President Obama’s quote of the day July 15, 2015

Obama July 15


Now, you’ll hear some critics say, “well, we could have negotiated a better deal.” OK. What does that mean? I think the suggestion among a lot of the critics has been that a — a better deal, an acceptable deal would be one in which Iran has no nuclear capacity at all, peaceful or otherwise. The problem with that position is that there is nobody who thinks that Iran would or could ever accept that, and the international community does not take the view that Iran can’t have a peaceful nuclear program. They agree with us that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon.

And so we don’t have diplomatic leverage to eliminate every vestige of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran. What we do have the leverage to do is to make sure that they don’t have a weapon. That’s exactly what we’ve done. So to go back to Congress, I challenge those who are objecting to this agreement, number one to read the agreement before they comment on it, number two to explain specifically where it is that they think this agreement does not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and why they’re right and people like Ernie Moniz, who is an MIT nuclear physicist and an expert in these issues is wrong, why the rest of the world is wrong, and then present an alternative.

In Iran deal, Obama sees validation for diplomatic gamble

WASHINGTON (AP) — To President Barack Obama, the historic nuclear accord with Iran is a validation of an arduous, politically fraught diplomatic gamble, one he foreshadowed before winning the White House and one that will shape his legacy long after he leaves.

The deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program may prevent Tehran from developing a bomb or being the target of U.S. military action during Obama’s presidency. But whether the agreement succeeds in stemming Iran’s nuclear ambitions after his tenure is a far murkier question.

The sheer amount of time and political capital Obama invested in the Iran talks has fueled speculation that he had too much at stake to walk away from the negotiating table, no matter the compromises in a final deal. Obama authorized secret talks with Iran in 2012, followed by nearly two years of formal negotiations alongside Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. His rapprochement with Iran sent U.S. relations with Israel plummeting to near-historic lows and deepened tensions with Congress.

Even with the high-stakes implications of an Iranian nuclear program, the talks over time seemed to represent more than just the quest for a deal. They were a referendum on Obama’s belief that even America’s most ardent enemies can be brought in line by wielding diplomacy and economic pressure instead of military might.

“It represents the core of who he is and what his presidency stands for,” said Julianne Smith, a former Obama White House and Pentagon official. “He needs it to validate that approach.”

With the deal now in hand, one of Obama’s top priorities is selling its virtues to skeptical lawmakers and world leaders, as well as the American public. He spent much of Tuesday calling leaders in Europe and the Middle East, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, a fierce opponent of the deal, said his country is not bound by the terms of the agreement and “will reserve our right to defend ourselves against all of our enemies.”

Obama was also poised to defend the deal in a news conference Wednesday, while dispatching Vice President Joe Biden to Capitol Hill to meet with House Democrats.

“I’m here to answer questions and explain what the deal is and I’m confident they’ll like it when they understand it all,” Biden told reporters as he entered the closed-door session.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, said Biden was trying to make a case for the agreement’s longevity and said reactions to the vice president’s remarks were “pretty favorable.”

Green added, “I’m pretty close to my Jewish community in Houston so I still have some questions.”

Senior U.S. officials say Obama is sensitive to the perception he was desperate for a deal. With big gaps remaining as a June 30 deadline neared for a final agreement, officials said the president urged his team to send clear messages to Iran both publicly and privately that the U.S. was ready to end the talks without an agreement.

“He did not want people to have the impression that this is something we needed to have,” one official said, adding that Obama was frequently among the most pessimistic members of his national security team about the prospects for a deal.

Officials also pointed to a video conference Obama convened with Kerry and other negotiators last week as an example of his willingness to forgo a deal. With momentum for an agreement building in Vienna and a deadline to limit congressional oversight looming, officials said Obama essentially rejected the deal at hand because timetables for keeping restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and a U.N. arms embargo in place were insufficient.

The officials insisted on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the president’s thinking.

Obama first planted the seeds for engagement with Iran as a presidential candidate, saying in a 2007 Democratic primary debate that he would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders without preconditions. His statements were ridiculed by Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, who went on to be his secretary of state and help jumpstart the secret negotiations with Iran.

The president’s opening months in office included public and private overtures to Tehran, all with a more conciliatory tone aimed at signaling a shift from predecessor George W. Bush, who cast Iran as part of an “axis of evil.”

In a veiled reference to Iran in his inaugural address, Obama said he was willing to “extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your first.” He exchanged letters with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He used conciliatory language in a videotaped message to both the people and government of Iran on the Persian new year, calling for engagement “that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”

Obama has taken a similar approach — clandestine diplomacy, prioritizing negotiations over military action — to other foreign policy challenges, with mixed results. Plans to negotiate an end to Syria’s bloody civil war have gone nowhere. A resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba after a half-century of hostilities is moving along largely as planned.

Yet the stakes and the scope of the Iran effort stand apart, a reality not lost on Obama. While he talked of American strength and long-sought change Tuesday, he acknowledged in an interview with The Atlantic earlier this year that if Iran does ultimately get a bomb, “it’s my name on this.”


Trump campaign sets his personal fortune at $10 billion

FILE - In this June 29, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump smiles for a photographer before he addresses members of the City Club of Chicago, in Chicago. As other presidential candidates fight to raise money, Trump is reminding everyone he’s already got a lot of it. The celebrity businessman’s campaign was expected to reveal details on July 15 of his fortune, which he estimated last month at nearly $9 million when announcing his Republican presidential candidacy. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
FILE – In this June 29, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump smiles for a photographer before he addresses members of the City Club of Chicago, in Chicago. As other presidential candidates fight to raise money, Trump is reminding everyone he’s already got a lot of it. The celebrity businessman’s campaign was expected to reveal details on July 15 of his fortune, which he estimated last month at nearly $9 million when announcing his Republican presidential candidacy. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)


WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump unveiled new documents Wednesday setting his personal fortune at more than $10 billion and his annual income at more than $362 million.

The celebrity businessman said he filed a personal financial disclosure form with federal regulators Wednesday afternoon, though he has not released the form publicly. The $10 billion figure — up nearly 15 percent since the previous year, by Trump’s calculation — makes him the wealthiest person to ever run for president, far surpassing previous magnates like Ross Perot, business heirs like Steve Forbes or private-equity investors like Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee.

Among the sources of his income has been $214 million in payments from NBC related to his reality television show, “The Apprentice.” NBC recently cut its ties with Trump.

There was little information provided Wednesday about how Trump calculated the figure. In a statement that accompanied the financial information, his campaign wrote the federal forms are “not designed for a man of Mr. Trump’s massive wealth.”

“The numbers will be far in excess of what anybody thought,” Trump said during an appearance Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” ”I built a great company.”

Despite the filing, skepticism about his net worth is likely to remain.

Trump, for example, valued his personal brand and marketing deals at $3.3 billion when he announced his candidacy. Forbes Magazine, however, valued his brand at just $125 million. And that was before Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants cost him business partnerships with companies such as Macy’s and Univision.

Trump in the past has taken umbrage at suggestions he might not be as fantastically wealthy as he says. In 2009, he sued author Timothy O’Brien for defamation after O’Brien wrote that Trump’s net worth might be as low as $150 million.

Trump lost the suit and a subsequent appeal. In a deposition, the panel of appellate judges noted, Trump conceded that his public disclosures of his wealth depended partly on his mood.

“Even my own feelings affect my value to myself,” Trump said.

Obama says Iran nuclear deal prevents ‘more war’ in Middle East

President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that negotiators from the United States and five other major world powers had sealed a history-making deal to ease crippling economic sanctions on Iran in return for safeguards to ensure that country does not develop nuclear weapons.

“This deal is not built on trust, it is built on verification” Obama said from the State Floor of the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden at his side. “Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off and the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place.”

The president immediately turned to the difficult work of beating back domestic critics in Congress and fierce opponents of the agreement overseas – notably staunch U.S. ally Israel and Gulf nations that have traditionally battled Iran for influence in the Middle East.

“As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative,” Obama said. Absent an agreement, he said, Iran would face “no lasting constraints” on its nuclear program, potentially triggering an atomic arms race in the world’s most volatile region, while raising the possibility of American military action.

“Our national security interest now depends upon preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which means that without a diplomatic resolution, either I or a future U.S. president would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or whether to use our military to stop it,” the president declared. “Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.”

If successful, the agreement would arguably rank atop Obama’s list of foreign policy achievements. It would have many more far-reaching effects than the killing of Osama bin Laden and represents a more dramatic reshaping of American handling of world affairs than the looming resumption of diplomatic ties with Cuba after nearly six decades of estrangement. The ongoing military campaign against the so-called Islamic State has poured cold water on his claims to have ended the war in Iraq.

But first, the deal needs to survive through the next two months.

Starting from the time it receives all of the documents agreed to at negotiations in Vienna, Congress will have 60 days to review the agreement, and at the end of that period can vote it down or let it stand.

Under a law passed earlier this year, disapproval would restrict Obama from easing economic sanctions on Iran. But lawmakers would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override Obama’s certain veto, and White House aides say privately that enough Democrats will side with the president to prevent that from happening.

“I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue,” Obama said. But “now is not the time for politics or posturing.”

Some opponents of the agreement say that they view the next two months as their last best shot to derail an accord that, they charge, does not do enough to handcuff Iran’s nuclear aspirations and rewards Tehran with cash that may bankroll the country’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East. While several contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 have promised to roll back the agreement if they take office, Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed that possibility in March.

GREECE LATEST-Merkel says trust with Greece has vanished

July 10 (Reuters) – Following is the latest news on Greece’s debt crisis as euro zone leaders fight to the finish to keep near-bankrupt Greece in the euro zone. All times are in GMT.


1438 – Lithuanian president says Greece staying in euro zone or leaving will be “very, very costly for everybody”.

1417 – Merkel says most important currency has vanished with Greece, which is trust; deal not wanted at any price; principles must be upheld.

1145 – Russia intends to support an economic recovery in Greece by expanding cooperation in the energy sector, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak says.

1047 – Luxembourg’s foreign minister makes an impassioned plea for Germany to avoid a Greek exit from the euro, warning Berlin of a catastrophic schism with France if it pushes for Athens to leave the currency union.

0904 – EU’s Moscovici says institutions agree there is a basis for negotiations, Greece must do more

0854 – Slovak finance minister says Greece must front-load reforms to get deal, no agreement possible on Sunday

0835 – Italy’s Padoan says wants to see Greek parliament take measures from Monday, biggest obstacle is lack of trust

0752 – EU’s Tusk says Sunday’s planned EU summit is cancelled. Separate euro zone meeting to start at 1400 GMT


2217 – Euro zone finance ministers’ talks on a bailout for Greece remain “very difficult” and will resume at 0900 GMT on Sunday after breaking overnight, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem tells reporters.

2210 – Euro zone finance ministers are pressing Greece to commit to more budget and reform measures before they will consider opening negotiations on a bailout, sources close to the talks say.

2116 – The German government says Greece could take a five-year “time-out” from the euro zone and have some debts written off if Athens fails to improve its proposals for a bailout.

1833 – Euro zone finance ministers demand Greece go beyond painful austerity measures accepted by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras if he wants them to open negotiations on a third bailout for his bankrupt country to keep it in the euro, sources say.

1811 – Capital controls imposed on Greece’s banks will remain in place for at least another two months, Economy Minister George Stathakis says.

1629 – Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung cites a position paper from the German Finance Ministry that suggests two alternative courses for Greece, including a “timeout” from the euro zone.

1557 – The parties in Angela Merkel’s coalition government send conflicting signals on Greece’s reform proposals, with some leading Social Democrats welcoming concessions while senior conservatives voice scepticism.

1412 – Euro zone finance ministers arrive in Brussels. Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble says he expects “exceptionally difficult negotiations”. Eurogroup Chairman and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem says: “We are still far away.”

1111 – A bailout package for Greece needs to include a reduction in the country’s debt burden, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told German daily Die Welt in an interview published on Saturday.

1001 – Euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Saturday have serious doubts about Greece’s request for a bailout and a deal to start negotiating on the basis of Athens’ proposals is far from certain, sources close to the talks say.

0707 – The European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund have told euro zone governments that proposals from Greece for a bailout loan are a basis for negotiation, an EU official says.

0208 – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras claimed a strong mandate to complete negotiations with international creditors after winning the backing of parliament over a painful new package of reform measures.

0044 – The Greek parliament voted overwhelmingly on Saturday in favour of authorizing the left-wing government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to negotiate with international creditors on the basis of a reform programme unveiled this week.


2231 – The European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have given a positive assessment of the Greek government’s request to start negotiations on a new bailout, a person close to the matter said.

2224 – Greece’s third largest political force, the far-right Golden Dawn party, said it will not back government proposals submitted to the country’s creditors in a race to reach a cash-for-reforms deal and avert bankruptcy.

2206 – The leader of Greece’s main opposition party, New Democracy, said it would back attempts by the government to seal a deal with international creditors to stave off financial meltdown.

2154 – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended the painful bailout proposals his leftwing government presented to parliament, saying they were difficult measures but would help keep Greece in the euro zone.

2126 – Greece’s finance minister pledged to strive for maximum gains for Greeks in aid talks with lenders, saying a referendum in which voters rejected creditors’ demands had strengthened their standing in negotiations.

1746 – The White House said it welcomed the latest proposal by Greece to resolve its debt crisis and that it was something for Athens’ creditors to weigh.

1556 – A Metron Analysis poll shows 84 percent of Greeks favour keeping the euro, 12 percent would prefer a return to the drachma, and 45.6 percent would vote for PM Tsipras’s Syriza party if there were parliamentary elections.

1537 – Greece will succeed in transferring bonds currently held by the ECB to the European Stability Mechanism, a long-standing demand by Athens, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos tells parliament.

This would allow Athens to avoid paying the central bank almost 7 billion euros from maturing bonds due over the next few weeks. However, it remained unclear how such a transfer would be possible.

1514 – Greece’s banks will need 10-14 billion euros of fresh capital to keep them afloat and more time before they reopen, even if a deal is reached with European creditors on Sunday, a senior Greek banker tells Reuters.

1359 – Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite says Greek reform proposals submitted to the euro zone appear insufficient: “It is probably too early to evaluate them because they are based on old information and it seems those proposals will really not be enough.”

1319 – Greece’s main opposition conservatives say they will back the leftist government of Alexis Tsipras to secure a cash-for reforms deal with the country’s international creditors that will keep the country within the euro zone.

1315 – Fitch rating agency says an eventual exit from the euro zone is now the probable outcome for Greece.

1310 – Russian President Vladimir Putin says Greece has not asked Moscow for aid to overcome its debt problems but says he hopes the crisis can be resolved soon.

1305 – The European Central Bank’s governing council will likely hold a telephone conference on Monday to discuss emergency liquidity assistance to Greek banks, a person familiar with the matter says.

1242 – U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says Greece and its creditors appear to be closer to a deal, adding it is critical that the debt-stricken country make difficult structural reforms and adjustments to its cash flow.

1236 – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeals to his leftist Syriza party’s lawmakers to back a tough reforms package after abruptly offering last-minute concessions to try to save the country from financial meltdown.

1223 – Greece’s latest reform proposals are no basis for further negotiations on a third bailout programme, a senior German conservative lawmaker tells Reuters, adding that Greece would do better to aim for a new start with its own currency.

1214 – Five hardliners in Greece’s ruling Syriza party say dropping out of the euro zone and returning to the drachma is preferable to a deal with international creditors laced with austerity and without any provision for debt relief.

1144 – Greek centrist party To Potami says it will back fiscal reforms submitted in parliament by the leftist government to secure desperately needed aid from international lenders to stave off bankruptcy.

1136 – Greece has made some progress in its proposal to creditors but it is not clear whether that will suffice, says Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir.

1057 – The chances Greece will leave the euro zone this year have fallen, according to bookmakers’ odds, with one firm saying the likelihood is now lower than at any time this year.

1045 – Italian, Spanish and Portuguese bond yields fall 10-15 basis points after Greece sends a package of reform proposals to its euro zone creditors in a last-ditch attempt to get new funds and avoid bankruptcy.

1035 – Significant progress is being made towards an aid-for-reforms deal between Greece and its creditors, Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan says.

1013 – The International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank are analysing proposals submitted by Greece on economic reforms and will deliver their views by the end of Friday, a European Commission spokesman says.

0947 – Greece’s latest reform proposals show the Athens government is serious about making efforts to shape up its economy, a senior lawmaker in Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) tells Reuters.

0937 – A German government spokesman declines to comment on the content of Greece’s latest reform proposals, and a finance ministry spokesman says Berlin will not accept any form of debt reduction for Greece that would lower its real value.

0936 – Euro zone finance ministers meeting on Saturday will discuss Greece’s debt burden and whether it needs some relief as part of broader talks on whether to grant Athens’ request to negotiate a bailout loan, a senior EU official says.

0929 – A senior EU official says he would be amazed if European Union leaders overturned any clear decision taken by a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Saturday. The EU leaders are due to meet on Sunday.

0916 – Euro zone finance ministers will only discuss bridging finance for Greece to tide it over until a bailout loan is ready after they have agreed to negotiate such a medium-term loan, a senior EU official says.

0905 – Greece’s latest reform proposals are a good basis for negotiation and mark an important step forward, Axel Schaefer, a senior lawmaker in Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), says.

0900 – Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says he is optimistic an aid-for-reforms deal will be reached between Greece and its creditors and he hopes a quick accord will mean a meeting of EU leaders planned for Sunday will no longer be needed.

0900 – Greek industrial output tumbled 4 percent from the same period a year earlier after a three-month rise, statistics service ELSTAT says, as political upheaval and deadlocked talks with creditors hit economic activity.

0852 – Eurogroup chief Jeroen Djisselbloem says a “major decision” on Greece could be made at the planned meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Saturday.

0817 – French President Francois Hollande says negotiations between Greece and its international creditors must resume with the aim of reaching a deal after the country came up with “serious and credible” proposals.

0801 – French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron says he is reasonably optimistic that Greece will reach an aid-for-reforms deal with its creditors.

0739 – Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says new Greek proposals setting out economic reforms Athens will undertake in the next three years appear to provide a basis for discussing a new bailout loan.

0717 – A senior member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party says he has trouble trusting Greece’s latest proposals to its euro zone creditors as the country last week decisively rejected the austerity measures in a referendum.

0647 – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has appealed to his Syriza lawmakers to back a fiscal plan in return for aid from creditors, a government official says.

0626 – Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma tells German radio she would not agree to a proposal for Greece that included a debt writedown.

0534 – Greek Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis says he is optimistic the country can clinch a “good agreement” on terms of a bailout package submitted to creditors on Thursday night.

0505 – The Greek parliament will give the government a mandate to negotiate with creditors for a cash-for-reforms deal, the parliamentary spokesman of the ruling Syriza party says.

Greece and Creditors Move Toward Deal, and Investor Optimism Surges



ATHENS — Optimism rose on Friday over the prospects of an accord between Greece and its international creditors, as the two sides weighed the latest measures from Athens aimed at overhauling its economy and securing its place in the euro currency bloc.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government on Thursday agreed to meet most of the terms demanded by the creditors with a mix of tax increases and spending cuts, and it requested a three-year, 53.5 billion euro, or $59 billion, bailout as a starting point for talks about possible debt relief.

How lawmakers in Greece and the country’s creditors — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the other eurozone countries, including a skeptical Germany — will receive the government’s latest proposal will determine whether the nation will be able to halt its economic tailspin and avoid a potentially chaotic exit from the eurozone.

greek pm

Investors seemed increasingly optimistic in Friday trading. The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone blue chips rose 2.6 percent at midday, picking up where it left off on Thursday after signs of a thaw in the Greek negotiations began to emerge. The FTSE 100 in London gained 1.1 percent, and trading in Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures indicated that New York was heading for a rally at the opening. The markets were also buoyed by a continued rebound in Shanghai shares after Beijing introduced measures to support cratering Chinese stocks.

While the Athens stock market remains closed, Greek bond yields plummeted, a sign of confidence that lenders will be repaid. Two-year Greek government debt soared in price, while the yield, which moves in the opposite direction, plunged 15 percentage points to 36.5 percent.

The Greek government’s latest batch of policy overhauls received a positive welcome from President François Hollande of France, though some officials in Germany, the biggest eurozone creditor, expressed doubts.

“The Greek program is serious, credible and shows a determination to remain in the eurozone,” Mr. Hollande said. “Nothing is done, yet everything can be done.”

A European Union official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans were evolving, suggested that an agreement could, in theory, be reached on Saturday at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers. If so, the official said, a summit meeting of the 19 leaders of eurozone nations planned for Sunday would probably be called off.

In its proposal, the Greek government is basically conceding to things that it had said it did not want, and which the nation voted no to in the referendum on Sunday.

The offer included a proposal to raise certain value-added taxes and eliminate parts of a politically charged tax break that has long applied to the Greek islands, in a bid to pull in billions of euros in tax revenue. In addition, Athens proposed raising the corporate tax rate, broadening the tax base to include lower-income earners and eventually raising the retirement age to 67.


The proposal also contained pledges that Greece has made in years past, but which have made little progress, including a vow to speed up the privatization of state assets to raise cash and to crack down on corruption and an inefficient judicial system.

Critically, though, Athens proposed targeting a low so-called primary surplus of 1 percent this year with gradual increases in subsequent moves; the term refers to the amount of cash in its treasury after expenses and interest payments. Athens has argued that being allowed to keep more money on hand rather than spending it on debt payments will allow for some spending stimulus that is needed to stoke the moribund economy.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, which is part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, expressed skepticism about the program, noting that many of its points were part of the deal rejected by Greeks in the referendum last weekend.

“That means there are two possibilities: either the Greek government is tricking its own people, or us yet again,” Mr. Friedrich told Deutschlandfunk radio early Friday, noting that he had not yet seen the full proposal.