President Obama hailed a "historic" tentative nuclear deal reached with Iran Thursday as "a good deal" that meets America's core objectives and make the U.S., its allies and the world safer.
The historic agreement, if implemented, he said, "will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
Mr. Obama spoke from the Rose Garden of the White House just minutes after the U.S. and its negotiating partners announced the framework of a deal in Switzerland. Iran will retain one enrichment facility at Natanz, reduce approximately two-thirds of its installed centrifuges, stop enriching uranium at the Fordo nuclear complex and not build any new nuclear facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years. In return, the U.S. and European Union will release all nuclear-related sanctions once the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies Iran has complied with the agreement.
The deal "cuts off every pathway Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon," Mr. Obama said, and also subjects it to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime negotiated for any nuclear regime in history.
"If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it," Mr. Obama said.
Still, Mr. Obama said work on the deal is not done until all of the details are settled. Negotiators have set a June 30 deadline to write the final agreement.
"If we can get this done, and Iran follows through on the framework that our negotiators agreed to, we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security," the president said, as he promised to fully brief both Congress and the American people on the details. "I am confident we can show this deal is good for the security of the United States, for our allies and for the world."
The White House said that Thursday afternoon he called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most vocal critics of the deal. In a speech to Congress last month, Netanyahu urged lawmakers to reject what he called, "a very bad deal."
The Israeli prime minister was immediately critical of the deal, writing on Twitter, "Any deal must significantly roll back Iran's nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression."
But Mr. Obama challenged critics of the deal to consider what he sees as the alternatives to the agreement: Bombing Iran's nuclear facilities and sparking a war in the Middle East, or pulling out of negotiations and returning to a full set of sanctions, allowing Iran to continue advancing its nuclear program and shortening the so-called "breakout timeline" until they can create a nuclear bomb. That option, he said, could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and quickly force the U.S. to consider military action once again.
"Iran is not simply going to dismantle its nuclear program because we demand it to do so," he said. "When you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: do you really think this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world's major powers, is a worse option than another war in the Middle East?"
He also urged lawmakers to evaluate the deal based on facts and avoid succumbing to politics. Mr. Obama said that if Congress rejects the deal, the U.S. will be blamed for the failure of international diplomacy.