In an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, President Obama defended the framework nuclear agreement with Iran, calling it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The interview came just days after the U.S. and other nations came to a tentative agreement with Iran to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for relief on sanctions. The framework deal is part of a larger agreement that has a final deadline of June 30.
“It's been a hard period,” Obama told Friedman, adding that it has proven to be “personally difficult” for him to hear people accuse his administration of not having Israel’s best interests in mind.
“I've been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch, and I think they should understand that we mean it,” he said. “But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement — and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations — and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbors.”
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President Obama clarified in the interview that there were still significant steps to be taken before a final deal was reached, adding that he rejected the idea of legislation that would give Congress the final say in approving or rejecting the agreement.
Speaking to the specifics of the framework deal, Obama outlined methods for verifying whether or not Iran was cheating.
“In the first instance, what we have agreed to is that we will be able to inspect and verify what’s happening along the entire nuclear chain from the uranium mines all the way through to the final facilities like Natanz,” he said. “What that means is that we’re not just going to have a bunch of folks posted at two or three or five sites. We are going to be able to see what they’re doing across the board, and in fact, if they now wanted to initiate a covert program that was designed to produce a nuclear weapon, they’d have to create a whole different supply chain. “
According to reports, President Obama has yet to meet face-to-face with Iranian president Hasan Rouhani, though they have spoken over the phone. He has also exchanged letters with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The letters reportedly include “a lot of reminders of what he perceives as past grievances against Iran.” Based on his correspondence with Khamenei, Obama said he believes the supreme leader “does realize that the sanctions regime that we put together was weakening Iran over the long term, and that if in fact he wanted to see Iran re-enter the community of nations, then there were going to have to be changes.”
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Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com, NY Times Interview Screenshot