- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2015

The White House on Thursday revved up its drive to win passage of the Iran nuclear deal, with President Obama warning lawmakers not to be swayed by a “relentless” big-dollar lobbying blitz from opponents, and his press spokesman openly mocking one of the Senate Republicans leading the charge to kill the agreement.

Mr. Obama urged grass-roots supporters Thursday to lobby Congress to vote for the nuclear deal with Iran, saying opponents of the accord are waging a $20 million effort in Washington to kill the agreement.

“The lobbying that’s taking place on the other side is fierce, it is well-financed, it is relentless,” Mr. Obama said on a conference call. “As big of a bully pulpit as I have, it’s not enough. This opportunity could slip away.”

A day after meeting with House Democrats at the White House to hold them together on the Iranian deal, Mr. Obama said the opposition is having an impact in the halls of Congress.

“Right now, the opponents of this deal have been flooding congressional offices,” the president said. “And [lawmakers] are feeling it. I can tell when they start getting squishy. You guys have to counteract that with the facts. I want everybody on the phone to get moving. Do not wait.”

Separately, White House spokesman Josh Earnest belittled Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas as an “international man of mystery” Thursday following the lawmaker’s claim to have uncovered a secret side deal of the Iranian nuclear accord while on a mission to Europe — information Mr. Earnest contended was readily available on the Internet.

“I hope that Senator Cotton had a pleasant trip to Vienna, but his travel was not necessary to learn the information he claims to have obtained,” said Mr. Earnest, dubbing the freshman senator “Tom Cotton, international man of mystery” — a reference to the 1997 Austin Powers movie about a goofy, hipster secret agent.

Congress has 60 days to review the Iranian agreement, with most Republicans opposing it. The president’s effort has targeted Democratic lawmakers he’ll need to sustain a veto if the Republican majorities in the House and Senate vote to kill the accord. Vice President Joseph R. Biden held a working breakfast Thursday morning with members of the House Democratic Caucus, and at least four more Democrats, including Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, announced they would back the deal during the day.

Despite Mr. Earnest’s mockery, bipartisan concern about confidential details of Iran’s agreement with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency is proving a major sticking point on Capitol Hill.

In the conference call, Mr. Obama warned that if the deal falls through, “the same array of forces that got us into the Iraq War” will push the U.S. toward a military engagement with Iran. He mentioned “columnists and former administration officials who were responsible for us getting into the Iraq War” as among those leading the charge to derail the Iran agreement.

The president said Iraq was “an enormous strategic mistake,” and that the accord with Iran is the best chance of preventing Tehran from building a nuclear weapon. He said the Iranian regime is “a brutal theocracy that is anti-American” and “anti-Israel.”

“Iran, under this agreement, can never get a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Obama said. “The stakes could not be higher.”

The accord will limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Opponents say the agreement doesn’t require Iran to dismantle its nuclear facilities, and that the lifting of sanctions will provide Tehran with billions of dollars to help finance more terrorist attacks against Israel and other U.S. allies in the region.

Mr. Obama said “there’s no doubt” that Iran will use some of its extra cash for conventional military purposes, but the most important aspect is to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Some opponents in Congress have said that the administration should keep up the pressure on Iran with economic sanctions to get a better deal. Mr. Obama rejected that argument.

“In the world of our dreams, that would be preferable,” he said. “But in the real world, this is a deal that gets the job done.”

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