Obama to Iran: Rare chance to make ‘reasonable deal’ on nukes


WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama urged Iran to compromise in nuclear talks and reach a “reasonable deal” despite opposition by hardliners in the United States, Iran and beyond.

Obama made the appeal in a four-minute video released Thursday ahead of Nowruz, the Persian new year marked on March 21, and the March 31 deadline for an outline of a deal in nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers, including the United States. The deal would trade sanctions relief for restrictions that would keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“As you gather around the Nowruz table — from Tehran to Shiraz to Tabriz, from the coasts of the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf — you’re giving thanks for your blessings and looking ahead to the future,” he said. “This year, we have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries.”

Obama outlined what he said are two paths for Iran’s leaders. “If they cannot agree to a reasonable deal, they will keep Iran on the path it’s on today — a path that has isolated Iran, and the Iranian people, from so much of the world, caused so much hardship for Iranian families, and deprived so many young Iranians of the jobs and opportunities they deserve,” he said.

But, “on the other hand, if Iran’s leaders can agree to a reasonable deal, it can lead to a better path,” Obama said, “the path of greater opportunities for the Iranian people. In other words, a nuclear deal now can help open the door to a brighter future for you — the Iranian people, who, as heirs to a great civilization, have so much to give to the world.”

The weeks ahead, he added, “will be critical. Our negotiations have made progress, but gaps remain.” In Iran, the United States and beyond, Obama also said, some people “oppose a diplomatic resolution.”

With the deadline for an outline of a deal looming, Israel has stepped its opposition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the emerging deal would leave Iran a nuclear threshold state. The issue soured relations between Israel and the United States after Netanyahu on March 3 spoke against the deal before Congress against the White House’s wishes. Saudi officials have also voiced reservations about the framework for talks.

Separately, Reuters reported that Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed on Thursday to delay until April 14 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s vote on legislation that would force Obama to submit any nuclear agreement with Iran to Congress for approval. Obama had threatened a veto.

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