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Obama speaks of Iran ties after deal

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Sunday that a constructive relationship with Iran could be a byproduct of the deal to limit its nuclear program, but it won’t happen immediately — if at all.

Obama said in a recorded interview with CNN that Iran’s nuclear problem must be dealt with first.

He said the deal reached last month by the United States and five other world powers to remove crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program achieves that goal ‘‘better than any alternative.’’

Republican lawmakers largely disagree with the president’s assessment that the deal blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, as do some of Obama’s own Democratic colleagues.


Obama said resolving the Iranian nuclear issue makes it possible to open broader talks with Iran on other issues. He named Syria as an example.

The president said it is possible that the pact could foster discussions on a political transition in Syria that keeps the country intact and curbs the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

‘‘But I don’t think it happens immediately.’’

Obama was interviewed by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria last Thursday, hours before Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate’s leading Jewish Democrat, announced he would oppose the agreement.

Congress is expected to vote in September on a measure disapproving the deal, which Obama has promised a swift veto. Lawmakers would then have to find enough votes to override the president.

Obama is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.

In the interview, Obama did not answer directly when asked whether he would have to use military force to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon if the deal falls through.

‘‘I have a general policy on big issues like this not to anticipate failure,’’ Obama said.

Obama also shrugged off anti-American barbs and tweets from Iran’s supreme leader, calling Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “a politician” whose rhetoric won’t threaten a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.


“Superpowers don’t respond to taunts,” Obama said Sunday in an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” Obama added that he’s “not interested in a Twitter back-and-forth with the Supreme Leader.”

Obama repeated his arguments that the agreement will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and that rejecting it would give the United States only worse options, including another war.

“Nobody has presented a plausible alternative, other than military strikes, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” he said.