President Obama gave his administration a pat on the back on Sunday, describing the deal with Iran as a vindication of his strategy to pursue diplomacy rather than jump to military action. “This is a good day, because, once again, we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy,” he said from the White House. “When Americans are freed and returned to their families, that’s something we can all celebrate.”
Obama spoke after the United States and the European Union agreed to lift the harshest sanctions against Iran related to its nuclear program. In a coordinated move, Iran also released five Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.
The president was not shy about praising his administration, characterizing the deal as a vindication of his strategy to pursue diplomacy in the face of many who were demanding military action. Obama said that failing to communicate with the country’s adversaries was never a good strategy:
For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other. Ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests. Over the years, Iran moved closer and closer to having the ability to build a nuclear weapon. But from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our adversaries. And as President, I decided that a strong, confident America could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government.
Obama also took the opportunity to speak directly to Iranians, with a particular focus on youth, noting that the deal marks the possibility of starting a new era in relations between the countries.
Following the nuclear deal, you—especially young Iranians—have the opportunity to begin building new ties with the world. We have a rare chance to pursue a new path—a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world. That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.
The president, however, also made clear he wasn’t trying to paint everything like a walk in the park, noting he’s well aware deep disagreements remain between Tehran and Washington. “We recognize that there remain profound differences between the United States and Iran,” he said. “We remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilizing behavior elsewhere, including its threats against Israel and our Gulf partners, and its support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen.”