US President Barack Obama spoke live from the White House on Wednesday night, one day after announcing the controversial deal struck between Washington, several European and other global powers, and Iran regarding the Iranian nuclear program.
Obama praised the deal as an example of the will of "the international community to unite around a shared vision, and we resolve to solve problems peacefully."
"I expect the debate to be robust, and that's how it should be; it's an important issue," he added. "Our national-security policies are stronger and more effective when subject to the scrutiny and transparency that democracy demands."
"The details of this deal matter very much," he noted. "That's why our team worked so hard for so long to get the details right."
Obama urged the debate not to "lose sight of the larger picture," including "the fundamental choice that this deal represents."
He further insisted that the plan severely hinders Iran's nuclear program.
"Without a deal, those pathways remain open," he said. "There would be no limits to Iran's nuclear program and Iran could move closer to a nuclear bomb."
The terms include "the most comprehensive and intrusive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated" for Iran's nuclear facilities, he added. "Without the deal, those inspections go away."
The President also noted that Iran will face "real consequences" in the event the deal is broken, including the fact that sanctions will "snap back into place."
"Without a deal, the international sanctions regime will unravel," he added.
"With this deal, we have the possibility of peacefully resolving a major threat to national and international security. Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region will feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world."
"Even with this deal, we will continue to have profound differences with Iran," he said. "Its support of terrorism, its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East – therefore a multilateral arms embargo on Iran will remain for five years, and restrictions on ballistic missile technology will remain for eight years."
"The US will maintain its own sanctions on Iran," he said, noting Washington's objections to "its ballistic missile program, its human rights violations, and we will continue our unprecedented security cooperation with Israel and continue to deepen our partnerships with the Gulf states."
"But the bottom line is this: This nuclear deal meets the national security interests of the US and her allies. It prevents the most serious threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would make the other problems that Iran may cause even worse."
"That's why this deal makes our country and the world safer and more secure."
The President warned that "future generations will judge us harshly" if the US does not "choose wisely" about how it approaches the Iranian nuclear program, i.e. if Congress successfully vetoes the move. He acknowledged, however, that the implementation would take "many years of hard work […] vigilance and execution."
Obama concluded by saying that the deal is a "lifetime opportunity" and that he wishes to seize it.
During Q&A with reporters at the conference, Obama assured that “unlike the Cuba situation, we’re not normalizing diplomatic relations here.”
Obama also addressed criticism of the agreement.
“The suggestion among a lot of the critics is that a better deal is one in which Iran has no nuclear capacity at all… the problem with that position is that there’s no one who thinks Iran would or could accept that.”