Obama defends Iran deal at Hanukkah event

President Obama defended his nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday at an event celebrating Hanukkah at the White House.

Obama told White House visitors, including three Supreme Court justices, that his administration was “testing” whether it was possible to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy.

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“For the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program” said Obama, who argued that key parts of it were being rolled back under the interim deal.

“Over the coming months, we’re going to continue our diplomacy with the goal of achieving a comprehensive solution that deals with the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons once and for all,” he said.

The interim nuclear deal has been criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for lifting sanctions on Iran while not imposing tough enough conditions on the regime.

Perhaps most critically, it allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium. While administration officials suggest a final deal could include an end to the enrichment process, Iran has been adamant it will not agree to such a concession.

The Senate is considering new sanctions that could be imposed on Iran, though exactly what form those would take is unclear.

Israel has also been highly critical of the White House’s efforts on Iran and the interim deal reached late last month.

Obama has sought to reassure Israel, and on Thursday he said the U.S. “commitment to Israel and its security will remain iron clad and unshakable. “

Obama tied his comments on Iran and Hanukkah to Nelson Mandela as well, saying leaders like the South African president “remind us that those who came before us overcame even greater obstacles than those that we face.”

“So let’s take strength from their struggles and from their sacrifice,” Obama aid. “Let’s give thanks for miracles large and small. Let’s recommit ourselves to building a future that shines with hope and freedom and peace.”

The Hanukkah celebration was attended by Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Elana Kagan, who Obama recognized in his comments.

Comedian and actor Larry David was also seen at the event.