Gulf countries are right to be concerned about Iran as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday, talking exclusively to Asharq al-Awsat, which marks his first ever interview with an Arab newspaper.
“Iran clearly engages in dangerous and destabilizing behavior in different countries across the region. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. It helps prop up the Assad regime in Syria. It supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It aids the Houthi rebels in Yemen. So countries in the region are right to be deeply concerned about Iran’s activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations,” Obama told the newspaper.
The president was speaking ahead of the Camp David on Thursday, in which he will host GCC leaders.
“The countries in the region are right to be deeply concerned about Iran’s activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations”
Obama said the main priorities for the Camp David summit is to “further strengthen our close partnerships, including our security cooperation, and to discuss how we can meet common challenges together. That includes working to resolve the conflicts across the Middle East that have taken so many innocent lives and caused so much suffering for the people of the region.”
He told the newspaper: “There should be no doubt about the commitment of the United States to the security of the region and to our GCC partners.”
Obama is expected to brief the Gulf delegates on the framework Iranian nuclear agreement.
“When it comes to Iran’s future, I cannot predict Iran’s internal dynamics. Within Iran, there are leaders and groups that for decades have defined themselves in opposition to both the United States and our regional partners.
“I’m not counting on any nuclear deal to change that. That said, it’s also possible that if we can successfully address the nuclear question and Iran begins to receive relief from some nuclear sanctions, it could lead to more investments in the Iranian economy and more opportunity for the Iranian people, which could strengthen the hands of more moderate leaders in Iran. More Iranians could see that constructive engagement—not confrontation—with the international community is the better path,” the president said.
Also in the interview, Obama said has not given up hope for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict but said tensions in the region and "serious questions about overall commitment" have made progress difficult.
"It's no secret that we now have a very difficult path forward. As a result, the United States is taking a hard look at our approach to the conflict," Obama said.
"We look to the new Israeli government and the Palestinians to demonstrate - through policies and actions - a genuine commitment to a two-state solution," he added.