President Barack Obama has rejected a call by Israel that any final nuclear agreement with Iran include a “clear and unambiguous Iranian commitment of Israel’s right to exist.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had issued the demand Friday while strongly criticizing a framework nuclear deal reached by Iran and six world powers.
Obama discussed the issue during an interview Monday with the American news media organization NPR.
“The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment,” Obama said.
“We want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing. That’s exactly why we don’t want to have nuclear weapons. If suddenly Iran transformed itself to Germany or Sweden or France then there would be a different set of conversations about their nuclear infrastructure,” he said.
Israel insists the framework nuclear agreement reached last week in Switzerland threatens its survival and Netanyahu has said he would press U.S. lawmakers not to give Tehran “a free path to the bomb.”
In appearances on U.S. television on Sunday, Netanyahu said he has discussed the issue with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress – nearly two-thirds of House of Representatives members and a similar number in the U.S. Senate.
Obama said the framework nuclear deal reached with Iran was a “good deal” that was reached through “tough, principled diplomacy.”
Thursday’s framework deal between Iran and six world powers is aimed at providing relief from international sanctions in exchange for curbing Tehran’s nuclear program. The agreement followed eight days of intensive talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, and sets the stage for a final agreement to be completed by June 30.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has vowed that Iran will honor all of its pledges in the agreement “as long as the other side honors its promises as well.”
Obama also said in the NPR interview released Tuesday the U.S. and European negotiators are trying to reach a deal with Iran in which sanctions could be reimposed without a U.N. Security Council vote, where Tehran-ally Russia would have a veto.
“We are absolutely convinced we can do it again,” Obama said of the international sanctions, which have crippled Iran’s economy.
He said a reimposition of sanctions would be triggered if the International Atomic Energy Agency were to find that Tehran had broken the agreement.
Under the deal, Iran’s breakout time, the minimum amount required to produce a nuclear bomb, will be extended “to at least one year, for a duration of 10 years,” according to a U.S. fact sheet. The breakout time is currently estimated to be two to three months.
Tehran also agreed to reduce by about two-thirds the amount of its installed uranium enrichment centrifuges.
“Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years,” according to the fact sheet.
The deal requires Iran to neutralize much of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. U.N. nuclear inspections will be boosted.
The Fordo underground nuclear facility will be converted so that it cannot enrich uranium. Iran also agreed to redesign its Arak reactor to not produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Iran has repeatedly said it is not interested in building a nuclear bomb, and the country’s Islamic leaders have issued rulings banning such weapons; but, the moves have not been able to persuade Western critics who say certain elements of Iran’s nuclear program have no clear non-weapons-related utility.