Obama asks lobbyist help to pressure Congress over Iran deal

Obama pressures Congress over passing Iran nuclear deal and seeks lobbyist help

US President Barack Obama on Thursday called on Iran nuclear deal supporters to back him in convincing Congress to approve the deal.

“The facts are on our side, but the politics are going to be tough if all of you don’t get involved and get active,” Obama said to thousands members of liberal activist groups.

He underlined that opponents of the Iran deal, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, are pressuring Congress with calls and letters while spending millions to lobby against the pact.

He reminded liberal groups about the Iraq war, which he believes could have been avoided at the time if the necessary actions were taken against it by civil society interest groups.  

“In the absence of your voices, you are going to see the same array of voices that got us into the Iraq war, leading to a situation in which we forgo a historic opportunity and we are back on the path of potential military conflict,” Obama warned.

The nuclear deal that was reached on July 14 between Iran and the P5+1 powers -Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - is aimed at monitoring Iran's most sensitive nuclear work for over 12 years in exchange for immediate relief for the country from economic sanctions that have long crippled its economy.

The deal is under congressional review and the legislative body has until Sept. 17 to ratify or reject it.

Since the agreement was reached by the world powers on July 14, the White House has been working hard to make sure that it will be passed by Congress.

The Obama administration is working full force to convince lawmakers to back the deal before Congress leaves Washington for its August recess. In the past two weeks Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and several other administration officials have been visiting Capitol Hill.

In addition to holding one-on-one meetings with lawmakers, Obama hosted a group reception with several House Democrats on Wednesday while Vice President Biden met with House Democrats on Thursday morning.

In the meantime, three White House secretaries led by US Secretary of State John Kerry attended a second congressional hearing to seek support for the nuclear deal.

Obama’s efforts are being received positively by Democrats who were skeptical about the deal, according to The Hill.

House Democratic member Jerrold Nadler stated that the White House has been “certainly more hands-on,” The Hill reported.

Earlier this month, Nancy Pelosi - the leader of Democrats in the US House of Representatives - wrote to her colleagues to show her support for the Iran nuclear deal.

Although Pelosi’s support is a good signal, the landmark deal is not welcomed by the Republicans that hold majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Concerning the deal, House Speaker John Boehner stated, “It's pretty clear to me that a majority of the House and Senate, at a minimum, are opposed to this deal. What those numbers will look like post-Labor day, we'll see.”

A “two-month review period” is ongoing for the lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to decide whether the nuclear agreement is a “good deal.” Afterwards, Congress can vote for a “resolution of disapproval” to block the deal. However, Obama made it clear that he would veto the resolution, if presented. But if the naysayers obtain a two-thirds majority, they would override Obama’s veto, and practically block the deal.

Although the Republicans do have more seats than Democrats in both houses,overriding the president’s veto would require the approval of two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, in which case the Republicans would need support from dozens of Democrats.

While Republicans seem tough to convince about passing the agreement, hours after the Iran nuclear agreement was reached the White House took its first steps to gain the votes of skeptical Democrats in Congress on the deal, with several Democrats also at odds with Obama’s agenda.

Pro-Israel Democratic Senator Robert Menendez recently expressed his discontentment with the nuclear deal, and could be a key congressional member in pushing Democrats to support the Republicans’ stance on the issue. Menendez said he believes the deal preserves Iran’s nuclear program instead of ending it.

Despite harsh criticism from Congress claiming that with the ratification of the deal the US will give Iran what they want, the Obama administration seems to be confident that the deal is essential for overcoming the risk of Iran producing a nuclear weapon.

"The choice we face is between an agreement that will ensure Iran's nuclear programme is limited, rigorously scrutinised and wholly peaceful - or no deal at all," Kerry said.

He also underscored that the Republican George Bush administration was also engaged with Iran, which “had 19,000 centrifuges up from the 163 that they had back in 2003.”

Many Republicans believe the nuclear deal will only serve Iran by providing a path to the bomb.


TRTWorld and agencies