Obama lists Iran deal among successes

Outgoing US President Barack Obama.

In his farewell address, outgoing US President Barack Obama listed the Iran nuclear agreement as one of his administration’s signature accomplishments, stating that it “shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot”.

The 2015 agreement, negotiated between Iran and six world powers led by the US, froze Iran’s nuclear activities in return for a lifting of sanctions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasted the deal as a capitulation to Iran. But Obama touted it on Tuesday as a a victory for diplomacy that stemmed a major threat.

Meanwhile, Obama on Tuesday defended his record on Israel in a wide-ranging interview on Israeli TV, stating that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he has clashed, “had a good friend” in the White House.

Speaking with Channel 2’s Ilana Dayan, Obama defended his push for peace talks and the recent US abstention on a UN Security Council resolution criticising Israeli settlements.

Obama flatly denied Israeli assertions that the US was behind the resolution’s passage on December 23, noting that the US neither wrote the resolution nor introduced it or voted in favour of it.

Obama said the US would have vetoed anything that didn’t contain a “balanced statement” condemning what it sees as Israeli and Palestinian missteps, and said the resolution was the “best move” for peace.

“I did believe it was important to send a signal and to lift up the facts that so often get buried under other news in terms of what is happening with settlements in the West Bank,” he said. “I have an obligation to do what I think is right.”

As he has in the past when faced with criticism on Israel, Obama said he has Israel’s best interest in mind and has always ensured Israel’s security, and that “established traditions of the Zionist movement in Israel are consistent with the values that I have tried to live by.” He added later that even if Israel continues expanding settlements, robust support for Israel in Congress means “the United States will still be there” as an ally.

Obama said Netanyahu “had a good friend, it’s just Bibi didn’t always recognise it.” The president suggested that if his successor, Donald Trump, supports Israeli policy no matter what, it could hurt Israel’s long-term interests.

“Unfettered support for Israel, and support for the Netanyahu government’s policies, no matter what they are, no matter how inimical they may be to the prospect of peace, if that’s what qualifies as a good friend, I believe we will see a worsening situation over time,” he said.

Referring to the Israeli prime minister, Obama questioned “whether he’ll sleep better after January 20.”

JTA