US President Barack Obama is “confident” that US lawmakers will not be swayed by Israeli lobbying efforts to pass the newly signed nuclear deal with Iran.
In an interview published Wednesday morning, the president told Thomas Friedman from the New York Times that he believes Iran should be given the chance to become a regional power. Obama expressed his trust in Iranian officials, saying that they will follow the deal “to the letter.”
The Iran deal, which was finalized on Tuesday, will now be passed to Congress for approval. Lawmakers will have 60 days to either approve or reject the deal. The president has already threatened to use his veto power should Congress try and quell the agreement.
“Perhaps [Netanyahu] thinks he can further influence the congressional debate, and I’m confident we’re going to be able to uphold this deal and implement it without Congress preventing that,” Obama stated, adding that international support of sanctions on Iran were losing steam.
The president reiterated that Tuesday’s historic agreement is not meant to change the Iranian regime but rather prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“We are not measuring this deal by whether it is changing the regime inside of Iran,” Obama said. “We’re not measuring this deal by whether we are solving every problem that can be traced back to Iran, whether we are eliminating all their nefarious activities around the globe. We are measuring this deal — and that was the original premise of this conversation, including by Prime Minister Netanyahu — Iran could not get a nuclear weapon. That was always the discussion. And what I’m going to be able to say, and I think we will be able to prove, is that this by a wide margin is the most definitive path by which Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, and we will be able to achieve that with the full cooperation of the world community and without having to engage in another war in the Middle East.”
Minutes before the interview, Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone. According to Friedman, the president “did not try to sugar coat their differences” but did reveal the US was working on “significant strategic upgrades for both Israel and America’s gulf allies.”
Obama promised to “keep his eye on the ball” to stop Iran from “acting in an unconstructive way,” including the country’s global sponsorship of terror, adding that Israel and other Middle Eastern countries are “not just being paranoid.”
“The thing I want to emphasize is that people’s concerns here are legitimate. Hezbollah has tens of thousands of missiles that are pointed toward Israel. They are becoming more sophisticated. The interdiction of those weapon flows has not been as successful as it needs to be,” the president explained.
While the president did acknowledge Iran’s terrorist ties, he added that the country’s potential nuclear program should not be halted due to “denigrating Israel or threatening Israel or engaging in Holocaust denial or anti-Semitic activity.”
Responding to the Iran deal, Israeli officials slammed the agreement, with many promising to defend the Jewish state no matter the cost. Netanyahu called the deal a “bad mistake of historic proportions.”
Responding to his critics, the president said “I think that criticism is misguided. Let’s see exactly what we obtained. We have cut off every pathway for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
“[Continued Iranian aggression] is a possibility, and we are going to have to systematically guard against that and work with our allies — the gulf countries, Israel — to stop the work that [Iran is] doing outside of the nuclear program. But the central premise here is that if they got a nuclear weapon, that would be different, and on that score, we have achieved our objective,” he added.