U.S. President Barack Obama is brushing off taunts from Iran and political complaints in the United States about the deal to restrain Tehran's nuclear program.
In an interview aired Sunday on CNN, Obama dismissed the importance of a tweet from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, showing an apparent silhouette of the American leader with a gun to his own head.
"I think that he 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. I don't think that's disputable," the president said.
Obama also told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that he thinks it possible that a nuclear deal with Tehran could eventually lead to bilateral cooperation aimed at finding a solution to Syria's long-running civil war. "I think that's possible," he said of any deal that keeps Syria intact and curbs the growth of Islamist terrorists in the region.
"But I don't think it happens immediately," he said in the interview, which was conducted Thursday, hours before key Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said he would oppose the deal in an upcoming Senate vote.
President Hits Back at Critics
Obama also accused his congressional opponents of the deal, particularly Republican lawmakers, of aligning themselves with Iranian hardliners who are also opposed to the pact announced last month.
"What I said is absolutely true, factually," Obama said. "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."
The pact would bar Iran from building a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting sanctions imposed by the United Nations and Western nations that have hobbled Iran's economy. U.S. critics have mostly attacked the deal as endangering Israel's security and say that international verification of Iran's compliance is weak.
The U.S. Congress, now in recess, is set to vote on the deal in September, with the outcome unclear.
At least 58 U.S. lawmakers, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, are currently in Israel on a trip paid for by the charitable arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is lobbying strongly against the deal.
Despite that opposition, Obama has vowed to veto any rejection, which would force each of the two legislative chambers to muster a two-thirds vote to override his veto.