Iran’s president warned the U.S. that air strikes would not destroy jihadists in Syria but appeared upbeat about securing a deal over Tehran’s nuclear program, in an interview broadcast Wednesday.
The United States bombed Islamic State-controlled oil refineries in Syria as President Barack Obama rallied the world at the UN General Assembly to fight the jihadist “network of death” in Iraq and Syria.
In an interview with veteran U.S. broadcaster Charlie Rose, Hassan Rouhani described the Islamic State (IS) group as “extremely savage and barbaric,” but questioned the motives of the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Syria.
“It is not clear for us what they are seeking,” he said in the interview to be broadcast in full on PBS later Wednesday.
“Whether they’re under the pressure of their own domestic public opinions and they want to put on a show, a theater for public consumption, or they’re after a tangible, a real objective in the region; it is not crystal clear for us.
“But what I can tell you unequivocably, no terrorist group can be eradicated and destroyed through aerial bombardments only,” he said in New York, where he is attending the U.N. General Assembly.
Tehran has been unusually accepting of the U.S. military action in Iraq, where it is also tackling IS but is a strong backer of the Syrian government.
Rouhani accused unnamed countries in the region of fueling the rise of IS by supporting groups in the civil war against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“All of them in one fashion or another encouraged and supported these terrorists,” he said.
“Terrorism is always bad without exceptions. You cannot say now it’s good and at another time condemn it. It is always bad and evil.”
Asked about the prospect of securing an agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities, Rouhani said he believed a deal was “within reach” before a November 24 deadline.
“Certainly, before the deadline that’s remaining ahead of us, we will succeed in resolving this issue,” he told Rose.
He said Iran must safeguard its right to use peaceful nuclear energy and the West must also be assured there will be no deviation from that.
Last year Rouhani and Obama spoke by telephone at the end of the U.N. General Assembly, but no meeting between the two leaders has been scheduled this time.
“Today, conditions do not dictate such a meeting,” Rouhani told Rose, but signaled a resolution of problems in relations further ahead.
“I do not believe that between Iran and America, there must be perpetual distance, a perpetual gap and tension,” he said.
“I do believe that one day, these tensions will come to an end.”