Obama ticks off critics of Iran deal

He says detractors are on the same side as hardliners who chant 'Death to America'

WASHINGTON•US President Ba-rack Obama took on critics of the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers in an aggressive speech, saying they were the same people who created the "drumbeat of war" and played on public fears to push the United States into the Iraq war more than a decade ago.

"Let's not mince words: The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some sort of war - maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon," he told about 200 people in a speech at American University on Wednesday. "How can we, in good conscience, justify war before we have tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives?"

Mr Obama portrayed the coming vote in Congress to approve or reject the deal as the most consequential foreign policy decision for lawmakers since Congress voted in 2003 to authorise the invasion of Iraq. He implored them to "shut out the noise" and back the deal.

Delivered in stark terms that surprised some foreign policy analysts and left no room for questioning whether the agreement is good for US security, the President's speech was a striking display of certitude about a diplomatic deal that has split the US public and presented a dilemma for lawmakers, including many in his own party.

THECHOICE IS CLEAR

The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some sort of war–maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon. How can we, ingood conscience, justify war before we have tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Mr Obama criticised Republicans who are pressing forward with legislation to block the accord, which is on track for a vote next month. Opposition, he said, stems from "knee-jerk partisanship that has become all too familiar rhetoric that renders every decision made to be a disaster, a surrender".

He said hardliners in Iran, who chant "Death to America", were "making common cause with the Republican caucus".

Lawmakers who oppose the deal said they were not persuaded and some said they resented the President's tone.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, said: "These Democrats and Republicans deserve serious answers today, not some outrageous attempt to equate their search for answers with supporting chants of 'Death to America'."

In his speech, Mr Obama also acknowledged his administra-tion's split with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the deal. Mr Netanyahu has called the agreement a threat to his country's survival. "I do not doubt his sincerity, but I believe he is wrong," said Mr Obama.

Mr Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations, said the speech seemed intended to leave no doubt "that those who oppose it are either uninformed or, in the case of the Iraq war comparison, recklessly marching to the next war in the Middle East".

He called the speech a "stunning" show of boldness by a president who feels empowered in the final stages of his presidency to pursue an accord he believes could be transformational.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2015, with the headline 'Obama ticks off critics of Iran deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe