TEHRAN – The U.S. president says it is profoundly in the interest of all to let diplomacy play itself out during the course of negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programs, reiterating his position that he is opposed to imposing new sanction on Tehran
Barack Obama also described Iran as a “large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage.”
On achieving a solution on the disputes over Iran’s nuclear program, which is a bone of contention between Iran and the West, Obama told Bloomberg on Sunday, “If we can resolve this issue diplomatically, we absolutely should.”
Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) clinched a deal in Geneva on November 24, 2013 according to which Iran agreed to offer a number of concessions in exchange for limited relief from the sanctions imposed on the country. The deal was designed to provide time for negotiations on a final settlement of Iran’s nuclear issue and end all sanctions against Iran.
However, Obama said that 95 percent of the sanctions will remain in place during the course of negotiations with Tehran, adding, “We’re going to enforce them, and we’ve been enforcing them during the course of these discussions.”
He also said he believes that when the U.S. officials threaten Iran by saying, “all options are on the table,” the Iranians “take it seriously.”
“We have a high degree of confidence that when they (Iranians) look at 35,000 U.S. military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously,” Obama said.
“Now, that does not mean that that is my preferred course of action. So let’s just be very clear here. There are always consequences to military action that are unpredictable and can spin out of control, and even if perfectly executed carry great costs. So if we can resolve this issue diplomatically, we absolutely should,” he added.
“And if we have any chance to make sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons, if we have any chance to render their breakout capacity nonexistent, or so minimal that we can handle it, then we’ve got to pursue that path. And that has been my argument with (Israeli) Prime Minister (Benyamin) Netanyahu; that has been my argument with members of Congress who have been interested in imposing new sanctions. My simple point has been, we lose nothing by testing this out,” he said.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the U.S. president said, “If, in fact, as a consequence of a deal on their (Iranian) nuclear program those voices and trends inside of Iran are strengthened, and their economy becomes more integrated into the international community, and there’s more travel and greater openness, even if that takes a decade or 15 years or 20 years, then that’s very much an outcome we should desire.”
He also commented on the fact that a number of regional countries are nervous about the diplomatic thaw between Iran the West, saying, “I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard. I think change is always scary. I think there was a comfort with a United States that was comfortable with an existing order and the existing alignments, and was an implacable foe of Iran, even if most of that was rhetorical and didn’t actually translate into stopping the nuclear program. But the rhetoric was good.
What I’ve been saying to our partners in the region is we’ve got to respond and adapt to change.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Obama said, “If you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits… they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.”
“The most important thing that I have said to Bibi and members of Congress on this whole issue is that it is profoundly in all of our interests to let this process play itself out. Let us test whether or not Iran can move far enough to give us assurances that their program is peaceful and that they do not have breakout capacity.”
“There’s never been a negotiation in which at some point there isn’t some pause, some mechanism to indicate possible good faith. Even in the old Westerns or gangster movies, right, everyone puts their gun down just for a second. You sit down, you have a conversation; if the conversation doesn’t go well, you leave the room and everybody knows what’s going to happen and everybody gets ready. But you don’t start shooting in the middle of the room during the course of negotiations.”
The United States, Israel, and a few of their Western allies accuse Iran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program.
However, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
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