Less than two hours after President Barack Obama announced the nuclear agreement with Iran on Tuesday morning, senior administration officials were making it clear to reporters that it was Obama himself who had the strongest hand in the deal.
The remarks of the officials (on background to Newsmax and other news outlets) on the president’s hands-on approach in the sensitive nuclear talks underscored what many Obama-watchers feel is his desire to include a deal with Iran as part of his legacy before leaving the White House in 18 months.
As a one-term senator from Illinois, Obama was passionate about nuclear arms reduction and developed friendships with other arms reduction advocates — notably Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who like Obama is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Although Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz worked out most of the details at the negotiating table, "quite extraordinary" is how one senior administration official characterized the president's role in crafting the final nuclear agreement. "He really dug in to this."
Another official said that Kerry spoke to Obama "many times" throughout the negotiations and the president received a daily briefing on the progress of the talks.
As the negotiators came close to finalizing the deal in Vienna on Monday, the same official said, "The president was updated through the day, and the White House had been available [to assist] all of us."
Administration officials left reporters with little doubt that Obama himself intends to now play the part of salesman-in-chief to Congress and the international community to gain approval of the deal.
Once he learned from Kerry that the agreement had been finalized in Vienna, one official said, Obama "called the leadership of the House and Senate" and he plans "additional engagements with members of Congress," who will be able to approve or reject terms of the agreement after a 60-day review period.
"He is also reaching out to his foreign counterparts and especially our key European allies, who were with us every step of the way," the official said.
As for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who denounced the agreement on Tuesday as a "historic mistake," the official said the president would be in touch with him "given our commitment to the security of Israel."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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