In his first interview with an Arabic-language news organization, on Wednesday, President Obama spoke with Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat about various issues related to the Middle East, the Iranian nuclear program, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The timing of the interview’s publication with the Saudi-owned paper was surprising, given that the Saudi premier, King Salman, has turned down a request to meet with Obama this week at a Gulf leaders summit at Camp David.
In the interview, President Obama demonstrated moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinians, arguably favoring the latter.
Obama demanded, “Palestinians deserve an end to the occupation and the daily indignities that come with it; they deserve to live in an independent, sovereign state, where they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity.”
The President also talked about what would be on the agenda during his Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Camp David Summit, where he has scheduled meetings for Wednesday and Thursday.
Rallying Gulf leaders towards supporting a nuclear agreement with Iran, Obama said that he would engage the Gulf states to work “closely to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East, including Iran’s support for terrorist groups.”
In perhaps his strongest language yet in condemning the regime in Tehran, Obama added:
Iran clearly engages in dangerous and destabilizing behavior in different countries across the region. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. It helps prop up the Assad regime in Syria. It supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It aids the Houthi rebels in Yemen. So countries in the region are right to be deeply concerned about Iran’s activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations.
But the President was convinced that sanctions relief, which would pour money into the Iranian economy – and is controlled by the Ayatollahs – would help reform the regime. Obama continued to suggest that there are “more moderate leaders in Iran.”
In reality, Iranian leaders face a rigorous vetting process to determine their loyalty to the fanatical regime, and it remains unclear whom the President considers to be “moderate leaders.”
Discussing the outcome of his 2009 Cairo speech, Obama concluded, “America will continue to stand up for democracy and human rights around the world– because we believe that every man and woman, boy and girl, deserves the chance to pursue their dreams, in freedom and dignity.”