President Obama held a news conference Wednesday, saying he expects the debate over the historic nuclear deal with Iran to be robust. Here is the full text of his remarks.
OBAMA: Please have a seat. Good afternoon, everybody. Yesterday was a historic day.
OBAMA: 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 to 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 in the most comprehensive and intrusive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated.
Without a deal, those inspections go away and we’d 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 reimpose 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 of terrorism, 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, 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.
OBAMA: 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 regional nuclear arms race, and the 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. And 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’s see who I’m starting off with. Here you go; I got it.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Yesterday, you said the deal offered a chance, 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.
OBAMA: 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.