- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hitting the road to promote his nuclear deal with Iran against widespread public opposition, President Obama said Tuesday that opponents of the accord are “the same folks” who rushed carelessly into the bloody war in Iraq.

At a veterans’ convention in Pittsburgh and a taping of “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart in New York, Mr. Obama said critics who want him to get tougher with Tehran are engaging in dangerous “chest-beating.”

“Some of the same politicians and pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program are the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq and said it would take a few months,” Mr. Obama said at the VFW’s annual meeting. “We know the consequences of that choice, and what it cost us in blood and treasure.”

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And in banter later with Mr. Stewart, the president said his critics seem to believe “if you had brought Dick Cheney to the negotiations, everything would be fine.”

In addition to Mr. Obama’s personal lobbying effort, the White House launched a social media campaign Tuesday devoted to building support in Congress for the agreement. The administration set up a new Twitter feed (@TheIranDeal) and a web page devoted to the accord.

“There are already a lot of myths, misinformation, and falsehoods out there about what this deal will do and what it means for the future of our national security,” said Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser. “We’re ready to set the record straight about how we are successfully preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — a crucial part of creating a safer, more secure world.”

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A new poll released Tuesday found that Americans are skeptical of the deal. The Pew Research Center survey found that 48 percent disapprove of the accord, 38 percent approve and 14 percent had no opinion.

Among those polled, 38 percent said they have no confidence at all that Iran’s leaders will uphold their side of the agreement, and another 35 percent had little confidence in the Iranian leadership’s commitment to the terms of the accord.

That kind of polling could backfire on Mr. Obama’s plans, as he told Mr. Stewart he wants citizens to contact Congress about the Iran deal.

“I really want people to pay attention to this issue”, Mr. Obama said. “If [lawmakers] are not hearing from citizens then we end up making bad choices.”

Mr. Obama’s sales pitch comes as Congress has started a 60-day review of the agreement, which will place limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting international economic sanctions on Tehran. Opposition among Republicans is strong, with some Democrats also expressing concerns about Iran’s likelihood of fomenting more terrorist attacks with its expected windfall of cash.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said Mr. Obama is trying to hold enough Democrats to sustain his veto if Congress rejects the Iranian deal.

“It’s interesting what the president is trying to do,” Mr. McCarthy said “He’s not playing to try to get the majority in the House or the Senate to vote for it.”

He also said Mr. Obama’s “political move to go to the U.N. backfired.” The U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed the agreement on Monday, angering Republicans and some Democrats who said the president should have come to Congress first.

“President Obama said he wanted a fact-based debate, but his sales pitch for this deal is built solely on false choices and desperate attacks,” said Cory Fritz, an aide to Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

In Jerusalem, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in talks about the Iran deal that were described as “blunt.”

“The prime minister made it quite clear that he disagreed with us with respect to the nuclear deal in Iran,” Mr. Carter said afterward. “But friends can disagree.”

A Carter aide who attended the talks in Jerusalem later told reporters that Mr. Netanyahu bluntly expressed his opposition to the Iran deal but did not get angry or upset with Mr. Carter.

In Tehran, a top prominent lawmaker said Iran’s parliament will need “at least” 60 days to review the proposed final deal with world powers over its contested nuclear program. Hard-liners could vote against the deal, but their numbers wouldn’t be enough to derail a proposal already backed by the country’s supreme leader.

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire-service reports.

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