Outgoing US President Barack Obama has cautioned his successor Donald Trump against undoing of international decisions like the Iranian nuclear deal and the Paris climate change agreement, saying a great deal of effort has gone into signing the landmark agreements.
“These international agreements, the tradition has been that you carry them forward across administrations, particularly if, once you actually examine them, it turns out that they are doing good for us and binding other countries into behaviour that will help us,” Obama, 55, told reporters at a White House news conference.
He said the Iranian nuclear deal was good example of the “gap between” some of the rhetoric in this town, not unique to the president-elect, and the reality.
“I think there was a really robust debate about the merits of the Iran deal before it was completed. I actually was pretty proud of how our democracy processed that. It was a serious debate. I think people of good will were on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, we were able to persuade members of Congress and the public, at least enough of them, to support it,” he said.
“At the time, the main argument against it was, Iran wouldn’t abide by the deal. That they would cheat. We now have over a year of evidence that they have abided by the agreement. That’s not just my opinion. It’s not just people in my administration. That’s the opinion of Israeli military and intelligence officers who are part of a government that vehemently opposed the deal,” he said.
About Paris Climate deal, Obama said there had been a lot of talk about the possibility of undoing this international agreement.
“Now, you’ve got 200 countries that have signed up for this thing, and the good news is that what we’ve been able to show over the last five, six, eight years is that it’s possible to grow the economy really fast and possible to bring down carbon emissions as well,” he said.
“What the Paris agreement now does is say to China and India and other countries that are potentially polluting, come on board. Let’s work together so you guys do the same thing. And the biggest threat, when it comes to climate change and pollution, isn’t going to come from us because we only have 300 million people. It’s going to come from China with over 1 billion people and India with over 1 billion people,” he said.
“If they are pursuing the same kinds of strategies that we did before we became more aware of the environment, then our kids will be choked off. Do I think that the new administration will make some changes? Absolutely,” Obama said.
To unravel a deal that’s working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain, particularly if the alternative were to have them free from any obligations and go ahead and pursue a weapon, he said.
Obama said the agreement was not between the US and the Iranians, but between the P5+1 and other countries some of which are America’s close allies.
“For us to pull out would then require us to start sanctioning those other countries in Europe or China or Russia, that were still abiding by the deal, because from their perspective, Iran had done what it was supposed to do,” he said.
“So it becomes more difficult to undo something that’s working than undo something that isn’t working. When you’re not responsible for it, I think you can call it a terrible deal. When you are responsible for the deal and preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, you’re more likely to look at the facts,” he said.