There was a wide range of extreme reactions in Washington and around the world to President Obama working with five other world leaders to reach an agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program, with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it an “historic mistake” and Republican and Democratic members of Congress voicing their staunch opposition to the deal.
While the deal is considered by many analysts and observers to be the most important thaw between the United States and Iran in more than three decades, most of the opposition feels it doesn’t hit Iran hard enough and is a mistake because it lifts some of the sanctions that have been in place against the rogue nation for years without completely dismantling its nuclear program.
The deal was negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Zarif, along with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
The world has fretted for years over Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons, with Israel placing the issue at the top of its priority list because of frequent threats Iranian leaders have made about trying to annihilate the Israeli state.
Netanyahu told his cabinet last night that the world had become a “more dangerous place” as a result of the deal. He repeated Israel’s long-standing threat to use military action against Iran if needed, declaring that Israel “has the right and the duty to defend itself by itself.”
Netanyahu warned that any relief from economic sanctions would make Iran less willing to compromise during a six-month period aimed at reaching a final agreement.
“What was reached last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake,” Netanyahu said. “Today the world became a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world.
“I want to clarify that Israel will not let Iran develop nuclear military capability.”
But with so many foreign leaders signed on, Israel will have no choice now but to go along with the negotiated settlement and shelve its talk of military attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“Israel doesn’t have legitimacy right now . . . to conduct an independent military option against Iranian installations,” Yoel Guzansky, a former Israeli National Security Council staffer who was responsible for monitoring the Iranian nuclear program, told Fox News.
“How can Israel, after the entire international community sat with Iran, shook hands with Iran and signed an agreement, operate independently?” he said. “It will be seen as someone who sabotages 10 years of trying to get Iran to the table and trying to get a deal.”
In a late appearance at the White House, President Obama said the deal put limits down on Iran’s nuclear program that would make it harder for Tehran to build a weapon and easier for the world to find out if it tried.
“Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb,” Obama said.
Many observers think the Iran deal may be one of Obama’s most lasting legacies. A weekend poll found that 56 percent of Americans said they would favor the kind of interim deal with Iran that was reached Saturday.
In an appearance on CNN, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said the deal could help the President’s public perception.
“Any time you see the President on the world stage, captain of the ship of state, you see him as the father figure for the country,” Castellanos said. “That’s a good thing for the President politically.”
But there is opposition in Congress from both parties, particularly among Israel’s staunchest American supporters.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said the deal disproportionately favors the Islamic republic.
“This disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December. I intend to discuss that possibility with my colleagues,” he said.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, said the deal makes it “very difficult” to continue sanctions that are considered effective at hobbling Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
If Congress scuttled the deal, it would be a huge international embarrassment to Obama.
“Weakness invites the wolves,” Castellanos said. “When you are in a weak position politically as leader of the United States . . . you’re a little more open to things you shouldn’t be open to.”