Amid mounting criticism from the Republicans over his approach to Iran's nuclear programme, US President Barack Obama has insisted he would “walk away” before agreeing to a bad deal.
In an interview with CBS News today, he said any agreement would have to satisfy Washington's demands and ensure Iran had no way of making an atomic weapon. "If we don't have that kind of deal, then we're not going to take it,” he said.
He also insisted that the US and Iran have made progress in compromising: "We have made progress in narrowing the gaps, but those gaps still exist," he said. The deadline for a deal framework is the end of the month, with the next round of talks scheduled to take place on 15 March.
Iran claims its nuclear enrichment programme is for peaceful, civilian purposes and that the country has no intention of making an atomic bomb, but economic sanctions have been imposed by western nations until it agrees to curb enrichment.
The Republicans are less convinced of Obama's ability to seal a deal good enough for US interests, and today the party issued a warning that any deal would be subject to a tough congressional review.
Senate Majority Leader and Republican Mitch McConnell urged Obama not to make the “bad deal we all anticipate he's going to make”, adding that the President “cannot work around congress forever”.
McConnell wants congress to be able to review any deal and have a vote on it, but realises that he currently does not have enough support to make a change – 67 votes would be needed to overturn a presidential veto of legislation. He told CBS he is confident of gaining the required support before the end of the month, however:
I'm hoping we can get 67 senators to assert the historic role of the Senate and the Congress in looking at matters of this magnitude. Obviously, the president doesn't want us involved in this. But he's going to need us if he's going to lift any of the existing sanctions. And so I think he cannot work around Congress forever.