On Monday, President Obama defended the framework of the deal surrounding Iran’s nuclear program that was reached on Thursday between the United States, Iran, and five other major powers: China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. He also addressed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s concerns regarding how forming a nuclear deal with Iran will affect Israel.
In an interview with Steve Inskeep, the host of NPR’s Morning Edition, Obama defended his pending deal with Iran, saying that he believes it is “the right thing to do for the United States, for our allies in the region and for world peace regardless of the nature of the Iranian regime.”
Obama said that his goal when he came into office was to “make sure that Iran did not get a nuclear weapon and thereby trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile part of the world.” He explained that while ideally Iran would see sanctions reduced and would start focusing on its economy, it has provided assurance that it is “peaceful in nature” thus far.
“We’re now in a position where Iran has agreed to unprecedented inspections and verifications of its program, providing assurances that it is peaceful in nature,” Obama said. “You have them rolling back a number of pathways that they currently have available to break out and get a nuclear weapon. You have assurances that their stockpile of highly enriched uranium remains in a place where they cannot create a nuclear weapon.”
Obama noted that, if the deal is agreed to, the US is “purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year,” meaning that if Iran decides to break the deal, the US will have over a year to respond.
“It’s a hard argument to make that we’re better off right now having almost no breakout period, no insight, and letting them rush towards a bomb, than saying, over the course of 15 years, we have very clear assurances that they’re not going to do anything,” Obama said.
Regarding how nuclear negotiations with Iran have affected Israel, Obama said that while the idea of pushing Iran to recognize Israel is not unreasonable, he doesn’t feel that applying more pressure will lead to a better deal, which he said is the logic Netanyahu has put forth.
“So there’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime,” Obama said. “But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.”
Obama went on to say that he thinks it is “important to recognize that there are a whole host of countries in the Middle East that don’t yet recognize Israel,” and that the most important thing for Israel to keep in mind is that they have America, “the world’s most powerful country” to defend them.
While the White House is working to convince US lawmakers to accept the framework of the deal, Reuters noted that Iran’s negotiators have interpreted the outline differently, and have said, “Sanctions would be lifted immediately once an accord is signed.”
During a press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that sanctions would not be lifted immediately, and that there would have to be “sustained compliance” from Iran.
“It has never been our position that all of the sanctions against Iran should be removed from day one,” Earnest said. “That is their position, but it’s not one that we agree with.”