Obama Won’t be ‘Distracted by the Politics or the Theater’ of Netanyahu’s Iran Speech

By Patrick Goodenough | March 3, 2015 | 4:49pm EST

Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif prepare for a new round of nuclear negotiations on Monday, March 2, 2015, in Montreux, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) – President Obama is not going to be “distracted by the politics or the theater” of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on the dangers of a proposed nuclear deal with Iran, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

“He’s going to be focused on our goal, which is eliminating the threat from Iran’s nuclear program,” he told a press briefing, echoing comments made by Obama in the Oval Office earlier.

In his remarks, Obama said Netanyahu had offered no “viable alternatives” to the approach currently being pursued by the U.S. and its P5+1 partners in their negotiations with Iran.

The prime minister’s speech, Earnest said, “doesn’t change the president’s mind about the wisdom of the approach that he’s pursuing.”

“And it should raise serious questions in the minds of people who doubt that pursuit, because no alternative has been presented.”

“And until there is, there is no reason to think that the president isn’t right when he says that this strategy is the way that we can – is the best possible way for us to resolve the international community’s concerns with their nuclear program,” Earnest added.

In his speech Netanyahu did offer what he suggested was an alternative approach to a proposed deal that would lift sanctions, leave the terror-sponsoring regime's nuclear infrastructure intact, and ease restrictions on it after about a decade.

Characterizing the Iranian regime as a “very vulnerable” one that has been weakened by the drop in oil prices and needs an agreement “a lot more than you do,” he counseled keeping the pressure on until Iran changes its conduct.

“We don’t have to gamble with our future and with our children’s future,” he said. “We can insist that restrictions on Iran's nuclear program not be lifted for as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and in the world.”

Before the restrictions are lifted, Netanyahu said, the international community should demand that Iran stop its aggression against its neighbors, stop supporting terrorism, and stop threatening to destroy Israel.

“If Iran changes its behavior, the restrictions would be lifted. If Iran doesn’t change its behavior, the restrictions should not be lifted,” he said. “If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.”

In response, Obama said Netanyahu was simply suggesting that tightening the pressure would stop Iran from moving ahead with attempts to build a nuclear weapons capability.

“His essential argument is that if we just double down on sanctions, Iran won’t want to do that. Well, we have evidence from the past decade that sanctions alone are not sufficient to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions.”

U.S. lawmakers who spearheaded the effort to impose tough sanctions on Iran – some of which the White House initially resisted – argue that it precisely because those measures were put in place that Iran agreed to negotiate in the first place.

Iran and the P5+1 group – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – have agreed on a late-March deadline for a comprehensive agreement on a nuclear program which Tehran insists is peaceful, but the West suspects has been a cover for developing the ability to build atomic bombs.

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