US President Barack Obama.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – More than 35 years since the American embassy in Tehran was besieged, US President Barack Obama has signaled that a renewed US presence in Iran is possible – should Iran choose to permanently curb its nuclear ambitions.
“I never say never, but I think these things have to go in steps,” Obama said of the possibility, in an interview with National Public Radio. The president was responding to a question on Iran following his decision to open an embassy in Havana, Cuba, after 50 years of frozen relations.
Cuba and Iran pose fundamentally different challenges, however, Obama explained.
“Tehran is a large, sophisticated country that has a track record of state-sponsored terrorism that we know was attempting to develop a nuclear weapon, or at least the component parts that would be required to develop a nuclear weapon; that has engaged in disruptions to our allies; whose rhetoric is not only explicitly anti-American, but also has been incendiary when it comes to its attitude towards the state of Israel,” he said.
Negotiations between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, have laid the groundwork for an historic dialogue between senior US and Iranian officials. Obama has reached out by phone and letter to both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The first step, Obama said, was to get “this nuclear issue resolved” — a comprehensive accord that “would serve as the basis for us trying to improve relations over time.”
Abiding by the National Emergencies Act, the White House has declared relations with Iran as under a state of emergency every year since November 14, 1979.
Obama continued that emergency declaration last month.