President Obama cautioned his successor against re-opening the debate over the Iran nuclear deal, saying that it was easy for Donald Trump to promise he would rip up the deal when he was just a candidate. But now, when the president-elect just “looks at the facts,” he will see the deal is working, Obama argued.
“My suspicion is that when the president-elect comes in and he is consulting with his Republican colleagues on the Hill,” Trump won’t be so eager to revisit the agreement, Obama told reporters at a press briefing before his final overseas trip as president.
Why? “Because to unravel a deal that is working and preventing Iran for pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain — particularly if the alternative would have them freed from any obligations and go ahead and pursue a nuclear weapon,” Obama said.
The United States and other top world powers reached an agreement last year that froze Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon in exchange for reduced sanctions that were strangling the Islamic Republic’s economy. Criticism of the deal cut across party lines, as some key Democrats — such as incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — opposed it, but the administration was successful in securing enough congressional support for the agreement to proceed.
It is more difficult to undo “something that is working,” Obama said, as he repeatedly pointed to former opponents who he said now agree the deal is working and that Iran is not trying to cheat on its obligations.
“When you’re not responsible for it, I think you can call it a terrible deal,” Obama said. “When you are then responsible for the deal and preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, you are more likely to look at the facts.”