American president Barack Obama said on Monday that Iran should freeze its nuclear program for a decade if it wants sanctions relief under a deal with major world powers.
In an interview with Reuters, Obama said that if Iran was willing to stop its program and indeed roll back parts of it, “and we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take that would give us such assurance that they don’t have a nuclear weapon.”
The president said his goal was to make sure “there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one.”
He cautioned that the odds were still against a deal being reached this summer between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, given Iran’s reluctance to submit to a rigorous inspection regime.
But if they do agree to it, it would be far more effective in controlling their nuclear program than any military action we could take, any military action Israel could take and far more effective than sanctions will be.
Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons but the mere capacity to build them would affect the balance of power in the Middle East where American allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, are nervous about Obama’s willingness to do a deal with their foes in Tehran.
Obama admitted there was “substantial disagreement” between his administration and the government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the potential accord.
Netanyahu was invited by Obama’s Republican opponents in Congress to speak about the threat of a nuclear Iran on Tuesday. Dozens of Democrats said they would not attend, seeing the speech as a political stunt to bolster Netanyahu’s chances in an election later this month.
Netanyahu believes a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a genocidal threat to the Jewish state which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to eradicate.
It could also prompt its main Muslim rival, Saudi Arabia, to seek nuclear weapons of its own, thus triggering a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions of the world.
For Iran, the logic of obtaining atomic weapons would be rooted in its insecurity complex. It saw two of its neighbors — Afghanistan and Iraq — invaded by the United States in the last decade and remembers that those leaders who gave up their weapons of mass destruction, such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, were later toppled with Western support anyway while nuclear North Korea lives without fear of being attacked.
Economic sanctions enacted to force Iran into nuclear talks with world powers kept its economy in recession between 2012 and 2014.