U.S. President Barack Obama strongly defended last week’s framework nuclear deal with Iran as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, The New York Times reported Monday.
“This is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon,” Obama said in an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, an Op-Ed columnist for The Times.
The preliminary accord was sealed Thursday following eight days of intense negotiations between Iran’s foreign minister and his counterparts from Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
The deal sets limits on Iran’s nuclear activities as it will take Tehran at least one year to produce enough fissile materials for producing a nuclear weapon, and allows regular inspections of the facilities inside the Islamic republic.
In return, the U.S. and the European Union will suspend nuclear- related sanctions against Tehran, with the lifting of all past UN Security Council sanction resolutions.
In the interview, Obama emphasized U.S. commitments to defend Israel in the face of Iranian hostility.
“What we will be doing even as we enter into this deal is sending a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there,” the President said.
Obama’s comments came as the White House embarked on a campaign to sell a framework agreement that he hopes will transform security in the Middle East, The Times reported.
Some U.S. lawmakers are working on bills that ask for a congressional review of any deal with Iran and threaten more sanctions against the Islamic republic should talks fail to produce a final deal at the end of June.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal leaves Iran with the capacity to “produce the material for many, many nuclear bombs” and it does so by lifting the sanctions “pretty much up front.”
“Not a single facility, including underground facilities, nuclear facilities as being shut down,” Netanyahu said on NBC’s ” Meet the Press” aired Sunday.
Obama said that inspectors would be able to watch “the entire nuclear chain” and that a “procurement committee” would examine Iranian imports to be sure equipment would be appropriate for peaceful nuclear uses, not a weapon. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said, “can go anyplace.”
He said that sanctions would be lifted only after Iran lived up to its commitments, and the U.S. would “preserve the ability to snap back those sanctions if there is a violation.”
“And 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,” Obama said. “But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement and that it ushers in a new era in U.S. -Iranian relations.” Enditem