In the first one-on-one interview U.S. President Barack Obama has granted to a Jewish news outlet since he took office in 2008, the president acknowledged that some of the estimated financial relief Iran will gain from the removal of international sanctions as part of an implementation of the nuclear deal would likely “go into building up their military capability.”
“But as I pointed out repeatedly,” Obama told the Forward, which conducted the interview, “Iran’s annual defense budget is about $15 billion. The Gulf States, combined, spend about eight times that amount. Israel’s conventional military capacity far exceeds any Iranian capability, and you can’t compare the U.S. military to Iran. So the goal of this deal is to make sure that the one real game changer — nuclear weapons — is taken off the table.”
Obama also added that Iran “would be violating international law if they dash for a bomb 15 years from now,” and “whoever is occupying my chair here in the White House will have…greater international legitimacy in the event that the president needs to initiate a strike against Iran’s nuclear program, (and) will have the justification of them explicitly having violated international agreements that they entered into,” the president said, adding that in the meantime the U.S. and Israel should increase their security cooperation.
Obama’s interview with the Forward comes just days after Obama also gave a live webcast address to the American Jewish community, in which he sought to distance himself from accusations that those opposing the Iranian nuclear deal are warmongers and admitted that if the Iran nuclear deal is rejected by Congress “at that point we really don’t have options” except resorting “to some sort of military action.”
On Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his view in a meeting in Florence, Italy with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi that “Iran will get hundreds of billions of dollars of sanctions relief and investments to fuel its aggression and terrorism in the Middle East, in North Africa and beyond that.”
However, Netanyahu emphasized that Israel’s opposition extends only to an Iranian military nuclear program and not a “a civilian nuclear program in Iran,” Yedioth Achronoth reported.
Meanwhile an aid to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, has reiterated that “Iran will not recognize Israel” and that his country’s regime still sees Israel as “a usurper and occupying regime,” the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency reported.