Obama: Iran's Supreme Leader "Is A Politician," "Like Everybody Else"


Fareed Zakaria hosts President Barack Obama in an interview which has already made news.

President Obama is unconcerned by chants of "Death To America" in Tehran. "There's always a gap between rhetoric and action," says the president. "The Supreme Leader is a politician, apparently, just like everybody else."

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FAREED ZAKARIA: You talked about Iran's hardliners, the old guard. But one member of Iran's old guard certainly seems to be Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader... Is this a guy you can really make a deal with?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, as I said, Fareed, you don't negotiate deals with your friends. You negotiate them with your enemies. And superpowers don't respond to taunts. Superpowers focus on what is it that we need to do in order to preserve our national security and the national security of our allies and our friends...

So there's always a gap between rhetoric and action. And, you know, the Supreme Leader is a politician, apparently, just like everybody else. What I'm focused on is can we make sure that they are doing what they have to do and that we have sufficient safeguards and verification mechanisms to ensure that they don't have a nuclear weapon.

And, again, Fareed, it is very important, I think, over the next several weeks, to not get distracted by tone, vote counts, is Mitch McConnell's feelings hurt. But let's address the argument. And it -- the central point I was making yesterday -- fairly exhaustively, it was a long speech -- was that nobody has presented a plausible alternative, other than military strikes, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Nobody has presented a more effective way to ensure they don't have a nuclear weapon, including military strikes, because we know, actually, if this deal is executed, it will provide more limitations on the Iranian nuclear program for a longer period of time in a more verifiable way. And that central argument hasn't really been effectively contested. Nobody has had a good answer for that.

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