WASHINGTON — Facing deep skepticism on multiple fronts, President Obama ramped up lobbying Monday for a framework nuclear deal with Iran, one of the toughest sells of his presidency. Yet critics from Jerusalem to Washington warned they won’t sit idly by while Obama and world leaders pursue a final accord that would leave much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact.

The White House deployed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz – a nuclear physicist – to offer a scientific defense of a deal that Moniz said would block all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon. He described the emerging deal as a “forever agreement,” disputing skeptics who contend it would merely delay Iran’s progress toward a bomb.

“This is not built upon trust,” Moniz said, describing a set of intrusive inspections that would tip off the global community if Iran attempts to cheat. “This is built upon hardnosed requirements in terms of limitations on what they do, at various timescales, and on the access and transparency.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., just back from the Middle East, questioned why Iran would be allowed to retain more than 6,000 centrifuges – despite Obama’s earlier suggestion that he was pursuing a deal that would end Iran’s nuclear program, not simply shrink it.

Lawmakers are pushing to give Congress a say in whether the agreement should stand. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is pressing legislation that would not only let lawmakers vote to approve or reject the bill, but would also prevent Obama from using his own authority to temporarily waive existing U.S. sanctions while Congress debates the deal.


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