Obama defends nuclear deal with Iran as 'our best bet yet'
US President Barack Obama has launched a strong defence of the framework Iranian nuclear deal as "our best bet" and a "once in a lifetime opportunity" as the White House fights back against domestic political criticism and vehement Israeli opposition.
Under fire from his foes for making too many concessions, the president laid out his clearest pitch for the tentative deal and defined the "Obama doctrine" on foreign policy as negotiating with traditional enemies from a position of military might.
"You asked about an Obama doctrine," he said to 'The New York Times' in a wide-ranging interview. "The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities."
It also emerged that the Pentagon upgraded and tested the largest bunker-buster bomb in its arsenal even as US negotiators pursued a diplomatic deal with Iran on its nuclear programme.
The weapon could destroy or disable Iran's most heavily fortified nuclear facilities if the deal fell apart, the 'Wall Street Journal' reported. As Mr Obama tried to lay the groundwork for his foreign policy legacy, he drew an unstated but sharp contrast with the neo-conservative "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive strikes against perceived threats to US security anywhere in the world, pursued by his predecessor, George W Bush.
Mr Obama argued that America's military strength meant that it could afford to pursue "engagement" with countries such as Iran, Cuba and Burma and abandon long-standing US policies of isolating and placing sanctions on such regimes.
The president was defending the preliminary deal with Iran allowing the Islamic republic to maintain some nuclear infrastructure for power generation while suspending its bomb-making capabilities for at least a decade.
"We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk," he said. Describing Iran as a "dangerous country", he nonetheless noted: "The truth of the matter is: Iran's defence budget is $30bn. Our defence budget is closer to $600bn. Iran understands that they cannot fight us." Mr Obama addressed fears in Israel about the framework deal even as Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, launched a fresh attack on the agreement as "a very bad deal" that left Iran's nuclear facilities and centrifuges intact.
Mr Obama said that he "respected" Mr Netanyahu's concerns about Iran, a country that has threatened to destroy Israel. But he insisted that US support for Israeli security was unchanged and that the deal was the best option for thwarting Iranian efforts to acquire a nuclear bomb. The White House is lobbying members of the Republican-led Congress to head off opposition to the deal.
The president has indicated that he would veto any attempt by Congress to block it, but he cannot exercise that power if more than two-thirds of the Senate oppose him.
Mr Netanyahu has also been calling both Democrats and Republicans to rally opposition to the agreement. But a full vote in Congress is not expected before the June 30 deadline for negotiations to complete the details of the broad commitments agreed last week. Prominent Republicans and hawkish foreign policy commentators have criticised Mr Obama as naive and soft on Iran and for turning his back on traditional allies such as Saudi Arabia, which shares Israel's concerns about Tehran. (© Daily Telegraph, London)