White House ramps up campaign to sell Iran deal

President Obama went on the offensive on Wednesday, taking on his political opponents – and skeptical allies – directly as he seeks to build support, or even mere acceptance, for the landmark nuclear deal with Iran.

In a more-than-one-hour press conference on Wednesday, the President repeatedly challenged those who oppose the deal to advocate for a different option, saying that the only alternative to such a deal is war. “If the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so. And that will be an honest debate.”

Glenn Thrush at Politico writes that Obama “has seldom worn his fierce urgency so publicly as he does now.”

When a wire service reporter asked an opening query about Iran’s military capability, Obama blew past as if he were invisible — and said he first wanted to dispense with critics’ attacks on the deal. For the next 10 minutes or so, he filibustered to the floodlights, leaning on the lectern as he laid out arguments pressed by congressional Republicans and Israel-centric Democrats, swatting them aside one-by-one. He never got around to answering the question.


Earlier, the President gave an interview to Tom Friedman of the New York Times.


Vice-President Joe Biden is set to head to Capitol Hill on Thursday to pitch the deal to Senate Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee.

With Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu engaged in another US media blitz against the deal, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice told Reuters that, under the agreement, Iran “will have no way to avoid inspections of military or other sites that the United States and its allies deem suspicious.”

The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote next week on a resolution endorsing the agreement and terminating targeted sanctions, “but to retain an arms embargo and ballistic missile technology ban, diplomats said.”

Jeffrey Goldberg writes at The Atlantic that the “morally dubious agreement might be a practical necessity.”

Does this deal significantly reduce the chance that Iran could, in the foreseeable future (20 years is the time period Obama mentioned in an interview with me in May), continue its nefarious activities under the protection of a nuclear umbrella? If the answer to this question is yes, then a deal, in theory, is worth supporting.

The degree of difficulty the President and his surrogates face over the coming weeks has been signaled over the past 24 hours by the often inflammatory rhetoric among the deal’s already committed opponents.

One of the most frequent soundbites was the use of the word “appeasement” – used by Jeb Bush, John Bolton and other GOP figures, as well as radio talk-show hosts.

But for every mention of Chamberlain, there have been plenty of references to more recent Conservative icons, recalling either Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, or as EJ Dionne writes at the Washington Post how Obama “echoes Reagan”.

It’s worth remembering that Reagan’s willingness to bargain with Gorbachev weakened the hard-liners in the Soviet Union, creating the opening for its collapse. And there are parallels between the two-step approaches that both Reagan and Obama took to a problematic foe. The Gipper was very tough at the outset of his presidency, and the Soviet Union realized it could not keep up with U.S. defense spending. Gorbachev came to the table. Obama got our allies to impose much tougher sanctions, and Iran came to the table.

There is no way of knowing if this deal will lead to a dramatic transformation inside Iran, and there are some legitimate doubts that it will. But then, Reagan’s conservative skeptics were also insistent that the Soviet Union could never change, and surely never fall. They were wrong and Reagan’s bet paid off. Obama is now making a comparable wager.


* POLITICS * The ongoing mess surrounding Fox News‘s national polling criteria for inclusion in the first GOP televised debate, and its potential for marginalizing the early primary states, took a turn when those states fought back by organizing their own debate, three days ahead of Fox’s “first.”

The Manchester Union-Leader in New Hampshire, the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa, and the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina have joined together – partnering with C-Spanto host a televised candidate forum on Aug 3rd.

“Fox says only the ‘top’ 10 candidates, as judged solely by national polling, will be allowed on its stage,” the publishers said. “That may be understandable later, but the first votes are half a year away, and there are a lot more than 10 viable candidates. The early primary process gives all candidates a chance to be heard. If networks and national polls are to decide this now, the early state process is in jeopardy, and only big money and big names will compete.”

One candidate who would appear certain to be included under the Fox criteria is Donald Trump, whose personal wealth seems to be rising along with his poll numbers, the New York Times reports.

Mr. Trump issued a statement Wednesday saying that his net worth was now in excess of $10 billion, more than the $8.7 billion he said he was worth when he announced his presidential candidacy a month ago.

The statement noted that Mr. Trump had filed his financial disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission, a requirement of presidential candidates, and the commission confirmed his filing.

DJ Gallo writes at The Guardian on the man who could be the Republicans’ “secret weapon” – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Yes, the man who earned countless headlines over the past 12 months for his incompetent and tone-deaf corporate leadership – and consider how hard it is to stand out in the crowded incompetent and tone-deaf world of corporate leadership – was to spend this week advising Republican elected officials.

Former President George H W Bush broke a bone in his neck following a fall at his home in Maine on Wednesday night. A spokesman tweeted:

The 41st President celebrated his 91st birthday last month.


* WORLD * The Greek parliament overwhelmingly approved a tough package of austerity measures required as a condition of a third Eurozone bailout. But there were riots on the streets of Athens as the proposals were debated. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras saw more than 30 of his own MPs vote against him in the late-night session, but won the vote by 229-64.

Eurozone finance ministers will hold a conference call on Thursday morning to discuss next steps. Then, the European Central Bank will meet to discuss how to prevent Greece’s banks – which have been closed for two weeks – from collapsing.

There were protests inside and outside parliament as Japan‘s lower house passed legislation to change the country’s long-standing defense policy, which could lead to a shift in the role of its military.

As Nasa had promised yesterday, there were more amazing pictures of Pluto from the New Horizons probe.


* BUSINESS * Fed chair Janet Yellen makes her second appearance of the week before a Congressional committee on Thursday, when she speaks to the Senate Banking Committee at 2.30pm ET. At her appearance on Wednesday, she was upbeat about prospects for growth and spoke about the likelihood of a rate hike.

ftyellen(Financial Times)

Toshiba’s CEO is to step down, and the company faces some $3bn in charges related to an improper accounting investigation, CNBC reports.

Goldman Sachs reports second-quarter earnings ahead of the open on Thursday. The Wall Street Journal offers five things to watch for.

Wednesday was – possibly – the final ride on the giant piano keyboard as iconic New York toy store FAO Schwarz closed its doors at its location near Central Park.


* MEDIA * Netflix, the top stock in the S&P 500 this year, saw its Internet TV service grow to 65.6 million subscribers in the second quarter, thanks largely to original shows such as “Orange Is the New Black,” Bloomberg reports.


* SPORTS * A big day for British sport on Thursday, with the beginning of the second Ashes test between England and Australia at Lord’s – with England holding a 1-0 lead –  as well as the opening round of the 144th British Open golf championship from St Andrews, a competition all the poorer for the absence of title holder Rory McIlroy, who withdrew because of injury.

telegraph(Daily Telegraph)


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