Obama Says Scott Walker Would Be Foolish to Revoke Iran DealToluse Olorunnipa and Justin Sink
President Barack Obama said his successor would be unwise to scuttle a nuclear deal with Iran, rebuking potential Republican candidates who oppose an agreement.
Obama referred directly to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who said he would revoke a weapons accord on the first day of his presidency.
“It would be a foolish approach to take,” Obama said in an interview with NPR broadcast on Tuesday. “Perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”
Walker said Tuesday that Obama’s comments are evidence of “failed leadership” that has “hurt America’s safety and standing in the world.”
“Americans would be better served by a president who spent more time working with governors and members of Congress rather than attacking them,” Walker said in a statement.
The Obama administration has been defending a framework agreement reached with Iran amid growing opposition from Republican lawmakers and the party’s potential 2016 presidential candidates. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, a possible contender, also has said the next president should revoke the deal.
Forty-seven Republican senators, including at least four potential White House aspirants, sent a letter to Iranian leaders last month warning that a deal they reached with Obama could be undone by the next president.
As a bipartisan coalition in Congress is seeking a vote on any agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, Obama defended his administration’s ability to negotiate an agreement without lawmakers’ approval.
“There is long precedent for a whole host of international agreements in which there’s not a formal treaty ratified by Congress,” he said.
Negotiators have until the end of June to complete the pact, ironing out technical features including the number of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to keep and how quickly economic sanctions will be lifted.
Obama said the deal is the best option to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and will be valuable even if Iran doesn’t back away from its anti-Israel rhetoric.
“The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms,” the president said. “And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.”
The comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any deal must require Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel,” and “would not block Iran’s path to the bomb,” Netanyahu said in a Twitter post last week.
The Obama administration is seeking to ensure at least a one-year warning time if Iran tries to break out and race to produce a nuclear device.
Obama said critics of the deal shouldn’t be concerned that Iran will be allowed to keep enriching uranium, because the country will be capped at 300 kilograms for a decade. That’s not enough to convert into weapons-grade material, Obama said.
“What is a more relevant fear would be that in year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero,” Obama said.
That admission may provide ammunition to critics of the deal in Israel and Congress. If Iran was able to reduce the time it took to produce a nuclear weapon, a future administration would have less time to launch a military effort to prevent Iran from producing a bomb.
Obama said that scenario was still preferable to the status quo.
“At that point we have much better ideas about what it is that their program involves,” he said. “We have much more insight into their capabilities. And the option of a future president to take action if in fact they try to obtain a nuclear weapon is undiminished.”