Obama Casts Doubt on Netanyahu's Ability to Sway Congress on Iran Deal

In interview with New York Times, U.S. president says he is prepared to go further than any previous administration to safeguard Israel's security.

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Netanyahu greets people on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2011.Credit: AP

Faced with Israeli criticism over the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, U.S. President Barack Obama stressed on Tuesday that he is prepared to go further than any previous administration to provide Israel with security assurances.  

In an interview with the New York Times, Obama said 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.

"Perhaps [Netanyahu] thinks he can further influence the congressional debate," Obama said. "I’m confident we’re going to be able to uphold this deal and implement it without Congress preventing that."

Obama added that after the deal is implemented, he intends to "sit down" with Netanyahu and review the options for addressing Israel's concerns regarding Hezbollah and on how to build on the success of Iron Dome.

The president said that even though Netanyahu, "and many of the critics," prefer that Iran have no nuclear capacity at all - that expectation was not realistic.

"Nuclear technology is not that complicated today," he said, "and so the notion that the yardstick for success was now whether they ever had the capacity possibly to obtain nuclear weapons — that can’t be the yardstick."

Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu told Obama in a phone conversation that the deal threatens the security of Israel and of the entire world.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that an examination of the agreement raises two major dangers," the Prime Minister's Office said." The agreement will allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons either after adhering to the agreement for 10-15 years, or by violating it beforehand."

During the conversation, Obama stressed his administration's commitment to Israel's security and noted that the nuclear deal will remove the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, "an outcome in the national security interest of the United States and Israel."