Jeffrey Goldberg asks Obama if the fact that the Iranian regime is anti-Semitic, and thus possessing of a warped view of the way the world works, shouldn’t preclude a negotiating strategy that treats Tehran as a rational player. But the president says that the regime’s survival instinct is more powerful than other calculi, including its hatred of Jews and imperialistic aspirations.
“Well, the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival,” he says. “It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.”
Tehran, he continues, won’t make irrational decisions — an apparent reference to the regime breaking away to a nuclear weapon or attacking another country — that would threaten its very survival.
“What we’ve been very clear [about] to the Iranian regime over the past six years is that we will continue to ratchet up the costs, not simply for their anti-Semitism, but also for whatever expansionist ambitions they may have,” he says.
“That’s what the sanctions represent. That’s what the military option I’ve made clear I preserve represents. And so I think it is not at all contradictory to say that there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime, but that they also are interested in maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their own country.”