(JNS.org) In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama vowed to veto “any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo” the “progress” of ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and Western powers.
“Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies — including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict,” Obama said. “There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.”
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks responded that while Obama has been in office, “Iran keeps getting more time to spin their centrifuges and get closer to a nuclear weapon.”
“Despite pleas from Congress and the international community, the president, after exhaustive negotiations to halt their program, is rewarding Iran with yet more time,” Brooks said. “Giving Iran more time puts our national security and our Middle Eastern allies security—especially Israel—at risk. The Obama administration’s Iran policy is failing. Congress needs to place enhanced sanctions on Iran to demonstrate that we are serious about halting their nuclear weapons program. The president’s veto threat will only empower and embolden Iran to continue as a threat to the entire region and world.”
In November 2013, Iran and the P5+1 powers (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China, and Germany) signed an interim nuclear deal that limited new Western sanctions against Iran and provided a window for negotiations for a comprehensive deal. But the deadline for a final deal has been extended several times, with the latest deadline being June 30, 2015.
In his Tuesday address, Obama referenced the recent terror attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in Paris.
“First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists—from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris,” he said. “We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.”
“As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained,” added Obama. “It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.”
The president also addressed his decision to reform America’s relationship with Cuba as well as the release of Jewish-American aid worker Alan Gross from a Cuban jail in December. Gross was present at the State of the Union address.
“Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” Obama said. “And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of ‘small steps.’ These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.”