President Barack Obama will argue on Wednesday that a congressional debate on whether to block a deal with Iran over its nuclear program is the most consequential foreign policy issue since the decision on going to war in Iraq.
Obama, in a speech at American University in Washington, will argue that many of the agreement’s critics are the same people who rushed to support going to war in Iraq in 2003, the White House said in a statement.
The Obama administration is racing to shore up enough congressional support for the agreement to ensure it survives as Republicans line up in opposition.
The agreement with Iran by the U.S. and five other world powers would curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in return for easing sanctions. Congress has until mid-September to review the accord. If lawmakers adopt a resolution disapproving the agreement — as is likely in the Republican-controlled House and Senate — Obama has said he will veto it.
The question then would be whether Congress can override the veto. That would require two-thirds majority votes in the House, which currently has 434 members, and the 100-member Senate.
Administration officials are counting on Democrats to sustain a veto. The top House Democrat, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, has said she is confident that would happen.
The No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, is leading a trip to Israel starting Monday with 21 other Democrats. Next week House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, will lead a group of 35 other Republican lawmakers on a similar trip.
Hoyer’s office said in a statement that his Democratic delegation will meet with Israeli and Palestinian government officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Obama will argue in his Wednesday speech that the agreement with Iran calls for comprehensive inspections and includes a permanent ban on Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, according to the White House.
On Tuesday, Obama and Netanyahu made separate appeals to American Jewish leaders with dueling visions of the international accord to rein in Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The president met with prominent Jewish Americans at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Netanyahu labeled the deal “dangerous” in a webcast targeted at U.S. Jews.
The accord with Iran has put new strains on an already contentious relationship between Obama and Netanyahu and set off attempts by both sides to influence public opinion in the U.S. and Israel.
Netanyahu was blunt in his remarks, broadcast from his office in Jerusalem.
“This is the time to oppose this dangerous deal,” he said. “The days when the Jewish people could not speak out for themselves are over.”
The White House said that a “diverse” panel, including public opponents of the deal, met with Obama on Tuesday. Such outreach is aimed at countering efforts by opponents — including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — who have committed to heavily lobby lawmakers during the congressional review period.
Obama “implored the participants to represent the agreement accurately,” said Robert Wexler, president of the Washington-based S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, who attended the meeting.
Obama said he felt a personal, emotional commitment to the security and well-being of Israel, and that it would be a moral failure if the deal endangered the U.S. ally, Wexler said.