Obama Pushes Iran Deal, Talks Peace, Slaps Opposition

President Barack Obama spoke at American University’s School of International Service, making his case for the Iran nuclear deal agreed upon his administration and the Iranian government. Evoking President John F. Kennedy who made a major foreign policy speech at the same university in 1963 and also President Reagan in his dealings with the Soviet Union during the 1980s, Obama gave a history lesson and reasons why the deal ought to be approved by Congress in September.

The president arrived at Nebraska Avenue NW late, just before noon, apparently because someone could not print out a crisp copy of his speech. “Even presidents have problems with toner,” he began. The day before was his 54th birthday, and he, first lady Michelle Obama and others dined at the hard-to-get-into Rose’s Luxury restaurant at Barrack’s Row near Capitol Hill.

Today’s almost hour-long speech before about 300 people, excluding press, was deadly serious: how to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran. Among the VIPs in the first row, front and center in the audience, was Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Interrupted by polite applause from time to time and a bit of laughter once or twice, Obama argued how diplomacy averted nuclear war in the 20th century and how the Iran Deal was an either-or decision: “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 said the same crowd against the Iran Deal was the same one which pushed for the Iraq War in 2003. He warned about walking away from the current agreement trying to get a better deal for the U.S. and its allies: “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.”

At the same time, while acknowledging Iran’s terrorist activities, past and present, Obama appeared to insult those opposing the administration’s deal: “I realize 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 talks… Just because Iranian hardliners chant ‘Death to America’ does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those hardliners that are more satisfied with the status quo. It’s those hardliners, chanting ‘death to America,’ who’ve been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus.”

At the end, the 44th president pulled back and circled back to the 35th president, saying, “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.”

After a quick TV commercial-quality appeal — “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.” — Obama left the stage and made it back to the White House in time for lunch.

See the full text of the Aug. 5 speech, as provided by the White House, here.


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