U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated on Thursday night that his policy is not to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
“We’re still threatened by an Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and I’ve been absolutely clear that our policy is not to allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” Obama said during a campaign event in Tampa, Florida.
“We can’t afford a nuclear arms race in the region,” he added. “Obviously, there are still extremists around the world who threaten us, which is why my commitment is to continue to have the strongest military in the world. But I also want to lead with diplomacy. I also want to lead with our values and our ideals.”
Obama’s comments come following a week of tension in U.S.-Israel relations, following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand that the U.S. set clear “red lines” that Iran cannot cross in its campaign to obtain nuclear weapons.
Obama rejected the idea of placing “red lines” for Iran during a phone conversation with Netanyahu last week, and received backing from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said that red lines “are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner.”
Last week’s late night telephone conversation between Netanyahu and Obama came after a tense day between the sides. It began with comments by Netanyahu that the Obama administration had no “moral right” to restrain Israel from taking military action on its own if it refused to put limits on Iran. It continued with reports that the White House had rebuffed a request by Netanyahu’s office for a meeting with Obama during the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month. The White House denied those reports, saying the two were simply not in New York at the same time.
On Thursday, the United States sternly warned Iran that “time is running out” for its unsupervised nuclear program, in what may have been thinly-veiled support for Netanyahu’s “red line” demands.
"We will not engage in an endless process of negotiations that fail to produce any results. We must therefore remain clear and united in seeking resolution of the international community's concerns regarding Iran's nuclear program. Time is wasting," Ambassador Rice said told a United Nations Security Council meeting on nuclear sanctions against Iran.
She added, "Iran's approach remains to deny, to deceive and distract.”