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Obama on Iran nuclear deal: 'They cannot fight us'

President Obama believes the controversial Iran nuclear deal has a shot at working for the simple fact that America is bigger and more powerful than Iran.

President Barack Obama believes the controversial Iran nuclear deal has a shot at working for the simple fact that America is bigger and more powerful than Iran and can fall back on other options if it doesn't work.

In an interview with The New York Times' Thomas Friedman — conducted Saturday and published Sunday — the president defends what the columnist called an "Obama doctrine" with respect to warming relations with Iran, as well as Cuba and Myanmar.

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"We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that's the thing ... people don't seem to understand," Obama said. "You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren't that many risks for us. It's a tiny little country. It's not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there's no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn't lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies."

He added: "The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran's defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us."

He said he felt it was worth the attempt to see whether Iran would slow its march toward a nuclear weapon.

Critics have said the deal gives Iran too much for too little in return. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday called it "a dream deal for Iran, and it's a nightmare deal for the world."

This story originally appeared on NBC News