President Barack Obama attempted to quell concerns that he is friendly with the ayatollah of Iran and continued to sell his administration’s efforts for a nuclear energy peace deal with Iran in a new interview.
During the talk with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Obama stressed the relationship, or lack thereof, with Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the lead figure representing Iran in the peace talks.
“You don’t negotiate deals with your friends. You negotiate them with your enemies,” Obama said.
Members of both political parties have come out in support or opposition to the Iran deal. The majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate have stated their opposition to the measure, but it has the Democratic support that is key to the deal’s future. While many Democrats in the Senate have publicly announced their support, leaders of the party have opposed the deal.
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On Aug. 6, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, one of the most influential members of the party and likely the party’s leader in the Senate in 2017, announced his opposition to the deal. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey has also remained skeptical over the negotiations, but has yet to indicate where his vote will go.
Obama was also asked for his thoughts about a tweet that Khamenei sent out that shows the president holding a gun to his own head.
“Superpowers don’t respond to taunts. Superpowers focus on what is it that we need to do in order to preserve our national security and the national security of our allies and our friends,” Obama said.
The commander in chief added that he was “not interested in a Twitter back and forth with the supreme leader. What I’m interested in is the deal itself and can we enforce it.”
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In a separate interview with NPR, Obama lambasted Republicans for the party’s nearly unified opposition to the Iran deal.
“Unfortunately, a large portion of the Republican Party, if not a near unanimous portion of Republican representatives, are going to be opposed to anything that I do,” the president told NPR News.
The Associated Press noted that Obama’s recent trade deal with Europe and Asia only passed due to Republican support in both chambers of Congress. Prominent congressional Democrats and presidential contender Hillary Clinton publicly derided the trade bill with no success.