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White House official: Iran nuclear deal top priority

A lasting nuclear deal with Iran is a White House priority on par with Obama’s signature healthcare law, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes recently told a meeting of progressive allies

“Bottom line is, this is the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian issue diplomatically, certainly since President Obama came to office, and probably since the beginning of the Iraq War,” Rhodes said earlier this month in audio obtained by The Washington Free Beacon. “So no small opportunity, it’s a big deal. This is probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy. This is healthcare for us, just to put it in context.”

{mosads}Other administration officials have described the negotiations — which are rapidly approaching a Nov. 24 deadline — as significant, but Obama has said the likelihood of a deal is no greater than 50-50.

Earlier this week, press secretary Josh Earnest said the ongoing talks have not given him reason to revise that prediction upward, but they remain “the best way to resolve the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”

“A diplomatic solution that extracts a commitment from Iran that can be verified — that will be transparent and can be verified — is the best way to ensure that Iran won’t be in possession of a nuclear weapon,” Earnest said. “And that ultimately, it is the view of the United States, again, that Iran having a nuclear weapon would pose a significant threat not just to our allies in Israel, but also to countries throughout the region.”

In the audio recording, Rhodes also indicated that the White House was looking to strike a deal that it would not necessarily require immediate congressional approval.

“We’re already kind of thinking through, how do we structure a deal so we don’t necessarily require legislative action right away,” Rhodes said. “And there are ways to do that.”

A New York Times report suggesting that strategy earlier this month drew an outcry from Capitol Hill, and lawmakers already critical of the deal suggested the White House was attempting to cut them out.

Earnest conceded earlier this month that the most likely agreement would include a two-step process, with congressional action only necessary for the second stage. The U.S. and other world powers are offering to roll back economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for the dismantling of its nuclear program.

“What that means is that, in the first instance, the United States would look to suspend sanctions, and then, only if and after Iran has been determined to uphold its end of the agreement, would we look to lift or terminate sanctions,” Earnest said. “And there’s actually a very common-sense reason for this, which is that, if it became clear that Iran was not living up to its end of the bargain, we would want to have a posture where we could quickly snap sanctions back into place. 

“And so that’s how we’ll proceed.”


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