WASHINGTON (JTA) – U.S. President Barack Obama said that Iran is determined to finance the Hezbollah even under sanctions.
Obama was asked in a BBC interview posted Friday about critics of the Iran nuclear deal who said that the regime will accelerate its troublemaking in the region once sanctions free up $100-150 billion.
“The challenge that we’ve had, when it comes to Hezbollah, for example, aiming rockets into Israel, is not a shortage of resources,” Obama said in the interview about the possibility that funds made available to Tehran because of the deal would go to Iran’s proxies, including Hezbollah.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has predicted a ramping up of Iran-backed hostilities as a result of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached July 14 between Iran and six major powers led by the United States.
“Iran has shown itself to be willing, even in the midst of real hardship, to fund what they consider to be strategy priorities,” Obama said. “The challenge is us making sure that we’ve got the interdiction capacity, the intelligence, that we are building a much stronger defense against some of these proxy wars and asymmetric efforts. And we’ve sent a clear message to the Iranians. We are settling the Iran deal, but we still have a big account that we’re going to have to work. Hopefully some of it diplomatically, if necessary some of it militarily.”
On Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Obama said: “Keep in mind, first of all, we’ve shut off the pathways for Iran getting a nuclear weapon, which was priority number one. Because if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon, then they could cause all those same problems that you just listed with the protection of a nuclear bomb.”
Netanyahu and his Cabinet ministers maintain the deal legitimizes Iran’s suspected progress toward obtaining nuclear weapons by allowing it to reach a threshold from which it can rapidly go nuclear with too little time for the international community to stop it.
White House officials say the deal is the best way of blocking Iran’s path to the bomb or slowing down its progress.
To thwart the deal, its Republican detractors would have to attract enough Democrats to their side to vote it down with a two-third majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In the interview, Obama said he was confident his administration had the support it needed for the deal in the U.S. Congress.
A trio of Obama Cabinet members, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, on Thursday defended the deal to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With the exception of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Democrats appeared to be supportive. Republicans said the deal was a scam, with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) telling Kerry, “I believe you’ve been fleeced.”