Rouhani and Obama on Deadline Day

June 30, 2015
On the day originally designated as the deadline for a nuclear deal, President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both issued warnings about their red lines. Obama said he was willing to walk away from talks, after nearly two years of negotiations, if he was not satisfied with terms to verify Iran is not working on a bomb. Rouhani warned that Tehran was prepared to resume its nuclear program in the absence of a deal with the so-called P5+1 countries — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. “If the other side breaches the deal, we will go back to the old path, stronger than what they can imagine,” he said in Tehran, according to state media. The following are excerpted remarks by the two presidents.
 
 
President Barack Obama
 
Question: Sir, you're on the cusp of entering into a nuclear agreement with Iran, but there’s still a number of unresolved issues with Iran.  In particular, the fates of Americans like Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Robert Levinson.  You and your administration say you're continuing to raise the imprisonment and disappearance of these individuals, these Americans.  But still, you will sign -- likely -- an agreement with Tehran and those issues will remain unresolved.  What do you say to them, to the families, about how you will deal with their loved ones?  And I guess the bottom line is, do you find the Iranian leadership trustworthy?
 
Obama: With respect to U.S. citizens, U.S. persons who are held in Iran, this is something that we continue to push hard on irrespective of the nuclear deal.  It's a top priority for us to make sure that our people are treated fairly.  And on the face of it, in the case of these individuals who’ve been held, they have not been and they are not being afforded the basic due process and legal rights that we afford visitors to our country.
 
So we're deeply concerned about it.  We spend a lot of time pushing on it, and we will continue to do so.  And there’s no lessening of the sense of urgency.  So when I talk to the families, we remind them of the fact that that is a mission that will continue and has been worked on consistently throughout their captivity.
 
With respect to the larger issue of whether I trust the Iranian regime, as I've said before, there are deep-seated disagreements and divisions between the United States and Iran, and those aren't going to go away overnight.  The goal of the nuclear negotiations is not to rely on trust, but to set up a verifiable mechanism where we are cutting off the pathways for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
 
And John Kerry, right now, is there, along with Secretary of Energy Moniz, who’s one of the top nuclear physicists in the world.  They are deeply engaged in negotiations.  My hope is that they can achieve an agreement, but my instructions to them have been extremely clear:  The framework agreement that was established at Lausanne is one that, if implemented effectively and codified properly, would, in fact, achieve my goal, which is Iran not obtaining a nuclear weapon. 
 
There has been a lot of talk on the other side from the Iranian negotiators about whether, in fact, they can abide by some of the terms that came up in Lausanne.  If they cannot, that’s going to be a problem -- because I’ve said from the start I will walk away from the negotiations if, in fact, it’s a bad deal.  If we can’t provide assurances that the pathways for Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon are closed, and if we can’t verify that, if the inspections regime -- the verification regime is inadequate, then we’re not going to get a deal.  And we’ve been very clear to the Iranian government about that.
 
And the good news is, is that our P5+1 partners in these negotiations feel exactly the same way.  So there are still some hard negotiations to take place, but ultimately this is going to be up to the Iranians to determine whether or not they meet the requirements that the international community has set forth to be able to fairly and accurately and consistently assess whether or not they have foreclosed the possibility of obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And given past behavior on the part of Iran, that can’t simply be a declaration by Iran and a few inspectors wandering around every once in a while; that’s going to have to be a serious, rigorous verification mechanism.  And that, I think, is going to be the test as to whether we get a deal or not.
—June 30, 2015 in a press conference with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
 
“If the other side breaches the deal, we will go back to the old path, stronger than what they can imagine.”
—June 30, 2015 according to IRNA via Reuters