“While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward, and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,” Obama told reporters Friday at the White House.
That optimism was certain to be a dominant topic when Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday was on his way to the United States and has long insisted Iran be blocked from obtaining the capability of obtaining a nuclear weapon.
As he boarded his plane in Israel, Netanyahu said he was heading to the United Nations to “tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and the onslaught of smiles.”
Zarif scoffed at those concerns.
“Well, a smile attack is much better than a lie attack,” Zarif said.
He also said Israeli leaders have been warning that Tehran is months away from having a nuclear weapon since 1991, and those fears have never been realized.
“We’re not six months, six years, 60 years away from nuclear weapons. We don’t want nuclear weapons. We believe nuclear weapons are detrimental to our security,” said Zarif, a former nuclear negotiator.
The potential diplomatic thaw after a generationlong freeze is far from certain, and Zarif indicated this would not be simple. Iran’s top diplomat also said his country is willing to forgive the United States’ history with Iran but will not forget decades of distrust between the two nations.
Nor was the United States rushing to forget Iran’s past duplicity, hostility and support for organizations its State Department has labeled terrorist groups.
“Obviously, we and others in the international community have every reason to be skeptical of that and we need to test it, and any agreement must be fully verifiable and enforceable,” said Susan Rice, the White House national security adviser.