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Obama Urges Lobbying for Nuclear Pact
National

Obama Urges Lobbying for Nuclear Pact

US President Barack Obama on Thursday told groups that support the Iran nuclear deal to make their voices heard to Congress to counter the millions of dollars in lobbying by those who want to derail the agreement.

"Right now the opponents of this deal have been flooding Congressional offices," Obama said on a conference call with groups including the Washington-based think tank Center for American Progress, Reuters reported.

Groups who oppose the deal, such as American Israel Public Affairs Committee, have spent $20 million in TV ads to put pressure on members of Congress, Obama said.

"They start getting squishy because they're feeling the political heat," Obama said of members of Congress he has met with in recent weeks.

Obama did not thank the groups for any of their support so far, but rather pressured them to step up their efforts.

He drew comparisons to the lead up to the Iraq war, noting that groups who opposed it were not vocal until it was too late.

"In the absence of your voices, you are going to see the same array of voices that got us into the Iraq war, leading to a situation in which we forgo a historic opportunity and we are back on the path of potential military conflict," Obama said.

If upheld, the deal is certain to shape Obama's legacy as he prepares to leave office. He said he has never been more certain of a policy decision.

Congress is currently reviewing the deal that the United States and other world powers negotiated with Iran to limit its nuclear activities for specified durations in exchange for relief from sanctions.

Congress has until Sept. 17 to approve or reject the agreement. Obama has said he would veto any legislation that undermines the deal, but Congress could override his veto with enough votes.

***Major Boost  

Four Democrats said on Thursday they will support the deal in a major boost for Obama, the AP reported.

"It's very clear to me that the agreement is the best path forward," Rep. Dan Kildee said.

"This agreement allows us to prevent (Iran) from gaining a nuclear weapon, and if they cheat, we will know it. If we don't have the agreement, we don't have that certainty."

Iran denies the allegation that it may be seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability, saying its activities are only meant for peaceful applications. The International Atomic Energy Organization has frequently confirmed Tehran has met its commitments under an interim nuclear deal it signed with major powers in late 2013.   

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee and a Senate candidate, said he will support the agreement, calling it "the best path to achieve our goal of ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon."

Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. David Price also announced their support for the agreement.

"We have a choice between this deal or no deal" to curb Iran's nuclear program, Udall said from the Senate floor. "I do not believe we will get another chance."

Price said he believes the accord will "make the world a safer place."

Rejecting the deal "would threaten not just our credibility on the international stage, but also our national security and that of our allies," Price said in a statement. "That is not a risk I am willing to take."

Their statements came after multiple White House meetings this week between Obama and House Democrats, intended to counter an intense lobbying effort by AIPAC.

In the conference call, Obama said every argument that has been made against the deal is either "inaccurate" or assumes the US could have gotten a better deal in which Iran agreed to forgo its nuclear program.

***World of Dreams

"In the world of our dreams, that would be preferable," Obama said. "In the real world, this is a deal that gets the job done."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has criticized the accord, reiterated his demand that the Obama administration turn over documents related to agreements between the IAEA and Iran that he described as "side agreements." Secretary of State John Kerry has said there are no side agreements relevant to the accord.

Obama has sent cabinet members to Capitol Hill for briefings and hearings.

Vice President Joe Biden held a working breakfast on Thursday morning with members of the House Democratic Caucus. The White House says he made the case that the deal includes strong verification protocols to make sure Iran lives up to its obligations.

Kildee said he let Obama know of his decision on Wednesday night. He said he ultimately rejected the argument against the deal, in which opponents suggested the US could reject and then renegotiate it to further tighten enforcement on Iran.

Kildee said the US would lose its credibility by backing away from the agreement, and if that happened, there likely would be no new negotiations.

"That's not a practical alternative," he said.

 

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