U.S. President Barack Obama thinks that a deal with Iran over its nuclear program is better than a confrontation with the Islamic Republic.
Obama made the comments on Thursday in an interview with NBC News, which came amid rampant rumors that a deal was imminent between the West and Iran over its nuclear program.
Secretary of State John Kerry will reportedly fly to Geneva on Friday to take part in the talks with Iran. As this trip is a last-minute one and was previously not on Kerry’s schedule, it has set off speculations that a deal with Iran will be signed very soon.
Obama told NBC that an interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program would provide only "very modest relief" from the sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy.
He added that the agreement being worked out in Geneva would keep the bulk of sanctions on the Islamic Republic in place.
"We don't have to trust them. What we have to do is to make sure that there is a good deal in place from the perspective of us verifying what they're doing," Obama told the network.
"There is the possibility of a phased agreement in which the first phase would be us, you know, halting any advances on their nuclear program, rolling some potential back, and putting in place ... some very modest relief, but keeping the sanctions architecture in place," he added.
Obama stressed that the limited relief from sanctions could be reversed if it was determined that Iran was not living up to its end of the bargain.
"If they're not willing to go forward and finish the job of giving us assurances that they're not developing a nuclear weapon, we can crank that dial back up," Obama told NBC.
“What we have to do is to make sure that Iran is going in the right direction, otherwise the situation could deteriorate into some sort of conflict, including a military one,” he said.
Obama’s comments seem to confirm that some sort of deal between Iran and the West is on the way, though it remains to be seen what its details are.
According to one report in the British Telegraph on Thursday, the U.S. was planning to propose a short-term nuclear agreement with Iran which would allow Tehran to continue enriching uranium at low levels.
Iran’s Foreign Minister was optimistic on Thursday that an agreement on his country's nuclear program is within reach, but his deputy emphasized that Iran would not stop enriching uranium.
Responding to the reports of a possible breakthrough with Iran, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Thursday evening that signing an interim deal with Iran would be a mistake of “historic proportions,” but that appears to be precisely the deal being hammered out.
On Wednesday, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) blasted Obama over his failure to live up to his promises to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
In a statement, ZOA national president Mort Klein said that while Obama has repeatedly claimed the he will not allow Iran to obtain such weapons, his record indicates otherwise.
“The ZOA is deeply concerned that his Iranian pledge is as untrue as his health care pledge,” said Klein.