States.

A constructive deal could easily have been struck at the time, but it wasn’t. At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program.

Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. Last week, Israel published intelligence documents long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranian regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.

The fact is this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.

In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget has grown by almost 40 percent, while its economy is doing very badly. After the sanctions were lifted, the dictatorship used its new funds to build nuclear-capable missiles, support terrorism, and cause havoc throughout the Middle East and beyond.

The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. The deal’s sunset provisions are totally unacceptable. If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.

Making matters worse, the deal’s inspection provisions lack adequate mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating, and don’t even have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations, including military facilities.

Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.

Finally, the deal does nothing to constrain Iran’s destabilizing activities, including its support for terrorism. Since the agreement, Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen.

In light of these glaring flaws, I announced last October that the Iran deal must either be renegotiated or terminated.

Three months later, on January 12th, I repeated these conditions. I made clear that if the deal could not be fixed, the United States would no longer be a party to the agreement.

Over the past few months, we have engaged extensively with our allies and partners around the world, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. We have also consulted with our friends from across the Middle East. We are unified in our understanding of the threat and in our conviction that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon.

After these consultations, it is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement.

The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

In a few moments, I will sign a presidential memorandum to begin reinstating U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.

America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. And we will not allow a regime that chants “Death to America” to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth.

Today’s action sends a critical message: The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them. In fact, at this very moment, Secretary Pompeo is on his way to North Korea in preparation for my upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un. Plans are being made. Relationships are building. Hopefully, a deal will happen and, with the help of China, South Korea, and Japan, a future of great prosperity and security can be achieved for everyone.

As we exit the Iran deal, we will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. This will include efforts to eliminate the threat of Iran’s ballistic missile program; to stop its terrorist activities worldwide; and to block its menacing activity across the Middle East. In the meantime, powerful sanctions will go into full effect. If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before.

Finally, I want to deliver a message to the long-suffering people of Iran: The people of America stand with you. It has now been almost 40 years since this dictatorship seized power and took a proud nation hostage. Most of Iran’s 80 million citizens have sadly never known an Iran that prospered in peace with its neighbors and commanded the admiration of the world.

But the future of Iran belongs to its people. They are the rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land. And they deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history, and glory to God.

Iran’s leaders will naturally say that they refuse to negotiate a new deal; they refuse. And that’s fine. I’d probably say the same thing if I was in their position. But the fact is they are going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people. When they do, I am ready, willing, and able.

Great things can happen for Iran, and great things can happen for the peace and stability that we all want in the Middle East.

There has been enough suffering, death, and destruction. Let it end now.

Thank you. God bless you. Thank you.

(The presidential memorandum is signed.)

Q Mr. President, how does this make America safer? How does this make America safer?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. This will make America much safer. Thank you very much.

Q Is Secretary Pompeo bringing the detainees home?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Secretary Pompeo is, right now, going to North Korea. He will be there very shortly in a matter of virtual — probably an hour. He’s got meetings set up. We have our meeting scheduled. We have our meeting set. The location is picked — the time and the date. Everything is picked. And we look forward to having a very great success.

We think relationships are building with North Korea. We’ll see how it all works out. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But it can be a great thing for North Korea, South Korea, Japan and the entire world. We hope it all works out.

Thank you very much.

Q Are the Americans being freed?

Q Are the Americans coming home, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: We’ll all soon be finding out. We will soon be finding out. It would be a great thing if they are. We’ll soon be finding out. Thank you very much.

END

2:25 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 5, 2015: President Barack Obama’s speech about the Iran nuclear deal at American University Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Source: WH, 8-5-15

American University
Washington, D.C.

11:58 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you very much.  I apologize for the slight delay.  Even Presidents have problems with toner.  (Laughter.)

It is a great honor to be back at American University, which has prepared generations of young people for service in public life.  I want to thank President Kerwin and the American University family for hosting us here today.

Fifty-two years ago, President Kennedy, at the height of the Cold War, addressed this same university on the subject of peace.  The Berlin Wall had just been built.  The Soviet Union had tested the most powerful weapons ever developed.  China was on the verge of acquiring a nuclear bomb.  Less than 20 years after the end of World War II, the prospect of nuclear war was all too real.  With all of the threats that we face today, it’s hard to appreciate how much more dangerous the world was at that time.

In light of these mounting threats, a number of strategists here in the United States argued that we had to take military action against the Soviets, to hasten what they saw as inevitable confrontation.  But the young President offered a different vision.  Strength, in his view, included powerful armed forces and a willingness to stand up for our values around the world.  But he rejected the prevailing attitude among some foreign policy circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing.  Instead, he promised strong, principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a “practical” and “attainable peace” — a peace “based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions — on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.”

Such wisdom would help guide our ship of state through some of the most perilous moments in human history.  With Kennedy at the helm, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved peacefully.  Under Democratic and Republican Presidents, new agreements were forged — a Non-Proliferation Treaty that prohibited nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, while allowing them to access peaceful nuclear energy; the SALT and START Treaties which bound the United States and Soviet Union to cooperation on arms control.  Not every conflict was averted, but the world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.

The agreement now reached between the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong, principled diplomacy.  After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb.  It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.  As was true in previous treaties, it does not resolve all problems; it certainly doesn’t resolve all our problems with Iran.  It does not ensure a warming between our two countries.  But it achieves one of our most critical security objectives.  As such, it is a very good deal.

Today, I want to speak to you about this deal, and the most consequential foreign policy debate that our country has had since the invasion of Iraq, as Congress decides whether to support this historic diplomatic breakthrough, or instead blocks it over the objection of the vast majority of the world.  Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising.  And if the rhetoric in these ads, and the accompanying commentary, sounds familiar, it should — for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.

Now, when I ran for President eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war — we had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place.  It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy; a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus; a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.  Leaders did not level with the American people about the costs of war, insisting that we could easily impose our will on a part of the world with a profoundly different culture and history.  And, of course, those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive, while dismissing those who disagreed as weak — even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.

More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq.  Our troops achieved every mission they were given.  But thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands wounded.  That doesn’t count the lives lost among Iraqis.  Nearly a trillion dollars was spent. Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al Qaeda in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL.  And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.

I raise this recent history because now more than ever we need clear thinking in our foreign policy.  And I raise this history because it bears directly on how we respond to the Iranian nuclear program.

That program has been around for decades, dating back to the Shah’s efforts — with U.S. support — in the 1960s and ‘70s to develop nuclear power.  The theocracy that overthrew the Shah accelerated the program after the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, a war in which Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to brutal effect, and Iran’s nuclear program advanced steadily through the 1990s, despite unilateral U.S. sanctions.  When the Bush administration took office, Iran had no centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce material for a bomb — that were spinning to enrich uranium.  But despite repeated warnings from the United States government, by the time I took office, Iran had installed several thousand centrifuges, and showed no inclination to slow — much less halt — its program.

Among U.S. policymakers, there’s never been disagreement on the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear bomb.  Democrats and Republicans alike have recognized that it would spark an arms race in the world’s most unstable region, and turn every crisis into a potential nuclear showdown.  It would embolden terrorist groups, like Hezbollah, and pose an unacceptable risk to Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to destroy.  More broadly, it could unravel the global commitment to non-proliferation that the world has done so much to defend.

The question, then, is not whether to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but how.  Even before taking office, I made clear that Iran would not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon on my watch, and it’s been my policy throughout my presidency to keep all options — including possible military options — on the table to achieve that objective.  But I have also made clear my preference for a peaceful, diplomatic resolution of the issue — not just because of the costs of war, but also because a negotiated agreement offered a more effective, verifiable and durable resolution.

And so, in 2009, we let the Iranians know that a diplomatic path was available.  Iran failed to take that path, and our intelligence community exposed the existence of a covert nuclear facility at Fordow.

Now, some have argued that Iran’s intransigence showed the futility of negotiations.  In fact, it was our very willingness to negotiate that helped America rally the world to our cause, and secured international participation in an unprecedented framework of commercial and financial sanctions.  Keep in mind unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran had been in place for decades, but had failed to pressure Iran to the negotiating table.  What made our new approach more effective was our ability to draw upon new U.N. Security Council resolutions, combining strong enforcement with voluntary agreements from nations like China and India, Japan and South Korea to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil, as well as the imposition by our European allies of a total oil embargo.

Winning this global buy-in was not easy — I know.  I was there.  In some cases, our partners lost billions of dollars in trade because of their decision to cooperate.  But we were able to convince them that absent a diplomatic resolution, the result could be war, with major disruptions to the global economy, and even greater instability in the Middle East.  In other words, it was diplomacy — hard, painstaking diplomacy — not saber-rattling, not tough talk that ratcheted up the pressure on Iran.

With the world now unified beside us, Iran’s economy contracted severely, and remains about 20 percent smaller today than it would have otherwise been.  No doubt this hardship played a role in Iran’s 2013 elections, when the Iranian people elected a new government that promised to improve the economy through engagement with the world.  A window had cracked open.  Iran came back to the nuclear talks.  And after a series of negotiations, Iran agreed with the international community to an interim deal — a deal that rolled back Iran’s stockpile of near 20 percent enriched uranium, and froze the progress of its program so that the P5+1 — the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the European Union — could negotiate a comprehensive deal without the fear that Iran might be stalling for time.

Now, let me pause here just to remind everybody that when the interim deal was announced, critics — the same critics we’re hearing from now — called it “a historic mistake.”  They insisted Iran would ignore its obligations.  They warned that sanctions would unravel.  They warned that Iran would receive a windfall to support terrorism.

The critics were wrong.  The progress of Iran’s nuclear program was halted for the first time in a decade.  Its stockpile of dangerous materials was reduced.  The deployment of its advanced centrifuges was stopped.  Inspections did increase. There was no flood of money into Iran, and the architecture of the international sanctions remained in place.  In fact, the interim deal worked so well that the same people who criticized it so fiercely now cite it as an excuse not to support the broader accord.  Think about that.  What was once proclaimed as a historic mistake is now held up as a success and a reason to not sign the comprehensive deal.  So keep that in mind when you assess the credibility of the arguments being made against diplomacy today.

Despite the criticism, we moved ahead to negotiate a more lasting, comprehensive deal.  Our diplomats, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, kept our coalition united.  Our nuclear experts — including one of the best in the world, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz — worked tirelessly on the technical details.  In July, we reached a comprehensive plan of action that meets our objectives.  Under its terms, Iran is never allowed to build a nuclear weapon.  And while Iran, like any party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is allowed to access peaceful nuclear energy, the agreement strictly defines the manner in which its nuclear program can proceed, ensuring that all pathways to a bomb are cut off.

Here’s how.  Under this deal, Iran cannot acquire the plutonium needed for a bomb.  The core of its heavy-water reactor at Arak will be pulled out, filled with concrete, and replaced with one that will not produce plutonium for a weapon.  The spent fuel from that reactor will be shipped out of the country, and Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors for at least 15 years.

Iran will also not be able to acquire the enriched uranium that could be used for a bomb.  As soon as this deal is implemented, Iran will remove two-thirds of its centrifuges.  For the next decade, Iran will not enrich uranium with its more advanced centrifuges.  Iran will not enrich uranium at the previously undisclosed Fordow facility, which is buried deep underground, for at least 15 years.  Iran will get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is currently enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs, for the next 15 years.  Even after those 15 years have passed, Iran will never have the right to use a peaceful program as cover to pursue a weapon.

And, in fact, this deal shuts off the type of covert path Iran pursued in the past.  There will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities.  For decades, inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — from the uranium mines and mills where they get raw materials, to the centrifuge production facilities where they make machines to enrich it.  And understand why this is so important:  For Iran to cheat, it has to build a lot more than just one building or a covert facility like Fordow.  It would need a secret source for every single aspect of its program.  No nation in history has been able to pull off such subterfuge when subjected to such rigorous inspections.  And under the terms of the deal, inspectors will have the permanent ability to inspect any suspicious sites in Iran.

And finally, Iran has powerful incentives to keep its commitments.  Before getting sanctions relief, Iran has to take significant, concrete steps like removing centrifuges and getting rid of its stockpile.  If Iran violates the agreement over the next decade, all of the sanctions can snap back into place.  We won’t need the support of other members of the U.N. Security Council; America can trigger snapback on our own.  On the other hand, if Iran abides by the deal and its economy begins to reintegrate with the world, the incentive to avoid snapback will only grow.

So this deal is not just the best choice among alternatives -– this is the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated.  And because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support.  The United Nations Security Council has unanimously supported it.  The majority of arms control and non-proliferation experts support it.  Over 100 former ambassadors — who served under Republican and Democratic Presidents — support it.  I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls as President, but whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls.  It’s not even close.

Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prism, evaluated by headline-grabbing sound bites. And so before the ink was even dry on this deal — before Congress even read it — a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition.  Lobbyists and pundits were suddenly transformed into arm-chair nuclear scientists, disputing the assessments of experts like Secretary Moniz, challenging his findings, offering multiple — and sometimes contradictory — arguments about why Congress should reject this deal.  But if you repeat these arguments long enough, they can get some traction.  So let me address just a few of the arguments that have been made so far in opposition to this deal.

First, there are those who say the inspections are not strong enough because inspectors can’t go anywhere in Iran at any time with no notice.

Well, here’s the truth:  Inspectors will be allowed daily access to Iran’s key nuclear sites.  If there is a reason for inspecting a suspicious, undeclared site anywhere in Iran, inspectors will get that access, even if Iran objects.  This access can be with as little as 24 hours’ notice.  And while the process for resolving a dispute about access can take up to 24 days, once we’ve identified a site that raises suspicion, we will be watching it continuously until inspectors get in.  And by the way, nuclear material isn’t something you hide in the closet.  It can leave a trace for years.  The bottom line is, if Iran cheats, we can catch them — and we will.

Second, there are those who argue that the deal isn’t strong enough because some of the limitations on Iran’s civilian nuclear program expire in 15 years.  Let me repeat:  The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent.  The ban on weapons-related research is permanent.  Inspections are permanent.  It is true that some of the limitations regarding Iran’s peaceful program last only 15 years.  But that’s how arms control agreements work.  The first SALT Treaty with the Soviet Union lasted five years.  The first START Treaty lasted 15 years.  And in our current situation, if 15 or 20 years from now, Iran tries to build a bomb, this deal ensures that the United States will have better tools to detect it, a stronger basis under international law to respond, and the same options available to stop a weapons program as we have today, including — if necessary — military options.

On the other hand, without this deal, the scenarios that critics warn about happening in 15 years could happen six months from now.  By killing this deal, Congress would not merely pave Iran’s pathway to a bomb, it would accelerate it.

Third, a number of critics say the deal isn’t worth it because Iran will get billions of dollars in sanctions relief.  Now, let’s be clear:  The international sanctions were put in place precisely to get Iran to agree to constraints on its program.  That’s the point of sanctions.  Any negotiated agreement with Iran would involve sanctions relief.  So an argument against sanctions relief is effectively an argument against any diplomatic resolution of this issue.

It is true that if Iran lives up to its commitments, it will gain access to roughly $56 billion of its own money — revenue frozen overseas by other countries.  But the notion that this will be a game-changer, with all this money funneled into Iran’s pernicious activities, misses the reality of Iran’s current situation.  Partly because of our sanctions, the Iranian government has over half a trillion dollars in urgent requirements — from funding pensions and salaries, to paying for crumbling infrastructure.  Iran’s leaders have raised the expectations of their people that sanctions relief will improve their lives.  Even a repressive regime like Iran’s cannot completely ignore those expectations.  And that’s why our best analysts expect the bulk of this revenue to go into spending that improves the economy and benefits the lives of the Iranian people.

Now, this is not to say that sanctions relief will provide no benefit to Iran’s military.  Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to.  We have no illusions about the Iranian government, or the significance of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force.  Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.  It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies — including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq.  They try to destabilize our Gulf partners.  But Iran has been engaged in these activities for decades.  They engaged in them before sanctions and while sanctions were in place.  In fact, Iran even engaged in these activities in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War — a war that cost them nearly a million lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

The truth is that Iran has always found a way to fund these efforts, and whatever benefit Iran may claim from sanctions relief pales in comparison to the danger it could pose with a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, there’s no scenario where sanctions relief turns Iran into the region’s dominant power.  Iran’s defense budget is eight times smaller than the combined budget of our Gulf allies. Their conventional capabilities will never compare with Israel’s, and our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge helps guarantee that.  Over the last several years, Iran has had to spend billions of dollars to support its only ally in the Arab World — Bashar al-Assad — even as he’s lost control of huge chunks of his country.  And Hezbollah has suffered significant blows on the same battlefield.  And Iran, like the rest of the region, is being forced to respond to the threat of ISIL in Iraq.

So contrary to the alarmists who claim that Iran is on the brink of taking over the Middle East, or even the world, Iran will remain a regional power with its own set of challenges.  The ruling regime is dangerous and it is repressive.  We will continue to have sanctions in place on Iran’s support for terrorism and violation of human rights.  We will continue to insist upon the release of Americans detained unjustly.  We will have a lot of differences with the Iranian regime.

But if we’re serious about confronting Iran’s destabilizing activities, it is hard to imagine a worse approach than blocking this deal.  Instead, we need to check the behavior that we’re concerned about directly:  By helping our allies in the region strengthen their own capabilities to counter a cyber-attack or a ballistic missile; by improving the interdiction of weapons shipments that go to groups like Hezbollah; by training our allies’ special forces so that they can more effectively respond to situations like Yemen.  All these capabilities will make a difference.  We will be in a stronger position to implement them with this deal.  And, by the way, such a strategy also helps us effectively confront the immediate and lethal threat posed by ISIL.

Now, the final criticism — this sort of a catch-all that you may hear — is the notion that there’s a better deal to be had.  “We should get a better deal” — that’s repeated over and over again.  “It’s a bad deal, need a better deal” — (laughter) — one that relies on vague promises of toughness, and, more recently, the argument that we can apply a broader and indefinite set of sanctions to squeeze the Iranian regime harder.

Those making this argument are either ignorant of Iranian society, or they’re just not being straight with the American people.  Sanctions alone are not going to force Iran to completely dismantle all vestiges of its nuclear infrastructure — even those aspects that are consistent with peaceful programs.  That oftentimes is what the critics are calling “a better deal.”  Neither the Iranian government, or the Iranian opposition, or the Iranian people would agree to what they would view as a total surrender of their sovereignty.

Moreover, our closest allies in Europe, or in Asia — much less China or Russia — certainly are not going to agree to enforce existing sanctions for another 5, 10, 15 years according to the dictates of the U.S. Congress.  Because their willingness to support sanctions in the first place was based on Iran ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  It was not based on the belief that Iran cannot have peaceful nuclear power.  And it certainly wasn’t based on a desire for regime change in Iran.

As a result, those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy.  Instead of strengthening our position as some have suggested, Congress’s rejection would almost certainly result in multilateral sanctions unraveling.  If, as has also been suggested, we tried to maintain unilateral sanctions, beefen them up, we would be standing alone.  We cannot dictate the foreign, economic and energy policies of every major power in the world.

In order to even try to do that, we would have to sanction, for example, some of the world’s largest banks.  We’d have to cut off countries like China from the American financial system.  And since they happen to be major purchasers of or our debt, such actions could trigger severe disruptions in our own economy and, by the way, raise questions internationally about the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.

That’s part of the reason why many of the previous unilateral sanctions were waived.  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.  (Applause.)

Now, because more sanctions won’t produce the results that the critics want, we have to be honest.  Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option — another war in the Middle East.

I say this not to be provocative.  I am stating a fact. Without this deal, Iran will be in a position — however tough our rhetoric may be –- to steadily advance its capabilities.  Its breakout time, which is already fairly small, could shrink to near zero.  Does anyone really doubt that the same voices now raised against this deal will be demanding that whoever is President bomb those nuclear facilities?

And as someone who does firmly believes that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon, and who has wrestled with this issue since the beginning of my presidency, I can tell you that alternatives to military action will have been exhausted once we reject a hard-won diplomatic solution that the world almost unanimously supports.

So let’s not mince words.  The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war — maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.  And here’s the irony.  As I said before, military action would be far less effective than this deal in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  That’s not just my supposition.  Every estimate, including those from Israeli analysts, suggest military action would only set back Iran’s program by a few years at best, which is a fraction of the limitations imposed by this deal.  It would likely guarantee that inspectors are kicked out of Iran.  It is probable that it would drive Iran’s program deeper underground.  It would certainly destroy the international unity that we’ve spent so many years building.

Now, there are some opponents — I have to give them credit; there are opponents of this deal who accept the choice of war.  In fact, they argue that surgical strikes against Iran’s facilities will be quick and painless.  But if we’ve learned anything from the last decade, it’s that wars in general and wars in the Middle East in particular are anything but simple.  (Applause.)  The only certainty in war is human suffering, uncertain costs, unintended consequences.  We can also be sure that the Americans who bear the heaviest burden are the less than 1 percent of us, the outstanding men and women who serve in uniform, and not those of us who send them to war.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have not shied from using force when necessary.  I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat.  I have sat by their bedside sometimes when they come home.  I’ve ordered military action in seven countries.  There are times when force is necessary, and if Iran does not abide by this deal, it’s possible that we don’t have an alternative.

But how can we in good conscience justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives; that has been agreed to by Iran; that is supported by the rest of the world; and that preserves our options if the deal falls short? How could we justify that to our troops?  How could we justify that to the world or to future generations?

In the end, that should be a lesson that we’ve learned from over a decade of war.  On the front end, ask tough questions.  Subject our own assumptions to evidence and analysis.  Resist the conventional wisdom and the drumbeat of war.  Worry less about being labeled weak; worry more about getting it right.

I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran.  It is offensive.  It is incendiary.  We do take it seriously.  But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts, or even provocations that can be addressed short of war.  Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe.  (Applause.)

In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo.  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.  (Laughter and applause.)

The majority of the Iranian people have powerful incentives to urge their government to move in a different, less provocative direction — incentives that are strengthened by this deal.  We should offer them that chance.  We should give them that opportunity.  It’s not guaranteed to succeed.  But if they take it, that would be good for Iran, it would be good for the United States.  It would be good for a region that has known too much conflict.  It would be good for the world.

And if Iran does not move in that direction, if Iran violates this deal, we will have ample ability to respond.  The agreements pursued by Kennedy and Reagan with the Soviet Union, those agreements, those treaties involved America accepting significant constraints on our arsenal.  As such, they were riskier.  This agreement involves no such constraints.  The defense budget of the United States is more than $600 billion.  To repeat, Iran’s is about $15 billion.  Our military remains the ultimate backstop to any security agreement that we make.  I have stated that Iran will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.  I have done what is necessary to make sure our military options are real.  And I have no doubt that any President who follows me will take the same position.

So let me sum up here.  When we carefully examine the arguments against this deal, none of them stand up to scrutiny.  That may be why the rhetoric on the other side is so strident.  I suppose some of it can be ascribed to knee-jerk partisanship that has become all too familiar; rhetoric that renders every decision that’s made a disaster, a surrender — “you’re aiding terrorists; you’re endangering freedom.”

On the other hand, I do think it’s important to acknowledge another, more understandable motivation behind the opposition to this deal, or at least skepticism to this deal, and that is a sincere affinity for our friend and ally, Israel — an affinity that, as someone who has been a stalwart friend to Israel throughout my career, I deeply share.

When the Israeli government is opposed to something, people in the United States take notice.  And they should.  No one can blame Israelis for having a deep skepticism about any dealings with a government like Iran’s — which includes leaders who have denied the Holocaust, embrace an ideology of anti-Semitism, facilitate the flow of rockets that are arrayed on Israel’s borders, are pointed at Tel Aviv.  In such a dangerous neighborhood, Israel has to be vigilant, and it rightly insists that it cannot depend on any other country — even its great friend the United States — for its own security.  So we have to take seriously concerns in Israel.

But the fact is, partly due to American military and intelligence assistance, which my administration has provided at unprecedented levels, Israel can defend itself against any conventional danger — whether from Iran directly or from its proxies.  On the other hand, a nuclear-armed Iran changes that equation.

And that’s why this deal ultimately must be judged by what it achieves on the central goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  This deal does exactly that.  I say this as someone who has done more than any other President to strengthen Israel’s security.  And I have made clear to the Israeli government that we are prepared to discuss how we can deepen that cooperation even further.  Already we’ve held talks with Israel on concluding another 10-year plan for U.S. security assistance to Israel.  We can enhance support for areas like missile defense, information sharing, interdiction — all to help meet Israel’s pressing security needs, and to provide a hedge against any additional activities that Iran may engage in as a consequence of sanctions relief.

But I have also listened to the Israeli security establishment, which warned of the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran for decades.  In fact, they helped develop many of the ideas that ultimately led to this deal.

So to friends of Israel, and to the Israeli people, I say this:  A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief.

I recognize that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees — disagrees strongly.  I do not doubt his sincerity.  But I believe he is wrong.  I believe the facts support this deal.  I believe they are in America’s interest and Israel’s interest.  And as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.  I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States.  I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel.  (Applause.)

Over the last couple weeks, 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 on 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 and 2003; they shouldn’t now.  (Applause.)  The same mindset, in many cases offered by the same people who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since.  It’s a mindset out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy, where we exhaust diplomacy before war, and debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth.

“Peace is not the absence of conflict,” President Reagan once said.  It is “the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means.”  President Kennedy warned Americans, “not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than the exchange of threats.”  It is time to apply such wisdom.  The deal before us doesn’t bet on Iran changing, it doesn’t require trust; it verifies and requires Iran to forsake a nuclear weapon, just as we struck agreements with the Soviet Union at a time when they were threatening our allies, arming proxies against us, proclaiming their commitment to destroy our way of life, and had nuclear weapons pointed at all of our major cities — a genuine existential threat.

We live in a complicated world — a world in which the forces unleashed by human innovation are creating opportunities for our children that were unimaginable for most of human history.  It is also a world of persistent threats, a world in which mass violence and cruelty is all too common, and human innovation risks the destruction of all that we hold dear.  In this world, the United States of America remains the most powerful nation on Earth, and I believe that we will remain such for decades to come.  But we are one nation among many.

And what separates us from the empires of old, what has made us exceptional, is not the mere fact of our military might.  Since World War II, the deadliest war in human history, we have used our power to try to bind nations together in a system of international law.  We have led an evolution of those human institutions President Kennedy spoke about — to prevent the spread of deadly weapons, to uphold peace and security, and promote human progress.

We now have the opportunity to build on that progress.  We built a coalition and held it together through sanctions and negotiations, and now we have before us a solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, without resorting to war.  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 program, 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.

John F. Kennedy cautioned here, more than 50 years ago, at this university, that “the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war.”  But it’s so very important.  It is surely the pursuit of peace that is most needed in this world so full of strife.

My fellow Americans, contact your representatives in Congress.  Remind them of who we are.  Remind them of what is best in us and what we stand for, so that we can leave behind a world that is more secure and more peaceful for our children.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
12:54 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts July 15, 2015: President Barack Obama scolds CBS News’ Major Garrett on Iran hostages question at press conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Obama scolds CBS News’ Major Garrett on Iran hostages question at press conference

Source: CBS News, 7-15-15

Transcription of exchange between CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett and President Obama over Iranian hostages.

Major Garrett: As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran – three held on trumped up charges according to your administration, one, whereabouts unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all of the fanfare around this [nuclear] deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for, in relation to these four Americans?

And last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said under no circumstances should there be any relief for Iran in terms of ballistic missiles or conventional weapons. It was perceived that that was a last-minute capitulation in these negotiations, making the Pentagon feel you’ve left the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hung out to dry. Could you comment?

President Obama: I’ve got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am content, as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails – Major, that’s nonsense. And you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody’s content, and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.

Now, if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates. Suddenly, Iran realizes, you know what, maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals – makes it much more difficult for us to walk away if Iran somehow thinks that a nuclear deal is dependent in some fashion on the nuclear deal. And by the way, if we had walked away from the nuclear deal, we’d still be pushing just as hard to get these folks out. That’s why those issues are not connected, but we are working every single day to try to get them out and won’t stop until they’re out and rejoined with their families.

With respect to the Chairman’s testimony, to some degree I already answered this with Carol. We are not taking the pressure off Iran with respect to arms and with respect to ballistic missiles. As I just explained, not only do we keep in place for five years the arms embargo this particular new UN resolution, not only do we maintain the eight years on the ballistic missiles under this particular UN resolution, but we have a host of other multilateral and unilateral authorities that allow us to take action where we see Iran engaged in those activities – whether it’s six years from now or 10 years from now.

So, we have not lost those legal authorities, and in fact part of my pitch to the GCC countries, as well as to Prime Minister Netanyahu, is we should do a better job making sure that Iran’s not engaged in sending arms to organizations like Hezbollah, and as I just indicated, that means improving our intelligence capacity and our interdiction capacity with our partners.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 15, 2015: President Barack Obama’s press conference on the Iran nuclear deal Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Full text: Obama’s news conference on the Iran nuclear deal

Source: WH, 7-15-15

Press Conference by the President

East Room

1:25 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Yesterday was a historic day.  The comprehensive, long-term deal that we achieved with our allies and partners to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon represents a powerful display of American leadership and diplomacy.  It shows what we can accomplish when we lead from a position of strength and a position of principle, when we unite the international community around a shared vision, and we resolve to solve problems peacefully.

As I said yesterday, it’s important for the American people and Congress to get a full opportunity to review this deal.  That process is now underway.  I’ve already reached out to leaders in Congress on both sides of the aisle.  My national security team has begun offering extensive briefings.  I expect the debate to be robust — and that’s how it should be.  This is an important issue.  Our national security policies are stronger and more effective when they are subject to the scrutiny and transparency that democracy demands.

And as I said yesterday, the details of this deal matter very much.  That’s why our team worked so hard for so long to get the details right.  At the same time, as this debate unfolds, I hope we don’t lose sight of the larger picture — the opportunity that this agreement represents.  As we go forward, it’s important for everybody to remember the alternative and the fundamental choice that this moment represents.

With this deal, we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program — a nuclear weapons program, and Iran’s nuclear program will be under severe limits for many years.  Without a deal, those pathways remain open; there would be no limits on Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran could move closer to a nuclear bomb.

With this deal, we gain unprecedented, around-the-clock monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities and the most comprehensive and intrusive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated.  Without a deal, those inspections go away, and we lose the ability to closely monitor Iran’s program and detect any covert nuclear weapons program.

With this deal, if Iran violates its commitments, there will be real consequences.  Nuclear-related sanctions that have helped to cripple the Iranian economy will snap back into place.  Without a deal, the international sanctions regime will unravel, with little ability to re-impose them.

With this deal, we have the possibility of peacefully resolving a major threat to regional and international security.  Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.

As I said yesterday, even with this deal, we will continue to have profound differences with Iran — its support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East.  Therefore, the multilateral arms embargo on Iran will remain in place for an additional five years, and restrictions on ballistic missile technology will remain for eight years.  In addition, the United States will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its human rights violations.  And we’ll continue our unprecedented security cooperation with Israel and continue to deepen our partnerships with the Gulf States.

But the bottom line is this:  This nuclear deal meets the national security interests of the United States and our allies.  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.  It’s why the alternative — no limits on Iran’s nuclear program, no inspections, an Iran that’s closer to a nuclear weapon, the risk of a regional nuclear arms race and a greater risk of war — all that would endanger our security.  That’s the choice that we face.  If we don’t choose wisely, I believe future generations will judge us harshly for letting this moment slip away.

And no one suggests that this deal resolves all the threats that Iran poses to its neighbors or the world.  Moreover, realizing the promise of this deal will require many years of implementation and hard work.  It will require vigilance and execution.  But this deal is our best means of assuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.  And, from the start, that has been my number-one priority, our number-one priority.  We’ve got a historic chance to pursue a safer and more secure world — an opportunity that may not come again in our lifetimes.  As President and as Commander-in-Chief, I am determined to seize that opportunity.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions.  And let me see who I’m starting off with.  Here you go.  I got it.  (Laughter.)

Andrew Beatty, AFP.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Yesterday, you said the deal offered a chance at a new direction in relations with Iran.  What steps will you take to enable a more moderate Iran?  And does this deal allow you to more forcefully counter Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region quite aside from the nuclear question?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Andrew, if you don’t mind, just because I suspect that there’s going to be a common set of questions that are touched on — I promise I will get to your question, but I want to start off just by stepping back and reminding folks of what is at stake here.  And I already did in my opening statement, but I just want to reiterate it because I’ve heard already some of the objections to the deal.

The starting premise of our strategy with respect to Iran has been that it would be a grave threat to the United States and to our allies if they obtained a nuclear weapon.  And so everything that we’ve done over the last six and a half years has been designed to make sure that we address that number-one priority.  That’s what the sanctions regime was all about.  That’s how we were able to mobilize the international community, including some folks that we are not particularly close to, to abide by these sanctions.  That’s how these crippling sanctions came about, was because we were able to gain global consensus that Iran having a nuclear weapon would be a problem for everybody.

That’s the reason that Iran’s accounts got frozen and they were not able to get money for the oil sales that they’ve made.  That’s the reason that they had problems operating with respect to international commerce — because we built that international consensus around this very specific, narrow, but profound issue — the possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

And, by the way, that was not simply my priority.  If you look back at all the debates that have taken place over the last five, six years, this has been a Democratic priority, this has been a Republican priority, this has been Prime Minister Netanyahu’s priority.  It’s been our Gulf allies’ priority — is making sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.

The deal negotiated by John Kerry, Wendy Sherman, Ernie Moniz, our allies, our partners, the P5+1 achieves that goal.  It achieves our top priority — making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.  But we have always recognized that even if Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, Iran still poses challenges to our interests and our values, both in the region and around the world.

So when this deal gets implemented, we know that we will have dismantled the immediate concerns around Iran’s nuclear program.  We will have brought their stockpiles down to 98 percent.  We will have significantly reduced the number of centrifuges that they operate.  We will have installed an unprecedented inspections regime, and that will remain in place not just for 10 years but, for example, on the stockpiles, will continue to 15 years.

Iran will have pledged to the international community that it will not develop a nuclear weapon and now will be subject to an Additional Protocol, a more vigorous inspection and monitoring regime that lasts in perpetuity.  We will have disabled a facility like Arak, the Arak facility, from allowing Iran to develop plutonium that could be used for a bomb.  We will have greatly reduced the stockpile of uranium that’s enriched.  And we will have put in place inspections along the entire supply chain so that if uranium was diverted into a covert program we would catch it.

So I can say with confidence but, more importantly, nuclear experts can say with confidence that Iran will not be in a position to develop a nuclear bomb.  We will have met our number-one priority.

Now, we’ll still have problems with Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism; its funding of proxies like Hezbollah that threaten Israel and threaten the region; the destabilizing activities that they’re engaging in, including in places like Yemen.  And my hope is that building on this deal we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave.  But we’re not counting on it.  So this deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior.  It’s not contingent on Iran suddenly operating like a liberal democracy.

It solves one particular problem, which is making sure they don’t have a bomb.  And the point I’ve repeatedly made — and is, I believe, hard to dispute — is that it will be a lot easier for us to check Iran’s nefarious activities, to push back against the other areas where they operate contrary to our interests or our allies’ interests, if they don’t have a bomb.

And so will they change their behavior?  Will we seek to gain more cooperation from them in resolving issues like Syria, or what’s happening in Iraq, to stop encouraging Houthis in Yemen?  We’ll continue to engage with them.  Although, keep in mind that unlike the Cuba situation, we’re not normalizing diplomatic relations here.  So the contacts will continue to be limited.  But will we try to encourage them to take a more constructive path?  Of course.  But we’re not betting on it.

And in fact, having resolved the nuclear issue, we will be in a stronger position to work with Israel, work with the Gulf countries, work with our other partners, work with the Europeans to bring additional pressure to bear on Iran around those issues that remain of concern.

But the argument that I’ve been already hearing — and this was foreshadowed even before the deal was announced — that because this deal does not solve all those other problems, that that’s an argument for rejecting this deal, defies logic.  It makes no sense.  And it loses sight of what was our original number-one priority, which is making sure that they don’t have a bomb.

Jon Karl.

Q    Mr. President, does it give you any pause to see this deal praised by Syrian dictator Assad as a “great victory for Iran,” or praised by those in Tehran who still shout “death to America,” and yet our closest ally in the Middle East calls it “a mistake of historic proportions”?  And here in Congress, it looks like a large majority will vote to reject this deal.  I know you can veto that rejection, but do you have any concerns about seeing a majority of the people’s representatives in Congress saying that this is a bad deal?

And if I can just ask you quick political question, a very quick one.

THE PRESIDENT:  Jon, I think —

Q    Donald —

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me answer the question that you asked.  It does not give me pause that Mr. Assad or others in Tehran may be trying to spin the deal in a way that they think is favorable to what their constituencies want to hear.  That’s what politicians do.  And that’s been the case throughout.  I mean, you’ll recall that during the course of these negotiations over the last couple of months every time the Supreme Leader or somebody tweeted something out, for some reason we all bought into the notion, well, the Obama administration must be giving this or capitulating to that.  Well, now we have a document so you can see what the deal is.

We don’t have to speculate, we don’t have to engage in spin, you can just read what it says and what is required.  And nobody has disputed that as a consequence of this agreement Iran has to drastically reduce its stockpiles of uranium, is cut off from plutonium; the Fordow facility that is underground is converted; that we have an unprecedented inspections regime; that we have snap-back provisions if they cheat.  The facts are the facts.  And I’m not concerned about what others say about it.

Now, with respect to Congress, my hope — I won’t prejudge this — my hope is, is that everyone in Congress also evaluates this agreement based on the facts — not on politics, not on posturing, not on the fact that this is a deal I bring to Congress as opposed to a Republican President, not based on lobbying, but based on what’s in the national interest of the United States of America.

And I think that if Congress does that, then, in fact, based on the facts, the majority of Congress should approve of this deal.  But we live in Washington and politics do intrude.  And as I said in an interview yesterday, I am not betting on the Republican Party rallying behind this agreement.  I do expect the debate to be based on facts and not speculation or misinformation.  And that I welcome — in part because, look, there are legitimate real concerns here.  We’ve already talked about it.  We have huge differences with Iran.  Israel has legitimate concerns about its security relative to Iran.  You have a large country with a significant military that has proclaimed that Israel shouldn’t exist, that has denied the Holocaust, that has financed Hezbollah, and as a consequence there are missiles that are pointed towards Tel Aviv.

And so I think there are very good reasons why Israelis are nervous about Iran’s position in the world generally.  And I’ve said this to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I’ve said it directly to the Israeli people.  But what I’ve also said is that all those threats are compounded if Iran gets a nuclear weapon.  And for all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu, or, for that matter, some of the Republican leadership that’s already spoken, none of them have presented to me, or the American people, a better alternative.

I’m hearing a lot of talking points being repeated about “this is a bad deal” — “this is a historically bad deal,” “this will threaten Israel and threaten the world and threaten the United States.”  I mean, there’s been a lot of that.

What I haven’t heard is, what is your preferred alternative?  If 99 percent of the world community and the majority of nuclear experts look at this thing and they say, this will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, and you are arguing either that it does not, or that even if it does it’s temporary, or that because they’re going to get a windfall of their accounts being unfrozen that they’ll cause more problems, then you should have some alternative to present.  And I haven’t heard that.  And the reason is because there really are only two alternatives here:  Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation, or it’s resolved through force, through war.  Those are the options.

Now, you’ll hear some critics say, well, we could have negotiated a better deal.  Okay.  What does that mean?  I think the suggestion among a lot of the critics has been that a better deal, an acceptable deal would be one in which Iran has no nuclear capacity at all, peaceful or otherwise.  The problem with that position is that there is nobody who thinks that Iran would or could ever accept that, and the international community does not take the view that Iran can’t have a peaceful nuclear program.  They agree with us that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon.

And so we don’t have diplomatic leverage to eliminate every vestige of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran.  What we do have the leverage to do is to make sure they don’t have a weapon.  That’s exactly what we’ve done.

So to go back to Congress, I challenge those who are objecting to this agreement, number one, to read the agreement before they comment on it; number two, to explain specifically where it is that they think this agreement does not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and why they’re right and people like Ernie Moniz, who is an MIT nuclear physicist and an expert in these issues, is wrong, why the rest of the world is wrong, and then present an alternative.

And if the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so.  And that will be an honest debate.

All right.

Q    Mr. President, if I can —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no —

Q    Prime Minister Netanyahu said that you have a situation where Iran can delay 24 days before giving access to military facilities —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m happy to — that’s a good example.  So let’s take the issue of 24 days.  This has been I think swirling today, the notion that this is insufficient in terms of inspections.

Now, keep in mind, first of all, that we’ll have 24/7 inspections of declared nuclear facilities — Fordow, Natanz, Arak, their uranium mines; facilities that are known to produce centrifuges, parts.  That entire infrastructure that we know about we will have sophisticated, 24/7 monitoring of those facilities.

So then the issue is, what if they try to develop a covert program?  Now, one of the advantages of having inspections across the entire production chain is that it makes it very difficult to set up a covert program.  There are only so many uranium mines in Iran.  And if, in fact, we’re counting the amount of uranium that’s being mined and suddenly some is missing on the back end, they got some explaining to do.

So we’re able to track what’s happening along the existing facilities to make sure that there is not diversion into a covert program.  But let’s say that Iran is so determined that it now wants to operate covertly.  The IAEA, the international organization charged with implementing the non-proliferation treaty and monitoring nuclear activities in countries around the world — the IAEA will have the ability to say, that undeclared site we’re concerned about, we see something suspicious.  And they will be able to say to Iran, we want to go inspect that.

Now, if Iran objects, we can override it.  In the agreement, we’ve set it up so we can override Iran’s objection.  And we don’t need Russia or China in order for us to get that override.  And if they continue to object, we’re in a position to snap back sanctions and declare that Iran is in violation and is cheating.

As for the fact that it may take 24 days to finally get access to the site, the nature of nuclear programs and facilities is such, this is not something you hide in a closet.  This is not something you put on a dolly and kind of wheel off somewhere.  And, by the way, if we identify an undeclared site that we’re suspicious about, we’re going to be keeping eyes on it.  So we’re going to be monitoring what the activity is, and that’s going to be something that will be evidence if we think that some funny business was going on there that we can then present to the international community.

So we’ll be monitoring that that entire time.  And, by the way, if there is nuclear material on that site, high school physics will remind us that that leaves a trace.  And so we’ll know that, in fact, there was a violation of the agreement.

So the point is, Jonathan, that this is the most vigorous inspection and verification regime by far that has ever been negotiated.  Is it possible that Iran decides to try to cheat despite having this entire inspection verification mechanism?  It’s possible.  But if it does, first of all, we’ve built in a one-year breakout time, which gives us a year to respond forcefully.  And we’ve built in a snap-back provision so we don’t have to go through lengthy negotiations at the U.N. to put the sanctions right back in place.

And so really the only argument you can make against the verification and inspection mechanism that we’ve put forward is that Iran is so intent on obtaining a nuclear weapon that no inspection regime and no verification mechanism would be sufficient because they’d find some way to get around it because they’re untrustworthy.

And if that’s your view, then we go back to the choice that you have to make earlier.  That means, presumably, that you can’t negotiate.  And what you’re really saying is, is that you’ve got to apply military force to guarantee that they don’t have a nuclear program.  And if somebody wants to make that debate — whether it’s the Republican leadership, or Prime Minister Netanyahu, or the Israeli Ambassador or others, they’re free to make it.  But it’s not persuasive.

Carol Lee.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to ask you about the arms and ballistic missile embargo.  Why did you decide — agree to lift those even with the five- and eight-year durations?  It’s obviously emerging as a sticking point on the Hill.  And are you concerned that arms to Iran will go to Hezbollah or Hamas?  And is there anything that you or a future President can do to stop that?

And if you don’t mind, I wanted to see if you could step back a little bit, and when you look at this Iran deal and all the other issues and unrest that’s happening in the Middle East, what kind of Middle East do you want to leave when you leave the White House in a year and a half?

THE PRESIDENT:  So the issue of the arms embargo and ballistic missiles is of real concern to us — has been of real concern to us.  And it is in the national security interest of the United States to prevent Iran from sending weapons to Hezbollah, for example, or sending weapons to the Houthis in Yemen that accelerate a civil war there.

We have a number of mechanisms under international law that give us authority to interdict arms shipments by Iran.  One of those mechanisms is the U.N. security resolution related to Iran’s nuclear program.  Essentially, Iran was sanctioned because of what had happened at Fordow, its unwillingness to comply with previous U.N. security resolutions about their nuclear program.  And as part of the package of sanctions that was slapped on them, the issue of arms and ballistic missiles were included.

Now, under the terms of the original U.N. resolution, the fact is that once an agreement was arrived at that gave the international community assurance Iran didn’t have a nuclear weapon, you could argue just looking at the text that those arms and ballistic missile prohibitions should immediately go away.

But what I said to our negotiators was given that Iran has breached trust, and the uncertainty of our allies in the region about Iran’s activities, let’s press for a longer extension of the arms embargo and the ballistic missile prohibitions.  And we got that.  We got five years in which, under this new agreement, arms coming in and out of Iran are prohibited.  And we got eight years with respect to ballistic missiles.

But part of the reason why we were willing to extend it only for five, let’s say, as opposed to a longer period of time, is because we have other U.N. resolutions that prohibit arms sales by Iran to organizations like Hezbollah.  We have other U.N. resolutions and multilateral agreements that give us authority to interdict arms shipments from Iran throughout the region.  And so we’ve had belts and suspenders and buttons, a whole bunch of different legal authorities.  These legal authorities under the nuclear program may lapse after five or eight years, but we’ll still be in possession of other legal authorities that allow us to interdict those arms.

And truthfully, these prohibitions are not self-enforcing.  It’s not like the U.N. has the capacity to police what Iran is doing.

What it does is it gives us authority under international law to prevent arms shipments from happening in concert with our allies and our partners.  And the real problem, if you look at how, for example, Hezbollah got a lot of missiles that are a grave threat to Israel and many of our friends in the region, it’s not because they were legal.  It’s not because somehow that was authorized under international law.  It was because there was insufficient intelligence, or capacity, to stop those shipments.

So the bottom line is, Carol, I share the concerns of Israel, Saudis, Gulf partners about Iran shipping arms and causing conflict and chaos in the region.  And that’s why I’ve said to them, let’s double down and partner much more effectively to improve our intelligence capacity and our interdiction capacity so that fewer of those arms shipments are getting through the net.

But the legal authorities, we’ll still possess.  And obviously, we’ve got our own unilateral prohibitions and sanctions in place around non-nuclear issues, like support for Hezbollah.  And those remain in place.

Now, in terms of the larger issues of the Middle East, obviously that’s a longer discussion.  I think my key goal when I turn over the keys to the President — the next President — is that we are on track to defeat ISIL; that they are much more contained and we’re moving in the right direction there.  That we have jumpstarted a process to resolve the civil war in Syria, which is like an open sore in the region and is giving refuge to terrorist organizations who are taking advantage of that chaos.  To make sure that in Iraq not only have we pushed back ISIL, but we’ve also created an environment in which Sunni, Shia and Kurd are starting to operate and function more effectively together.  And to be in a conversation with all our partners in the region about how we have strengthened our security partnerships so that they feel they can address any potential threats that may come, including threats from Iran.  And that includes providing additional security assurances and cooperation to Israel, building on the unprecedented cooperation that we have already put in place and support that we’ve already put in place.  It includes the work that we’ve done with the GCC up at Camp David, making sure that we execute that.

If we’ve done those things, then the problems in the Middle East will not be solved.  And ultimately, it’s not the job of the President of the United States to solve every problem in the Middle East.  The people of the Middle East are going to have to solve some of these problems themselves.  But I think we can provide that next President at least a foundation for continued progress in these various areas.

The last thing I would say — and this is a longer-term issue — is we have to address the youth in the region with jobs and opportunity and a better vision for the future so that they are not tempted by the nihilistic, violent dead-end that organizations like ISIL offer.  Again, we can’t do that entirely by ourselves, but we can partner with well-intentioned organizations, states, NGOs, religious leaders in the region.  We have to do a better job of that than we’ve been doing so far.

Michael Crowley.

Q    Thank you.  You alluded earlier to Iran’s role in Syria, just to focus on that for a moment.  Many analysts and some former members of your administration believe that the kind of negotiated political settlement that you say is necessary in Syria will require working directly with Iran and giving Iran an important role.  Do you agree?  And is that a dialogue you’ll be actively seeking?

And what about the fight against ISIS?  What would it take for there to be explicit cooperation between the U.S. and Iran?

THE PRESIDENT:  I do agree that we’re not going to solve the problems in Syria unless there’s buy-in from the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks, our Gulf partners.  It’s too chaotic.  There are too many factions.  There’s too much money and too many arms flooding into the zone.  It’s gotten caught up in both sectarian conflict and geopolitical jockeying.  And in order for us to resolve it, there’s going to have to be agreement among the major powers that are interested in Syria that this is not going to be won on the battlefield.  So Iran is one of those players, and I think that it’s important for them to be part of that conversation.

I want to repeat what I said earlier.  We have not — and I don’t anticipate any time in the near future — restored normal diplomatic relations with Iran.  And so I do not foresee a formal set of agreements with Iran in terms of how we’re conducting our counter-ISIL campaign.

But clearly, Iran has influence in Iraq.  Iraq has a majority Shia population.  They have relationships to Iran.  Some are natural.  We expect somebody like Prime Minister Abadi to meet with and negotiate and work with Iran as its neighbor.  Some are less legitimate, where you see Iran financing Shia militias that in the past have killed American soldiers and in the future may carry out atrocities when they move into Sunni areas.

And so we’re working with our diplomats on the ground, as well as our military teams on the ground to asses where can we appropriately at least de-conflict, and where can we work with Prime Minister Abadi around an overall strategy for Iraq to regain its sovereignty, and where do we tell Abadi, you know what, what Iran is doing there is a problem, and we can’t cooperate in that area, for example, unless you get those folks out of there because we’re not going to have our troops, even in an advisory or training role, looking over their shoulders because they’re not sure of what might happen to them.  And those conversations have been ongoing.  I think they will continue.

The one thing you can count on is that any work that the U.S. government does, or the U.S. military does in Iraq with other partners on the ground is premised on the idea that they are reporting to — under the chain of command of the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces.  If we don’t have confidence that ultimately Abadi is directing those soldiers, then it’s tough for us to have any kind of direct relationship.

Major Garrett.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran — three held on trumped-up charges, according to your administration; one, whereabouts unknown.  Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of this nation and the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?

And last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, under no circumstances should there be any relief for Iran in terms of ballistic missiles or conventional weapons.  It is perceived that that was a last-minute capitulation in these negotiations.  Many in the Pentagon feel you’ve left the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hung out to dry.  Could you comment?

THE PRESIDENT:  I got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions.  The notion that I am content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails — Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better.

I’ve met with the families of some of those folks.  Nobody is content.  And our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.

Now, if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates.  Suddenly, Iran realizes, you know what, maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals.  It makes it much more difficult for us to walk away if Iran somehow thinks that a nuclear deal is dependent in some fashion on the nuclear deal.  And, by the way, if we had walked away from the nuclear deal, we’d still be pushing them just as hard to get these folks out.  That’s why those issues are not connected.  But we are working every single day to try to get them out, and won’t stop until they’re out and rejoined with their families.

With respect to the Chairman’s testimony, to some degree I already answered this with Carol.  We are not taking the pressure off Iran with respect to arms and with respect to ballistic missiles.  As I just explained, not only do we keep in place for five years the arms embargo under this particular new U.N. resolution, not only do we maintain the eight years on the ballistic missiles under this particular U.N. resolution, but we have a host of other multilateral and unilateral authorities that allow us to take action where we see Iran engaged in those activities whether it’s six years from now or 10 years from now.

So we have not lost those legal authorities.  And in fact, part of my pitch to the GCC countries, as well as to Prime Minister Netanyahu, is we should do a better job making sure that Iran is not engaged in sending arms to organizations like Hezbollah.  And as I just indicated, that means improving our intelligence capacity and our interdiction capacity with our partners.

April Ryan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to change the subject a bit.  Earlier this year, on the flight to Selma, you said, on matters of race, as President your job is to close the remaining gaps that are left in state and federal government.  Now, how does criminal justice reform fit into that equation?  And what gaps remain for you towards the end of your presidency?  And also, what does it mean to travel to Kenya, your father’s homeland, in the next couple of weeks as President to the United States?  And lastly, would you revoke the Medal of Freedom from Bill Cosby?

THE PRESIDENT:  You stuffed a lot in there, April.  (Laughter.)

Q    I learned from my colleagues.

THE PRESIDENT:  Say, who did you learn from?  Jonathan Karl?  Is that what you said?  (Laughter.)

Q    On criminal justice reform, obviously I gave a lengthy speech yesterday, but this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot; been working first with Eric Holder, now with Loretta Lynch about — we’ve been working on along with other prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  It’s an outgrowth of the task force that we put together, post-Ferguson and the Garner case in New York.

And I don’t think that the criminal justice system is obviously the sole source of racial tension in this country, or the key institution to resolving the opportunity gap.  But I think it is a part of the broader set of challenges that we face in creating a more perfect union.

And the good news is, is that this is one of those rare issues where we’ve got some Republican and Democratic interest, as well as federal, state, and local interest in solving the problem.  I think people recognize that there are violent criminals out there and they’ve got to be locked up.  We’ve got to have tough prosecutors, we have to support our law enforcement officials.  Police are in a tough job and they are helping to keep us safe, and we are grateful and thankful to them.

But what we also know is this huge spike in incarcerations is also driven by non-violent drug offenses where the sentencing is completely out of proportion with the crime.  And that costs taxpayers enormous amounts of money.  It is debilitating communities who are seeing huge proportions of the young men in their communities finding themselves with a criminal record, rendering them oftentimes unemployable.  So it compounds problems that these communities already have.

And so I am very appreciative of folks like Dick Durbin and Cory Booker, alongside Mike Lee and Rand Paul and other folks in the House who are working together to see if we can both reduce some of these mandatory minimums around non-violent drug offenses.  Because again, I tend not to have a lot of sympathy when it comes to violent crime.  But when it comes to non-violent drug offenses, is there work that we can do to reduce mandatory minimums, create more diversion programs like drug courts?  Then, can we do a better job on the rehabilitation side inside of prisons so that we are preparing these folks who are eventually going to be released to reenter the workforce?  On the back end, are we doing more to link them up with reentry programs that are effective?

And this may be an area where we could have some really significant bipartisan legislation that doesn’t eliminate all the other challenges we’ve got.  Because the most important goal is keeping folks from getting in the criminal justice system in the first place, which means early childhood education and good jobs, and making sure that we’re not segregating folks in impoverished communities that have no contact with opportunity.

But this can make a difference.  I met these four ex-offenders, as I said, yesterday, and what was remarkable was how they had turned their lives around.  And these were some folks who had been some pretty tough criminals.  One of them had served 10 years; another was a repeat offender that had served a lot of time.  And in each instance, somebody intervened at some point in their lives — once they had already been in the criminal justice system, once they had already gotten in trouble — and said, you know what, I think you can live a different way, and I’m willing to help you.

And that one person, an art teacher, or a GED teacher, or somebody who was willing to offer a guy a job — I want to give a shout-out to Five Guys, because one of the guys there was an ex-felon, and Five Guys gave him a job.  And he ended up becoming a manager at the store and was able to completely turn his life around.  But the point was, somebody reached out to that person and gave him a chance.

And so part of our question should be, how about somebody reaching out to these guys when they’re 10, or 11, or 12, or eight, as opposed to waiting until they’ve already gone through a criminal justice program.  That’s part of why we’re doing My Brother’s Keeper.  But this is an area where I feel modestly optimistic.

I think in the meantime we’ve got to stay on top of keeping the crime rate down, because part of the reason I think there’s a conversation taking place is violent crime has significantly dropped.  Last year, we saw both incarcerations and the crime rate drop, and this can always turn if we start seeing renewed problems in terms of violent crime.  And there’s parts of the country where violent crime is still a real problem, including my hometown of Chicago, and in Baltimore.

And part of what I’ve asked Attorney General Lynch to do is to figure out how can we refocus attention.  If we’re going to do a package of criminal justice reforms, part of it would be actually having a greater police presence and more law enforcement in the communities that are really getting hit hard and haven’t seen some of the drops in violent crime that we’ve seen in places like Manhattan, for example.

With respect to the visit to Kenya, it’s obviously something I’m looking forward to.  I’ll be honest with you, visiting Kenya as a private citizen is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as President because I can actually get outside of a hotel room or a conference center.  And just the logistics of visiting a place are always tough as President, but it’s obviously symbolically important.  And my hope is, is that we can deliver a message that the U.S. is a strong partner not just for Kenya, but for Sub-Saharan Africa generally; build on the progress that’s been made around issues of health and education; focus on counterterrorism issues that are important in East Africa because of al-Shabaab and some of the tragedies that have happened inside of Kenya; and continue to encourage democracy and the reduction of corruption inside that country that sometimes has held back this incredibly gifted and blessed country.

And with respect to the Medal of Freedom, there’s no precedent for revoking a medal.  We don’t have that mechanism.  And as you know, I tend to make it a policy not to comment on the specifics of cases where there might still be, if not criminal, then civil issues involved.

I’ll say this:  If you give a woman — or a man, for that matter — without his or her knowledge, a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape.  And I think this country — any civilized country — should have no tolerance for rape.

All right.  Have we exhausted Iran questions here?  I think there’s a helicopter that’s coming.  But I really am enjoying this Iran debate.  Topics that may not have been touched upon, criticisms that you’ve heard that I did not answer?  Go ahead.  I know Josh is getting a little stressed here — (laughter) — but I just want to make sure that we’re not leaving any stones unturned here.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Mr. President.  I’ll be brief.  The argument has been made that Iran now has a cash windfall, billions to spend.  Your people seem confident they’re going to spend it at home.  Why are you confident they’re not going to spend it on arming Hezbollah, arming Bashar al-Assad, et cetera?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think that’s a great question and I’m glad you brought it up.  I think it is a mistake to characterize our belief that they will just spend it on daycare centers, and roads, and paying down debt.  We think that they have to do some of that, because Rouhani was elected specifically on the premise of improving the economic situation inside of Iran.  That economy has tanked since we imposed sanctions.

So the notion that they’re just immediately going to turn over $100 billion to the IRGC or the Quds Force I think runs contrary to all the intelligence that we’ve seen and the commitments that the Iranian government has made.

Do we think that with the sanctions coming down, that Iran will have some additional resources for its military and for some of the activities in the region that are a threat to us and a threat to our allies?  I think that is a likelihood that they’ve got some additional resources.  Do I think it’s a game-changer for them?  No.

They are currently supporting Hezbollah, and there is a ceiling — a pace at which they could support Hezbollah even more, particularly in the chaos that’s taking place in Syria.  So can they potentially try to get more assistance there?  Yes.  Should we put more resources into blocking them from getting that assistance to Hezbollah?  Yes.  Is the incremental additional money that they’ve got to try to destabilize the region or send to their proxies, is that more important than preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?  No.  So I think — again, this is a matter of us making a determination of what is our priority.

The other problem with the argument that folks have been making about, oh, this is a windfall and suddenly Iran is flushed with cash, and they’re going to take over the world.  And I say that not tongue-in-cheek, because if you look at some of the statements by some of our critics, you would think that Iran is, in fact, going to take over the world as a consequence of this deal — which I think would be news to the Iranians.

That argument is also premised on the notion that if there is no deal, if Congress votes down this deal, that we’re able to keep sanctions in place with the same vigor and effectiveness as we have right now.  And that, I can promise you, is not true.  That is absolutely not true.  I want to repeat:  We’re not writing Iran a check.  This is Iran’s money that we were able to block from them having access to.  That required the cooperation of countries all around the world, many of whom really want to purchase oil from Iran.  The imposition of sanctions — their cooperation with us — has cost them billions of dollars, made it harder for them.  They’ve been willing to do that because they’ve believed we were sincere about trying to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, and they considered that a priority — a high enough priority that they were willing to cooperate with us on sanctions.

If they saw us walking away, or more specifically, if they saw the U.S. Congress effectively vetoing the judgment of 99 percent of the world community that this is a deal that resolves the Iranian weapons program — nuclear weapons program in an equitable way, the sanctions system unravels.  And so we could still maintain some of our unilateral sanctions, but it would be far less effective — as it was before we were able to put together these multilateral sanctions.

So maybe they don’t get $100 billion; maybe they get $60 billion or $70 billion instead.  The price for that that we’ve paid is that now Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.  We have no inspectors on the ground.  We don’t know what’s going on.  They’re still getting some cash windfall.  We’ve lost credibility in the eyes of the world.  We will have effectively united Iran and divided ourselves from our allies.  A terrible position to be in.

I’m just going to look — I made some notes about any of the arguments — the other arguments that I’ve heard here.

Q    What about — (off-mic) — the end of the deal?

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, yes, that’s a good one.  The notion —

Q    At the end of the deal they could go back —

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  Well, so let’s address this issue of — because that’s the other big argument that’s been made.  All right, let’s assume that the deal holds for 10 years, Iran doesn’t cheat.  Now, at the end of 10 years, some of the restrictions have been lifted — although, remember, others stay in place for 15 years.  So for example, they’ve still got to keep their stockpiles at a minimal level for 15 years.  The inspections don’t go away; those are still in place 15, 20 years from now.  Their commitment under the Non-Proliferation Treaty does not go away; that’s still in place.  The additional protocol that they have to sign up for under this deal, which requires a more extensive inspection and verification mechanism — that stays in place.

So there’s no scenario in which a U.S. President is not in a stronger position 12, 13, 15 years from now if, in fact, Iran decided at that point they still wanted to get a nuclear weapon.  Keep in mind, we will have maintained a one-year breakout time, we will have rolled back their program, frozen their facilities, kept them under severe restrictions, had observers.  They will have made international commitments supported by countries around the world.

And — hold on a second — and if at that point they finally decided, you know what, we’re going to cheat, or not even cheat — at that point, they decide openly we’re now pursuing a nuclear weapon — they’re still in violation of this deal and the commitments they’ve made internationally.

And so we are still in a position to mobilize the world community to say, no, you can’t have a nuclear weapon.  And they’re not in a stronger position to get a nuclear weapon at that point; they’re in a weaker position than they are today.  And, by the way, we haven’t given away any of our military capabilities.  We’re not in a weaker position to respond.

So even if everything the critics were saying was true — that at the end of 10 years, or 12 years, or 15 years, Iran now is in a position to decide it wants a nuclear weapon, that they’re at a breakout point — they won’t be at a breakout point that is more dangerous than the breakout point they’re in right now.  They won’t be at a breakout point that is shorter than the one that exists today.  And so why wouldn’t we at least make sure that for the next 10, 15, years they are not getting a nuclear weapon and we can verify it; and afterwards, if they decide if they’ve changed their mind, we are then much more knowledgeable about what their capabilities are, much more knowledgeable about what their program is, and still in a position to take whatever actions we would take today?

Q    So none of this is holding out hope that they’ll change their behavior?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.

Q    Nothing different —

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  Look, I’m always hopeful that behavior may change for the sake of the Iranian people as well as people in the region.  There are young people there who are not getting the opportunities they deserve because of conflict, because of sectarianism, because of poor governance, because of repression, because of terrorism.  And I remain eternally hopeful that we can do something about that, and it should be part of U.S. foreign policy to do something about that.  But I’m not banking on that to say that this deal is the right thing to do.

Again, it is incumbent on the critics of this deal to explain how an American President is in a worse position 12, 13, 14, 15 years from now if, in fact, at that point Iran says we’re going to pull out of the NPT, kick out inspectors and go for a nuclear bomb.  If that happens, that President will be in a better position than what happened if Iran, as a consequence of Congress rejecting this deal, decides that’s it, we’re done negotiating, we’re going after a bomb right now.

The choices would be tougher today than they would be for that President 15 years from now.  And I have not yet heard logic that refutes that.

All right.  I really have to go now.  I think we’ve hit the big themes.  But I promise you, I will address this again.  All right?  I suspect this is not the last that we’ve heard of this debate.

END
2:33 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts July 14, 2015: Joint statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on reaching the Iran Nuclear Deal

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

STATEMENT

Joint statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif Vienna, 14 July 2015

Source: EEAS, 7-14-15

Today is an historic day.

It is a great honour for us to announce that we have reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.

With courage, political will, mutual respect and leadership, we delivered on what the world was hoping for: a shared commitment to peace and to join hands in order to make our world safer. This is an historic day also because we are creating the conditions for building trust and opening a new chapter in our relationship.

This achievement is the result of a collective effort.

No one ever thought it would be easy. Historic decisions never are. But despite all twists and turns of the talks, and the number of extensions, hope and determination enabled us to overcome all the difficult moments. We have always been aware we had a responsibility to our generation and the future ones.

Thanks to the constructive engagement of all parties, and the dedication and ability of our teams, we have successfully concluded negotiations and resolved a dispute that lasted more than 10 years.

Many people brought these difficult negotiations forward during the last decade and we would like to thank all of them – as we would like to thank the International Atomic Energy Agency for its critical contribution and close cooperation as well as the Austrian government for the support and hospitality.

We, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security policy and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, together with the Foreign Ministers of the People´s Republic of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America met here in Vienna, following several months of intensive work, at various levels and in different formats, to negotiate the text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), based on the key parameters agreed in Lausanne on 2 April.

We have today agreed on the final text of this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

The E3/EU+3 and the Islamic Republic of Iran welcome this historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which will ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful, and mark a fundamental shift in their approach to this issue. They anticipate that full implementation of this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action includes Iran’s own long-term plan with agreed limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, and will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action comprises of a main text, and five technical annexes – on nuclear, sanctions, civil nuclear energy cooperation, a joint commission, and implementation. These documents are detailed and specific: that is important because all sides wanted clarity so as to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a balanced deal that respects the interests of all sides. It is also complex, detailed and technical: we cannot fully summarise the agreement now. But the full main text and all its annexes will be made public still today and will be presented within the next few days by the E3+3 to the Security Council for endorsement.

We know that this agreement will be subject to intense scrutiny. But what we are announcing today is not only a deal but a good deal. And a good deal for all sides – and the wider international community.

This agreement opens new possibilities and a way forward to end a crisis that has lasted for more than 10 years. We are committed to make sure this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is fully implemented, counting also on the contribution of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

We call on the world community to support the implementation of this historic effort.

This is the conclusion of our negotiations, but this is not the end of our common work. We will keep doing this important task together.

 

 

Full Text Political Transcripts July 14, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Statement on Iran Nuclear Deal

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Speaker Boehner Statement on Iran Nuclear Agreement

Source: Speaker Boehner’s Press Office, 7-14-15

“At the outset of these talks, the Obama administration said it would secure an agreement that affirmed Iran does not have a right to enrich and permanently dismantles the infrastructure of its nuclear programs. It said that sanctions would not be lifted until Iran met concrete, verifiable standards. And if these terms were not met, the president promised he would walk away.

“The American people and our allies were counting on President Obama to keep his word. Instead, the president has abandoned his own goals. His ‘deal’ will hand Iran billions in sanctions relief while giving it time and space to reach a break-out threshold to produce a nuclear bomb – all without cheating. Instead of making the world less dangerous, this ‘deal’ will only embolden Iran – the world’s largest sponsor of terror – by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region. Instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, this deal is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world.

“The House of Representatives will review every detail of this agreement very closely, but I won’t support any agreement that jeopardizes the safety of the American people and all who value freedom and security. This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about right and wrong. And we will fight a bad deal that is wrong for our national security and wrong for our country.”
– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-boehner-statement-iran-nuclear-agreement#sthash.JkHQYhtS.dpuf

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