President Barack Obama and his opponents are going all-out to argue their cases regarding the unfolding nuclear agreement with Iran, which has become the epicenter of one of the most important foreign-policy debates in many years.
Obama sees the tentative pact, which is still being negotiated, as a key part of his legacy as a peacemaker, and he is arguing his position with unusual aggressiveness. Under the agreement, Obama says, Iran would reduce its overall nuclear program, temporarily stop whatever nuclear weapons program Tehran now has, and agree to international inspections, in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions against Iran.
And while many details remain murky, Obama's argument is not. Referring to fears of Israeli leaders that the deal would endanger Israel's security, Obama told the New York Times in an interview published Sunday, "What I would say to them is that not only am I absolutely committed to making sure they maintain their qualitative military edge, and that they can deter any potential future attacks, but what I'm willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them."
Obama said this pledge should be "sufficient to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table."
Critics warn that the administration will use every means at its disposal to make its case but that the preliminary agreement with Iran remains deeply flawed. "It's going to be the world's best-funded, most relentless sales job that we've ever seen," predicted Mark Dubowitz, executive director the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which opposes the Iran agreement. Dubowitz told the New York Times, "If there's one thing this White House can do, they know how to run a political campaign, and they are going to need it here.
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