PRESIDENT OBAMA: First of all, we understood I think from the start, when we set up the interim agreement with Iran, that it would take some time to work through incredibly complex issues and a huge trust deficit between the United States and Iran, and the world and Iran, when it comes to their nuclear program. So I think there was always the assumption that, although the interim agreement lasted a certain period of time, that we would probably need more time to move forward.
The good news is, is that there have been very serious discussions. That time has been well spent. During this period of time, issues have been clarified; gaps have been narrowed; the Iranians have abided by the agreement. So this is not a circumstance in which, by talking, they’ve been stalling and meanwhile advancing their program. To the contrary. What we know is the program has not only been frozen, but with respect to, for example, 20 percent enriched uranium, they’ve reversed it. And so we’re in a better position than we were before the interim program was set up.
Having said all that, the issues now are sufficiently narrowed and sufficiently clarified where we’re at point where they need to make a decision. We are presenting to them, in a unified fashion -- the P5-plus-1, supported by a coalition of countries around the world, are presenting to them a deal that allows them to have peaceful nuclear power but gives us the absolute assurance that is verifiable that they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
And if, in fact, what they claim in true -- which is they have no aspiration to get a nuclear weapon, that, in fact, according to their Supreme Leader, it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon -- if that is true, there should be the possibility of getting a deal. They should be able to get to yes. But we don’t know if that’s going to happen. They have their hardliners; they have their politics.
And the point, I guess is, Christi, at this juncture, I don’t see a further extension being useful if they have not agreed to the basic formulation and the bottom line that the world requires to have confidence that they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Now, if a framework for a deal is done, if people have a clear sense of what is required and there’s some drafting and t’s to cross and i’s to dot, that’s a different issue. But my view -- and I’ve presented this to members of Congress -- is that we now know enough that the issues are no longer technical. The issues now are, does Iran have the political will and the desire to get a deal done?
And we could not be doing this were it not for the incredible cohesion and unity that’s been shown by Germany, by the other members of the P5-plus-1 -- which, I should acknowledge, includes Russia. I mean, this is an area where they’ve actually served a constructive role. And China has served a constructive role. And there has been no cracks in this on the P5-plus-1 side of the table. And I think that’s a testament to the degree to which we are acting reasonably in trying to actually solve a problem.
With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu, as I’ve said before, I talk to him all the time, our teams constantly coordinate. We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections. As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House -- (laughter) -- and I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one. (Laughter.)
So this is just -- some of this just has to do with how we do business. And I think it’s important for us to maintain these protocols -- because the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party. This isn’t a relationship founded on affinity between the Labor Party and the Democratic Party, or Likud and the Republican Party. This is the U.S.-Israeli relationship that extends beyond parties, and has to do with that unbreakable bond that we feel and our commitment to Israel’s security, and the shared values that we have.
And the way to preserve that is to make sure that it doesn’t get clouded with what could be perceived as partisan politics. Whether that’s accurate or not, that is a potential perception, and that’s something that we have to guard against.
Now, I don’t want to be coy. The Prime Minister and I have a very real difference around Iran, Iran sanctions. I have been very clear -- and Angela agrees with me, and David Cameron agrees with me, and the others who are a member of the negotiations agree -- that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they’re about to be completed. And we should play that out. If, in fact, we can get a deal, then we should embrace that. If we can’t get a deal, then we’ll have to make a set of decisions, and, as I’ve said to Congress, I’ll be the first one to work with them to apply even stronger measures against Iran.
But what’s the rush -- unless your view is that it’s not possible to get a deal with Iran and it shouldn’t even be tested? And that I cannot agree with because, as the President of the United States, I’m looking at what the options are if we don't get a diplomatic resolution. And those options are narrow and they're not attractive. And from the perspective of U.S. interests -- and I believe from the perspective of Israel’s interests, although I can't speak for, obviously, the Israeli government -- it is far better if we can get a diplomatic solution.
So there are real differences substantively, but that's separate and apart from the whole issue of Mr. Netanyahu coming to Washington. All right? [...]