President Barack Obama on Wednesday raised the stakes of the Iranian nuclear deal, saying the multinational nuclear agreement Iran is “the most consequential foreign-policy debate” that the US has had since the decision to invade Iraq.
At a high-profile speech at American University on Wednesday, Obama said that anti-nuclear deal sentiments were expressed by the same people who supported the war in Iraq.
“If the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should,” Obama said. “For many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.”
Obama repeatedly attempted to illustrate similarities between opponents of the current deal and supporters of the war in Iraq, which he opposed in the Senate.
“Those calling for war labelled themselves strong and decisive, while dismissing those who disagreed as weak, even appeasers of a malevolent adversary,” Obama said, referencing the march to war in the early 2000s. “More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq.”
“The same mindset, in many cases offered by the same people, who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United State than anything we have done in the decades before or since.”
Obama said the invasion of Iraq had destabilized the Middle East and empowered Iran, creating conditions for the Islamic State terror group to emerge and eliminating Saddam Hussein, a longtime Iran foe.
Obama has long touted his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq as a way to demonstrate his foreign policy credentials. Opposition to the war in Iraq helped launch Obama’s national political career, and provided him with political ammunition in his battle against Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary.
The speech on Tuesday came as Obama is attempting to sell the deal to a sceptical Congress, which has until September 17 to either approve or vote to disapprove of the deal.
If Congress rejects the plan, Obama is almost certain to veto the rejection. At that point, opponents would need a significant amount of Democratic support to overcome the veto: if Republicans unanimously reject the plan, they need 13 Democratic Senators and 44 Democratic members of the House in order to overcome Obama’s veto.
That’s looking less likely as more sceptical Democrats announce their support for the deal.
On Tuesday, a trio of Democratic Senators announced that they would vote for the deal, though some more high-profile Democratic leaders have remained silent about whether they will eventually come out in favour of the deal.
Obama is also attempting to curb the influence of Israeli opponents, who have attempted to persuade allies in Congress to vote against the deal. The administration announced on Wednesday that Obama will visit Israel to sell the deal in person.
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