WASHINGTON (JTA) – U.S. President Barack Obama said Iran must drop its anti-American and anti-Israel postures before it transitions into the international community.
Obama defended the Iran nuclear deal in an interview posted Monday at Mic.Com, a news website aimed at millennials.
“There’s going to have to be a transition inside of Iran, even if gradual, in which there’s a recognition that chanting ‘death to America’ or denying the Holocaust among its leaders or threatening Israel with destruction or, you know, providing arms to Hezbollah, which is on the terrorist list – that those things make Iran a pariah in the eyes of a large part of the world,” Obama said.
“And I can guarantee you that the moment the Iranian regime stopped engaging in that kind of rhetoric and that kind of behaviour that Iran would just by virtue of its size, talent, resources, immediately rise in its influence and its power in the eyes of the world.”
Obama fielded questions during the interview from an Iranian, Ghazal Hakami, 22, who asked about the necessity of sanctions, and from an Israeli, Sam Grossberg, 30, who asked why Israelis should trust the president given his parlous relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama said he did not oppose Netanyahu “across the board.”
“On a whole range of issues, particularly with respect to Israel’s security, we’ve been with Israel every step of the way,” he said. “And even Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government would acknowledge that.”
Obama said Israeli concerns were legitimate.
“There is great suspicion of this deal among some of our closest allies, Israel in particular, but also some of the Gulf states, who have seen Iran’s actions – trying to destabilize their governments or sponsoring terrorist proxies,” the U.S. leader said. “And what I’m convinced of is that this deal is a good deal even as we work with those allies to constrain Iranian actions in some of these other areas.”
The U.S. Congress has until mid- to late-September to decide whether to reject the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached July 14 between Iran and six major powers. Both opponents and proponents are lobbying undecided lawmakers and their constituents.