President Obama said Friday that his comparison of congressional Republicans to hardliners in Iran is “true factually,” refusing to back down on a taunt that has incensed lawmakers opposed to the administration’s nuclear accord with Tehran.
“What I said is absolutely true factually,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CNN, an excerpt of which was released Friday. “The reason that [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the folks in his caucus who opposed this, jumped out and opposed this before they even read it, before it was even posted, is reflective of an ideological commitment not to get a deal done.”
The president told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, “The truth of the matter is, inside of Iran, the people most opposed to the deal are the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds force, hardliners who are implacably opposed to any cooperation with the international community. In that sense they do have much more in common with the hardliners who are much more satisfied with the status quo.”
In a speech about the nuclear accord on Wednesday, Mr. Obama said GOP lawmakers opposed to the deal were “making common cause” with the hardliners in Iran. Mr. McConnell has demanded that the president retract his comments.
Mr. Obama also responded in the interview to an image posted on the Twitter feed of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, showing the president with a gun to his head.
“Superpowers don’t respond to taunts,” Mr. Obama said. “Superpowers focus on what is it that we need to do in order to preserve our national security and the national security of our allies and our friends.”
He said the ayatollah “tweeted that in response to me stating a fact, which is, is that if we were confronted with a situation in which we could not resolve this issue diplomatically, that we could militarily take out much of Iran’s military infrastructure.”
“The Supreme Leader, obviously, doesn’t want to hear that, and I understand,” Mr. Obama said. “But I’m not interested in a Twitter back and forth with the Supreme Leader. What I’m interested in is the deal itself, and can we enforce it.”
The full interview, recorded at the White House this week, will be broadcast at 10 a.m. Sunday.