Ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, President Barack Obama is saying that he will order the U.S. military to destroy Iran's nuclear program if economic sanctions fail to compel Tehran to shelve its nuclear ambitions.
Speaking to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, in the most extensive interview he has given about the looming Iran crisis, Obama said that both Iran and Israel should take seriously the possibility of American action against Iran's nuclear facilities.
“I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff,” Obama told Goldberg in the interview which was published on Friday.
He added, “I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.
“When I say this is in the U.S. interest, I'm not saying this is something we'd like to solve,” Obama said. “I’m saying this is something we have to solve.”
While Obama stated specifically that “all options are on the table,” and that the final option is the “military component,” he added that sanctions have put Iran in a “world of hurt,” and that economic duress might soon force the regime in Tehran to rethink its efforts to pursue a nuclear-weapons program.
He also said that Tehran's nuclear program would represent a “profound” national-security threat to the United States even if Israel were not a target of Iran's violent rhetoric.
“You’re talking about the most volatile region in the world," said Obama. “It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe.”
He added, “The dangers of an Iran getting nuclear weapons that then leads to a free-for-all in the Middle East is something that I think would be very dangerous for the world.”
Obama also addressed the campaign by Republican candidates to convince American Jews that he is anti-Israel.
“Every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept,” he told Goldberg. “Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they've had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that?”
Obama dismissed the notion that his relationship with Netanyahu is “a dysfunctional relationship” and said, “I actually think the relationship is very functional, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The fact of the matter is, we've gotten a lot of business done with Israel over the last three years. I think the prime minister -- and certainly the defense minister -- would acknowledge that we've never had closer military and intelligence cooperation. When you look at what I've done with respect to security for Israel, from joint training and joint exercises that outstrip anything that's been done in the past, to helping finance and construct the Iron Dome program to make sure that Israeli families are less vulnerable to missile strikes, to ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge, to fighting back against delegitimization of Israel, whether at the [UN] Human Rights Council, or in front of the UN General Assembly, or during the Goldstone Report, or after the flare-up involving the flotilla -- the truth of the matter is that the relationship has functioned very well.”
He added that “one thing that I have found in working with Prime Minister Netanyahu is that we can be very frank with each other, very blunt with each other, very honest with each other. For the most part, when we have differences, they are tactical and not strategic. Our objectives are a secure United States, a secure Israel, peace, the capacity for our kids to grow up in safety and security and not have to worry about bombs going off, and being able to promote business and economic growth and commerce. We have a common vision about where we want to go. At any given moment -- as is true, frankly, with my relationship with every other foreign leader -- there's not going to be perfect alignment of how we achieve these objectives.”
Responding to Goldberg’s question if his message to Netanyahu is that “we've got Israel's back,” Obama said, “That is not just my message to the prime minister, that's been my message to the Israeli people, and to the pro-Israel community in this country, since I came into office. It's hard for me to be clearer than I was in front of the UN General Assembly, when I made a more full-throated defense of Israel and its legitimate security concerns than any president in history -- not, by the way, in front of an audience that was particularly warm to the message. So that actually won't be my message. My message will be much more specific, about how do we solve this problem.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)