Obama: Iran Deal ‘Cuts off All Pathways for Iran Getting a Nuclear Weapon’

‘A central objective of not just my foreign policy but of U.S. foreign policy … has been preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon’

INSKEEP: “In a speech the other day, you spoke quite a lot about the consequences of Congress rejecting this deal.”
OBAMA: “Right.”
INSKEEP: “But let's talk about the other side of that, what the world looks like if the deal is approved. Secretary of State Kerry said to us the other day that this nuclear deal will leave the United States ‘absolutely’ -- his word -- absolutely freer to push back against Iran and its ambitions in the region. If you get the deal, what do you intend to do with that freedom?”
OBAMA: “Well, let's first focus on the fact that a central objective of not just my foreign policy but of U.S. foreign policy with Democratic or Republican administrations has been preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. That would be a game-changer. And this deal achieves that. It cuts off all the pathways for Iran getting a nuclear weapon. In exchange, Iran gets relief from the sanctions that we organized, systematically, with the international community over the last several years that's crippled their economy and forced them back to the table. With that issue resolved, although we will have to be vigilant through the inspection process and the verification process, although we will have a backstop in being able to exercise all options, including military, if Iran violated or cheated on the agreement, then an additional priority that we have is making sure that Iran ends some of the destabilizing activities that it's engaged in for a very long time, providing arms to Hezbollah to threaten Israel and our other allies in the region, making sure that through proxies, Iran is not engaging in destabilizing activities toward Gulf countries. And to both Israel and our Gulf partners and allies in the region, what we've said to them is that we can handle those issues if we are more consistent, better organized in the things that are required to deal with those non-nuclear threats, those more conventional or low-grade threats. For example, dealing with cyber-attacks, there are ways we can deal with those issues more effectively than we have. Dealing with a ballistic missile. Making sure that missile defense systems are integrated and working properly. Making sure that there are Special Forces and other ground operations that can be carried out to support stabilizing efforts in places like Yemen. So there are a whole host of areas where we can work together, and we are in fact in the process of consulting with those countries as we speak.”
INSKEEP: “Should we expect the United States to push more forcefully against Iran and its support for groups like Hezbollah, for example?”
OBAMA: “Well, I think we've had a very consistent policy in opposition to it. I think that the challenges have typically had to do not with will, but have had to do with effectiveness. For example, to interdict arms shipments to Hezbollah by Iran, the problem is not that we don't have the authority to do it. The problem is not that we and Israelis want to stop that from happening, or Gulf allies want to stop that from happening. The problem is, is that sometimes it's challenging to do. We have to have better intelligence. We have to have better interdiction capabilities. And so, you know, the issue here is not how much we spend or how hard we try; the issue is are we doing it the right way? Are we being smart about it? I've said, for example, that the Gulf countries, their combined defense spending is eight times Iran's. So the issue is not even if Iran is putting in additional dollars as a consequence of sanctions relief and an improved economy, Iran will continue to be outspent. The question is, are those resources deployed effectively and appropriately? But here's the point I don't want to get away from, though, Steve. It's that under any scenario our problems are greatly magnified if in fact Iran also has a nuclear weapon. And, you know, this is a situation of first things first, this deal accomplishes that, and it's as a consequence, worthy of support.”


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