Obama on Iran: Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

US President attempts to reassure AIPAC audience that he means to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

Gil Ronen,

Obama addresses AIPAC
Obama addresses AIPAC

US President Barack Obama addressed the AIPAC Conference in Washington DC Sunday and attempted to reassure the audience that he means to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

Parts of the speech:

"I understand the profound historical obligation on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. A nuclear armed Iran is also counter to the national interests of the United States. Indeed the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Triggering an arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world, and embolden Iran's proxies. That is why I made a commitment to the American people and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is what we have done.

"In 2010 the UN Security Council overwhelmingly accepted a sanctions regime against Iran. The sanctions caused Iran's economy to grind to a halt in 2011. In 2012 the Iranian government faces the prospect of even more crippling sanctions. So long as Iran fails to meet its obligations, this problem remains unresolved. I firmly believe that an opportunity still exists for diplomacy. The United States and Israel both believe that Iran does not yet possess a nuclear weapon. Faced with increasingly dire consequences, Iran's leaders can still choose a path that leads them back to the family of nations or continue down a dead end.

"As president and commander-in-chief I have a deep preference for peace over war. As part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I will only use force when I have no choice.

"I have said that I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That means all elements of American power: political, economic and military. Iran's leadership should understand that I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And I have made clear time and again, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.

"Already there is too much loose talk of war. Now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure to sink in. Now is the time to heed the timeless words of Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly and carry a big stick.

"We are bound to Israel because of the interests that we share… ultimately it is our common ideals that provide the true foundation for our relationship. In the United States our support for Israel is bipartisan and that is how it should stay.

"As you examine my commitment you don’t have to just count on my words. You can look at my deeds. I have kept my commitment to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture, we have been there for Israel every single time. Four years ago I stood before you and said that Israel's security is sacrosanct. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our security assistance has increased every single year. We are providing Israel with our top technology. We will preserve Israel's military edge because Israel must always maintain the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

"I have provided funding for the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes, hospitals and schools.

"We have been there through our diplomacy. We challenged the Goldstone report. When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. We boycotted the Durban Conference. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened. So there should not be a shred of doubt by now. When the chips are down, I have Israel's back. Which is why if, during this political season, if you hear some questions about my support for Israel, remember that they are not backed up by facts."

"There are those who question my administration's ongoing pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres – each of them has called for a two-state solution. Israel's place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected."

Despite the changes in the Middle East, Obama said, we must not give in to cynicism and despair. "My administration has consistently rejected any effort to shortcut negotiations."