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12/26/2013

Obama on Iran

Remarks from President Obama’s press conference, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

[From opening statement]

“And let me conclude by saying just as we’re strengthening our position here at home, we’re also standing up for our interests around the world. This year we’ve demonstrated that with clear-eyed, principled diplomacy, we can pursue new paths to a world that’s more secure, a future where Iran does not build a nuclear weapon, a future where Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles are destroyed.

“By the end of next year, the war in Afghanistan will be over, just as we’ve ended our war in Iraq, and we’ll continue to bring our troops home.”

Oh yeah...everything is just hunky-dory. Iranian nuke talks going nowhere in terms of a final agreement, let alone implementation of interim one; Assad goes from using chemical weapons to employing barrel bombs with equally devastating effect; Afghanistan will crumble unless we are able to negotiate a long-term security agreement with Afghan government (I’m hopeful on this front); and we lost the war in Iraq, witness the 8,000+ killed in Sunni/Shia violence this year.

[From Q&A]

Q: (The fallout from the health care issue) seems to be making Democrats, particularly in the Senate, a little rambunctious and independent of you, which is evidenced most clearly in the debate over the Iran sanctions. It looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has expedited consideration of an Iran sanctions bill for January, even as your administration and you have been trying to get them to lay off sanctions...

President Obama: “On Iran, there is the possibility of a resolution to a problem that has been a challenge for American national security for over a decade now. And that is getting Iran to, in a verifiable fashion, not pursue a nuclear weapon. Already, even with the interim deal that we struck in Geneva, we have the first halt, and in some cases, some rollback of Iran’s nuclear capabilities – the first time that we’ve seen that in almost a decade.

“And we now have a structure in which we can have a very serious conversation to see, is it possible for Iran to get right with the international community in a verifiable fashion to give us all confidence that any peaceful nuclear program that they have is not going to be weaponized in a way that threatens us or our allies in the region, including Israel.

“And as I’ve said before and I will repeat, it is very important for us to test whether that’s possible, not because it’s guaranteed, but because the alternative is possibly us having to engage in some sort of conflict to resolve the problem, with all kinds of unintended consequences.

“Now, I’ve been very clear from the start, I mean what I say. It is my goal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But I sure would rather do it diplomatically. I’m keeping all options on the table, but if I can do it diplomatically, that’s how we should do it, and I would think that would be the preference of everybody up on Capitol Hill, because that sure is the preference of the American people.

“And we lose nothing during this negotiation period, precisely because there are verification provisions in place. We will have more insight into Iran’s nuclear program over the next six months than we have previously; we’ll know if they are violating the terms of the agreement; they’re not allowed to accelerate their stockpile of enriched uranium; in fact, they have to reduce their stockpile of highly enriched uranium. Ironically, if we did not have this six-month period in which we’re testing whether we can get a comprehensive solution to this problem, they would be advancing even further on their nuclear program.

“And in light of all that, what I’ve said to members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, is there is no need for new sanctions legislation, not yet.

“Now, if Iran comes back and says, we can’t give you assurances that we’re not going to weaponize, if they’re not willing to address some of their capabilities that we know could end up resulting in them having breakout capacity, it’s not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back, strengthen sanctions even further. I’ll work with members of Congress to put even more pressure on Iran. But there’s no reason to do it right now.

“And so I’m not surprised that there’s been some talk from some members of Congress about new sanctions. I think the politics of trying to look tough on Iran are often good when you’re running for office or if you’re in office. But as president of the United States right now who’s been responsible over the last four years, with the help of Congress, in putting together a comprehensive sanctions regime that was specifically designed to put pressure on them and bring them to the table to negotiate, what I’m saying to them, what I’ve said to the international community and what I’ve said to the American people is let’s test it. Now’s the time to try to see if we can get this thing done.

“And...I’ve heard some logic that says, well, Mr. President, we’re supportive of the negotiations, but we think it’s really useful to have this club hanging over Iran’s head. Well, first of all, we still have the existing sanctions already in place that are resulting in Iran losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales.

“We already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied, even as the negotiations are taking place. It’s not as if we’re letting up on that.

“So I’ve heard arguments, well, but you know, this way we can be assured and the Iranians will know that if negotiations fail even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. Listen, I don’t think the Iranians have any doubt that Congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. We can do that in a day, on a dime.

“But if we’re serious about negotiations, we’ve got to create an atmosphere in which Iran in willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them and contrary to their ideology and rhetoric and their instincts and their suspicions of us. And we don’t help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in this kind of action.

“Alright? Ok, everybody. I think I’m going to take one more question....”

Nooo! No more questions!

Geezuz, that was really the president’s answer to a simple question. And the fact is, without the “interim agreement” being implemented, without intrusive inspections, who knows what Iran is doing today. The interim deal was reached Nov. 24. It’s been a month and nothing.

The president was also stupid to diss members of Congress, such as in his own party, including the likes of New York Sen. Charles Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, who back increased sanctions.

This will be an explosive issue when members and the president return from the recess, especially as it seems unlikely the start of actually implementing the interim agreement will have occurred by then.

Source: Washington Post

Hot Spots returns in a few weeks.

Brian Trumbore



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Hot Spots

12/26/2013

Obama on Iran

Remarks from President Obama’s press conference, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

[From opening statement]

“And let me conclude by saying just as we’re strengthening our position here at home, we’re also standing up for our interests around the world. This year we’ve demonstrated that with clear-eyed, principled diplomacy, we can pursue new paths to a world that’s more secure, a future where Iran does not build a nuclear weapon, a future where Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles are destroyed.

“By the end of next year, the war in Afghanistan will be over, just as we’ve ended our war in Iraq, and we’ll continue to bring our troops home.”

Oh yeah...everything is just hunky-dory. Iranian nuke talks going nowhere in terms of a final agreement, let alone implementation of interim one; Assad goes from using chemical weapons to employing barrel bombs with equally devastating effect; Afghanistan will crumble unless we are able to negotiate a long-term security agreement with Afghan government (I’m hopeful on this front); and we lost the war in Iraq, witness the 8,000+ killed in Sunni/Shia violence this year.

[From Q&A]

Q: (The fallout from the health care issue) seems to be making Democrats, particularly in the Senate, a little rambunctious and independent of you, which is evidenced most clearly in the debate over the Iran sanctions. It looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has expedited consideration of an Iran sanctions bill for January, even as your administration and you have been trying to get them to lay off sanctions...

President Obama: “On Iran, there is the possibility of a resolution to a problem that has been a challenge for American national security for over a decade now. And that is getting Iran to, in a verifiable fashion, not pursue a nuclear weapon. Already, even with the interim deal that we struck in Geneva, we have the first halt, and in some cases, some rollback of Iran’s nuclear capabilities – the first time that we’ve seen that in almost a decade.

“And we now have a structure in which we can have a very serious conversation to see, is it possible for Iran to get right with the international community in a verifiable fashion to give us all confidence that any peaceful nuclear program that they have is not going to be weaponized in a way that threatens us or our allies in the region, including Israel.

“And as I’ve said before and I will repeat, it is very important for us to test whether that’s possible, not because it’s guaranteed, but because the alternative is possibly us having to engage in some sort of conflict to resolve the problem, with all kinds of unintended consequences.

“Now, I’ve been very clear from the start, I mean what I say. It is my goal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But I sure would rather do it diplomatically. I’m keeping all options on the table, but if I can do it diplomatically, that’s how we should do it, and I would think that would be the preference of everybody up on Capitol Hill, because that sure is the preference of the American people.

“And we lose nothing during this negotiation period, precisely because there are verification provisions in place. We will have more insight into Iran’s nuclear program over the next six months than we have previously; we’ll know if they are violating the terms of the agreement; they’re not allowed to accelerate their stockpile of enriched uranium; in fact, they have to reduce their stockpile of highly enriched uranium. Ironically, if we did not have this six-month period in which we’re testing whether we can get a comprehensive solution to this problem, they would be advancing even further on their nuclear program.

“And in light of all that, what I’ve said to members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, is there is no need for new sanctions legislation, not yet.

“Now, if Iran comes back and says, we can’t give you assurances that we’re not going to weaponize, if they’re not willing to address some of their capabilities that we know could end up resulting in them having breakout capacity, it’s not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back, strengthen sanctions even further. I’ll work with members of Congress to put even more pressure on Iran. But there’s no reason to do it right now.

“And so I’m not surprised that there’s been some talk from some members of Congress about new sanctions. I think the politics of trying to look tough on Iran are often good when you’re running for office or if you’re in office. But as president of the United States right now who’s been responsible over the last four years, with the help of Congress, in putting together a comprehensive sanctions regime that was specifically designed to put pressure on them and bring them to the table to negotiate, what I’m saying to them, what I’ve said to the international community and what I’ve said to the American people is let’s test it. Now’s the time to try to see if we can get this thing done.

“And...I’ve heard some logic that says, well, Mr. President, we’re supportive of the negotiations, but we think it’s really useful to have this club hanging over Iran’s head. Well, first of all, we still have the existing sanctions already in place that are resulting in Iran losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales.

“We already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied, even as the negotiations are taking place. It’s not as if we’re letting up on that.

“So I’ve heard arguments, well, but you know, this way we can be assured and the Iranians will know that if negotiations fail even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. Listen, I don’t think the Iranians have any doubt that Congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. We can do that in a day, on a dime.

“But if we’re serious about negotiations, we’ve got to create an atmosphere in which Iran in willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them and contrary to their ideology and rhetoric and their instincts and their suspicions of us. And we don’t help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in this kind of action.

“Alright? Ok, everybody. I think I’m going to take one more question....”

Nooo! No more questions!

Geezuz, that was really the president’s answer to a simple question. And the fact is, without the “interim agreement” being implemented, without intrusive inspections, who knows what Iran is doing today. The interim deal was reached Nov. 24. It’s been a month and nothing.

The president was also stupid to diss members of Congress, such as in his own party, including the likes of New York Sen. Charles Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, who back increased sanctions.

This will be an explosive issue when members and the president return from the recess, especially as it seems unlikely the start of actually implementing the interim agreement will have occurred by then.

Source: Washington Post

Hot Spots returns in a few weeks.

Brian Trumbore