President Barack Obama says that diplomacy backed by pressure still has the chance of accomplishing an urgent goal of the international community: preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring a nuclear weapon and living up to its international obligations.
In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, Mr. Obama said that efforts at the start of his administration to engage Iran -- which were quickly rebuffed by Tehran -- “allowed us to rally the international community as never before, to expose Iran’s intransigence, and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own”:
“Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime. They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011. Many questioned whether we could hold our coalition together as we moved against Iran’s Central Bank and oil exports. But our friends in Europe and Asia and elsewhere are joining us. And in 2012, the Iranian government faces the prospect of even more crippling sanctions.”
President Obama noted that “Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States; just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.”
Mr. Obama said Iran should also understand he is not pursuing a policy of containment: “I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And ... I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
President Obama emphasized that the United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon:
“Now the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists. Sanctions are continuing to increase, and this July – thanks to our diplomatic coordination – a European ban on Iranian oil imports will take hold. Faced with these increasingly dire consequences, Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision.”
President Obama said the U.S. prefers to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue diplomatically. He added that there has been “too much loose talk of war. . . .Now is not the time for bluster,” he said. “Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built.”