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Interview with Maureen Bunyan of ABC 7

August 26, 2015

Maureen Bunyan. Mr. President, to most Americans, Iran is still part of the axis of evil, its holding American hostages, and it helps to undermine the middle eastern-middle eastern affairs. Why should Americans stomach, and how can Americans stomach a deal with a country like that?

The President. Because we don't want them to get nuclear weapons. It's precisely because Iran has been so antagonistic to us, to friends of ours like Israel, that we have to make sure that they don't get a nuclear weapon. That's been something that has been a top priority of my administration, but also previous Democratic and Republican administrations. That's why we set up 5 years of the toughest sanctions ever imposed on Iran which forced them to negotiate. And that's why we have now put forward a deal in concert with allies like, Great Britain, and Germany, and France and others, that ensures that all the major pathways for them getting nuclear weapons are shut off. And not only are we achieving a central national security goal of ours, but we're doing it without initiating another military action in the middle east at a time when obviously the middle east is in pretty bad shape. That doesn't mean that we trust Iran, it means that we've set up such a vigorous system to inspect and verify that they're not getting a nuclear weapon, making them shut down facilities that would give us cause for concern, that we and most nuclear experts are able to see into what they're doing and ensure that we're not seeing nuclear proliferation in one of the most volatile parts of the world.

Maureen Bunyan. You mentioned Israel, our staunchest ally in the middle east, completely, adamantly opposed to this agreement. What are you doing to—to allow that—not to allow our relationship with Israel to deteriorate even further?

The President. Well keep in mind that our relationship militarily in terms of intelligence cooperation with Israel has never been stronger. There is a policy disagreement between this administration and everyone else in the world, and prime minister Netanyahu of Israel. And while I respect his legitimate concerns about Iran, as I've said very clearly, he's wrong on this issue. We don't want to have Iran get a nuclear weapon and every credible expert who's looked at this says "this is the best path for us not to get a nuclear weapon." What we do have to continue to do though is recognize that even with Iran not having a nuclear weapon, that they are still engaging activities that are adverse to our interests and our values. And we have to work with not just Israel, but other partners in the region to make sure that Iran's not sending shipments to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, to make sure that they are not destabilizing

countries that are very important to us. And that is something that we are already doing and will continue to be committed to doing in the years ahead.

Maureen Bunyan. In the years when you were promoting the Affordable Care Act, you had a lot of allies in Congress who were standing at your side and doing some of the heavy lifting for you. In the case of this Iran deal, it seems as if you are not getting that kind of support from Congress, and you're having to do a lot of it yourself, a little arm twisting here and there we understand.

The President. You know, the truth is that this is probably going to be challenging but not as challenging as getting the Affordable Care Act done. I mean we've got terrific Senators, like Tim Kaine in Virginia, who have stood up and made a very clear case as to why this is important to do. And I am very confident that this deal will go forward. It's unfortunate that we had republicans who immediately, uniformly opposed the deal, before the deal was even signed and before they had even read it. But you know one of the things that I've noticed is there was an initial interim deal that we did with Iran during the course of the talks, that the same folks expressed skepticism towards, two years later because it actually shut down any expansion of Iran's nuclear program and worked exactly the way it was designed, suddenly they now all think it was a good deal. So you know the politics of these things today are going to be very different than the politics a year or two years from now when people see that we've been able to shut off Iran's nuclear program from advancing in a way that could pose a threat to us.

Maureen Bunyan. Thank you very much sir.

The President. It was great to talk to you, thank you.

Maureen Bunyan. My pleasure.

Barack Obama, Interview with Maureen Bunyan of ABC 7 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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