PITTSBURGH (AFP) – US President Barack Obama told a gathering of military veterans Tuesday that hardheaded diplomacy with Iran could avoid the type of “unnecessary wars” for which they have paid the highest price.
A steely Obama travelled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he urged the 1.9 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars to give the nuclear deal with Tehran a chance.
He denounced those “chest beating” against the deal and said some of those opposed to it were the same ones who said the Iraq war would take months.
“We know the consequences of that choice,” he said. “And what it cost us in blood and treasure.
“There is a smarter more responsible way to protect our national security,” Obama said.
Insisting he was no peacenik afraid to deploy the military, Obama boasted about a string of military operations that took high-ranking Al-Qaeda officials — including Osama bin Laden — off the battlefield.
“If you target Americans you will have no safe haven,” he said.
But, he added, “real leadership” means not being afraid to negotiate.
Obama has framed the recent nuclear deal as a choice between diplomacy and war.
While campaigning for the presidency in 2008, Obama told a battle-weary nation he would end the long and bloody conflict in Iraq as president made winding down the wars there and Afghanistan a priority.
The Iran deal is seen as a cornerstone of Obama s foreign policy legacy, and the White House has been selling it at home since the historic agreement was reached last week in Vienna between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration rolled out a Twitter feed and website that White House spokesman Josh Earnest said will be used to “distribute facts, engage online audiences and be used as a forum by those involved in negotiating the agreement.”
Veterans in crisis
Obama also paid tribute to five US troops killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee after an attack Thursday on two military centers by a 24-year-old gunman, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez.
The president also tackled a multi-year crisis in the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs a network of hospitals for veterans.
An inspector general report a year ago found “systemic” problems in health care for former combatants, with up to 40 veterans dying while waiting for treatment in Phoenix alone.
On the back of exposes about overcrowding and poor standards in military hospitals, the scandal cost Obama s fellow Hawaiian and former army chief of staff Eric Shinseki his job as secretary of the agency.
Former army officer and Procter & Gamble chief executive Robert McDonald replaced Shinseki after receiving unanimous approval from the Senate.
But the VA was recently rocked again with news that it faces a massive budget shortfall.