Obama: Israel Has Yet to Provide Better Alternative to Iran Nuclear Deal

President gives first press conference a day after clinching historic agreement.

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President Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wed. July 15, 2015.
President Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wed. July 15, 2015.Credit: AP
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Haaretz

President Barack Obama told the press from the White House on Wednesday that Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to provide a better alternative to the historic nuclear deal reached with Iran on Tuesday.

"Israel has legitimate concerns about its security regarding Iran," Obama said, echoing Israel's repeated concerns about Iran's Holocaust denial and sponsorship of Hezbollah. However, Obama added that these threats are compounded if Iran obtains weapons, and Netanyahu has yet to present a better option.

"Without a deal," Obama added, "there would be no limits to Iran's nuclear program and Iran could move close to a nuclear bomb. Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East."

"The starting premise of our strategy with respect to Iran has been that it would be a grave threat to the U.S. and our allies if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon," Obama said, adding that every U.S. policy over the past six-and-a-half years was motivated by this premise.

"That was not simply my priority, but this has been my priority, a Republican priority, and Prime Minister Netanyahu's priority." Obama added that the nuclear deal meets all of the United States' priorities.

He also noted that he still has low expections about Iran's behavior in the region. "My hope is that building on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less hostile and more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations to behave in the international community, but we're not counting on it."

"There are mechanisms under international law to interdict weapon shipments," Obama added.

The U.S. president specifically mentioned Iran's role in Syra, saying that the problems in Syria would not be solved without support from Russia, Turkey and other partners, and he said Iran needed to be part of those discussions.

"In order for us to resolve it, there is going to have to be agreement among the major powers that are interested in Syria that this is not going to be won on the battlefield."

Obama added that the U.S. lacked diplomatic leverage to eliminate every bit of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran.

"Without a deal, the international sanctions regime will unravel, with little ability to re-impose it," he said. " With this deal, we have the possibility to peacefully resolve a major threat to regional and international security."

Obama told the New York Times on Tuesday that although concerns over Iran are legitimate, "we have to keep our eye on the ball... Iran with a nuclear weapon will do more damage, and we will be in a much worse position to prevent it.”

Regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's intention to lobby against the deal in Congress, Obama said he doesn't believe the premier's efforts will be successful.

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