Embassy In Iran? ‘Never Say Never,’ says Obama

White House photo by Pete Souza
White House photo by Pete Souza
Washington, D.C.

President Obama says it’s important to leave open the idea of restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran, even after nuclear talks stalled in November.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Obama was asked about the possibility of opening a U.S. Embassy in Iran before his presidency ends.

“I never say never, but I think these things have to go in steps,” he told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep.

Obama explained that Tehran was a “large, sophisticated country” but warned of its record of state-sponsored terrorism and its attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon. He also warned that the rhetoric from the country’s leaders was “incendiary” towards Israel and “explicitly anti-American.”

Diplomatic relations with Iran, Obama said, would depend on the success of ongoing nuclear talks.

“[I]f we can get a deal on making sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon — and that deal is possible; we know the terms of what that would look like,” he said.

Obama reminded the audience that Iran’s leaders had indicated that they were not interested in acquiring a nuclear weapon, but that they would have to show their sincerity to the world.

“[W]e have to get this nuclear issue resolved — and there’s a chance to do it and the question’s going to be whether or not Iran is willing to seize it,” he said. “I think there are elements inside of Iran that recognize the opportunity and want to take it; I think there’s some hardliners inside of Iran that are threatened by a resolution of this because they are so invested politically and emotionally in being anti-American or anti-Western that — that it’s frightening for them to — to open themselves up to the world in this way.”

Earlier this month, Obama called for full diplomatic relations with Cuba, signaling plans to open an embassy in Havana. He explained, however, that the situation with Cuba was very different than the one in Iran.

“You know, Cuba is a circumstance in which for 50 years, we have done the same thing over and over again and there hadn’t been any change,” Obama said, defending his decision. “And the question was should we try something different with a relatively tiny country that doesn’t pose any significant threat to us or our allies.”