Published On: Fri, Jul 24th, 2015

BBC interview with President Obama: “Does the Revolutionary Guard or the Quds Force have more resources? Probably”

WATCH & READ transcript of BBC interview with President Barack Obama

BBC interview with President Barack Obama Photo by Amanda Lucidon White House

The next step of the Iran nuclear deal

SOPEL: Can we just move from difficult conversations that you’re about to have in Kenya and the excruciatingly difficult conversations that you had in getting the Iran nuclear deal? I’m sure some people would say that yes, you’ve set out the case where there is no pathway to a nuclear bomb now for Iran –

OBAMA: Yes.

SOPEL: But, the net effect of lifting sanctions is that billions more will go to groups like Hezbollah, the Assad regime, and that is going to destabilise the region even more.

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind, first of all, we’ve shut off the pathways for Iran getting a nuclear weapon, which was priority number one. Because if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon, then they could cause all those same problems that you just listed with the protection of a nuclear bomb. And create much greater strategic challenges for the United States, for Israel, for our Gulf allies, for our European allies.

Second, it is true that by definition, in a negotiation and a deal like this, Iran gets something out of it. The sanctions regime that we put in place with the hope of the Brits, but also the Chinese and the Russians and others meant that they had funds that were frozen. They get those funds back. A large portion of those funds are going to have to be used for them to rebuild their economy.

That was the mandate that elected Rouhani. And the supreme leader is feeling pressure there. Does the IRGC [Revolutionary Guard] or the Quds Force have more resources? Probably, as the economy in Iran improves. But the challenge that we’ve had, when it comes to Hezbollah, for example, aiming rockets into Israel is not a shortage of resources.

Iran has shown itself to be willing, even in the midst of real hardship, to fund what they consider to be strategy priorities. The challenge is us making sure that we’ve got the interdiction capacity, the intelligence, that we are building a much stronger defence against some of these proxy wars and asymmetric efforts. And we’ve sent a clear message to the Iranians. We are settling the Iran deal, but we still have a big account that we’re going to have to work. Hopefully some of it diplomatically, if necessary some of it militarily.

SOPEL: And you’ve had an intense campaign to settle the argument, which you’ve set out with great confidence.

OBAMA: Yes.

 

SOPEL: Have you managed to change anyone’s mind yet of the Gulf states or in Congress?

OBAMA: Well, in Congress I’m confident that we’re going to be able to make sure that the deal sticks. With respect to the Gulf states we had the leaders up to Camp David. And I described for them our interest in making sure that they built their capacity to defend themselves and their territory and to make sure that destabilising activities that Iran may be engaging in are checked. But keep in mind, our Gulf partners, for example, their combined defense budget is ten times Iran’s defense budget.

SOPEL: But have they got the willingness to fight in the –

OBAMA: Well, and – and – and that’s the issue. And that’s the challenge as – so the point that I made to them consistently is, you have a strong, reliable partner in the United States. But ultimately, how issues get resolved in the Middle East is going to depend on both strengthening military capacity, but also addressing the underlying social and political issues that may lead not only to Iran being able to stir up problems among Shia populations, but also addressing some of the issues that are leading to the enormous and significant threat that they face from ISIL.

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