'Zionist lobby' an obstacle to US-Iran relations, Rouhani says

Speaking in Rome, Iranian president places onus on Washington to better relations with Tehran.

Hassan Rouhani (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hassan Rouhani
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The “Zionist lobby” in Washington is “very influential” in American politics and is blocking improved relations between Iran and the US, the Islamic Republic’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said in Rome on Wednesday.
Suggesting rapprochement is possible beyond the nuclear agreement reached last summer, Rouhani said the US needs help from Iran to solve the dizzying array of problems facing the Middle East.
“I would like to see the Americans set aside their hostility and choose another way,” Rouhani told reporters in the Italian capital on his first official trip to Europe. “But inside the US, there are some problems. There is no unified voice.”
Several major American Jewish groups – such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – opposed the nuclear accord, which intends to cap Tehran’s nuclear program for a finite period in exchange for sanctions relief.
That relief was extended to Iran earlier this month after the government dismantled key facilities in its vast nuclear program.
“It’s possible that Iran and the United States might have friendly relations,” Rouhani continued, indicating his willingness to see US businesses engaged in his country. “But the key to that is in Washington’s hands, not Tehran’s.”
The US retains nonnuclear sanctions on Iran related to the regime’s human rights abuses and its sponsorship of terrorism worldwide. Rouhani denied that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and argued at the press conference that, on the contrary, the Islamic Republic is fighting terrorist organizations such as Islamic State.
Also Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei released a video in which he said America “assists the fake Zionist regime” and that when “they say in their slogans that they are opposed to terrorism and ISIS they are lying,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Of the Holocaust, Khamenei remarked: “It is not clear whether the core of this matter is a reality or not. Even if it is a reality, it is not clear how it happened…This is the ignorance that exists in today’s world. We should be awake. [Muslims] should know that we can stand up against the ignorance.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.