President Obama said the U.S. could “penetrate” a missile defense system that Iran is purchasing from Russia if the U.S. decided it needed to destroy Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
“Our defense budget’s just a little under $600 billion; theirs is a little over $17 billion,” Mr. Obama said of Iran. “Even if they’ve got some air-defense systems, if we had to, we could penetrate them.”
The president’s comments on MSNBC’s “Hardball” came as he was discussing the proposed sale by Russia of an $800 million anti-missile system that is complicating nuclear talks with Iran. Mr. Obama reiterated that he is pursuing a diplomatic solution to curbing Iran’s nuclear program, with a framework agreement having been reached earlier this month.
“My goal is not to resolve conflict and tensions in the region through more war, my goal is to make sure that we are able to negotiate a deal that we can verify that ensures that Israel is safe, that ensures that neighbors like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are safe, and that there’s not a nuclear-arms race in the region,” the president said.
He also said the U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, to the waters off Yemen in part to deter potential arms shipments from Iran to Shiite Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.
“Right now their ships are in international waters,” Mr. Obama said. “What we’ve said to them is, that if there are weapons to delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that’s a problem. We’re not sending them obscure messages, we send them very direct messages. My hope is generally that we can settle down the situation in Yemen.”