Obama defends Iran nuclear deal

Obama defends Iran nuclear deal

This post was last updated at 2:54 p.m. ET

President Obama offered a robust defense of the historic deal struck with Iran on its nuclear program, saying it meets the “national security interests of the United States and its allies.”

In a more than hourlong news conference, Obama dismissed criticism of the deal, acknowledging that he expects “robust” debate over the agreement in Congress, but urging lawmakers to evaluate “this agreement based on the facts, not on politics, not on posturing.”

“This is the most vigorous inspection and verification deal that has ever been negotiated,” he said.

The news conference comes a day after the U.S. and five other world powers struck a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

Obama said the agreement cuts off all the pathways the Islamic republic has toward a nuclear weapon. He said the alternative to the deal was to leave Iran closer to becoming a nuclear power, making military confrontation with the country more likely.

But the agreement faces deep skepticism in Congress, which has 60 days to debate the deal, as well as among U.S. allies in the Middle East, especially Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told NPR today: “I think this deal gives Iran a path to a nuclear arsenal, and I think it gives them hundreds of billions of dollars right away with which to pursue their aggression and terror against us and against the United States and the world.”

But Obama asserted that critics of the agreement who say it won’t work because Iran is “untrustworthy” are saying the only option left against the Islamic republic is military force.

He added: “There’s no scenario in which a U.S. president is not in a stronger position 12, 13, 14 years from now.”

If Iran decides at that point — either covertly or openly — that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, “they won’t be at a breakout point that they are at now,” he said, emphasizing that Iran will be further away from the bomb than it is now.