WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama heralded a framework nuclear understanding with Iran as a “historic” agreement and warned Congress Thursday against taking action that could upend work toward a final deal.
“The issues at stake here are bigger than politics,” Obama said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden. “These are matters of war and peace, and they should be evaluated based on the facts.”
Obama spoke hours after negotiators in Switzerland reached a framework agreement outlining limits on Iran’s nuclear program and setting the stage for work on a final deal over the next three months.
The president called the agreement “a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.” He said verification mechanisms built into the framework agreed to in Switzerland hours earlier would ensure that “if Iran cheats, the world will know it.”
Obama has invested significant political capital in the nuclear negotiations. The talks have strained the U.S. relationship with Israel, which sees Tehran as an existential threat, and deepened tensions with Congress.
One of Obama’s toughest challenges will be convincing lawmakers to hold off on legislation that would authorize new sanctions on Iran. He warned anew Thursday that approving new sanctions in the midst of the delicate diplomacy could scuttle the talks.
Iran has agreed to reduce its uranium enriching centrifuges by two-thirds, not enrich uranium to weapons grade, dismantle a plutonium reactor, and open all nuclear facilities to UN inspectors.
In return UN and European economic sanctions would be lifted immediately and U.S. sanctions would be lifted over time.
“If they don’t provide it, the sanctions come back. If they don’t provide it they’re in breach of this particular agreement,” Secretary of State John Kerry said.
The White House believes this an international agreement that does not need congressional approval. Members of Congress on both sides see it differently. They said Congress voted for sanctions against Iran and should have a say if they are to be lifted.
“It’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of international diplomacy,” the President warned.
The U.S.-led diplomatic negotiations have also sparked concerns among allies in the Middle East who fear Iran could be left on the brink of a nuclear bomb. Israel and several Arab nations also say the nuclear talks ignore Iran’s support for terrorism and destabilizing activity in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t support the agreement, CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported.
Before the announcement he tweeted “Any deal must significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression.”
Netanyahu has said the deal leaves too much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact.
“I don’t see how we can trust Iran at all. They have lied throughout this.”
Congressman Peter King says allowing Iran to maintain some centrifuges is dangerous, Kozar reported.
“We started these negotiations with the idea of ending Iran’s capacity to have a nuclear weapon. Now, we’re basically locking it in place. That infrastructure will remain,” King said.
The White House also faces opposition from Congressional Republicans like Tom Cotton from Arkansas.
“The terms announced today were not as bad as I feared. They were worse,” he said.
President Obama said that if the deal becomes final it will make the world safer.
“This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said.
The president said he had spoken with the Saudi king and planned to discuss the agreement with Israeli Netanyahu. He also announced that he was inviting the leaders of six Gulf nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait — to Washington this spring.
Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler contributed to this report.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)