Obama Talks Tough, But Sticks To Non-Military Options On Iran

This article originally appeared on LobeLog

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares for his trip to Washington, there has been considerable political rhetoric on both sides of the globe directed at the Obama Administration and pushing it to harden its lineon Iran.

Obama, with backing from military leadership, is effectively resisting pressure to lower the bar for war with Iran

There’s been comparatively little pushback, which isn’t all that surprising as President Obama really needed to get out in the lead on such rebuttals. Now he has.

He has done so, not accidentally, in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, one of the US’ leading “liberal hawks” on Iran, and a widely recognized pro-Israel voice who was once, in fact, a corporal and prison guard in the Israel Defense Forces.

Obama knew this was an interviewer who would focus on taking tough stands, who would surely be leading towards questions about how the United States was going to address Netanyahu’s concerns, but who also would, ideally, like to end up with an interview that both strengthened Obama and toughened the US’ stance toward Iran.

If that’s so, I’m not at all sure Goldberg got his wish.

The headline of the interview is a line Clint Eastwood could easily have uttered—“Obama to Iran and Israel: ‘As President of the United States, I Don’t Bluff.’” But just what is it that he’s not bluffing about?

In the interview, at least, Obama sticks quite hard to his established policy, and in fact defends it. He re-states his point that “all options are on the table,” but also implies that a military option is the choice of last resort.

Obama cleverly defends this by pointing out that, “…the only way, historically, that a country has ultimately decided not to get nuclear weapons without constant military intervention has been when they themselves take [nuclear weapons] off the table. That’s what happened in Libya, that’s what happened in South Africa. And we think that, without in any way being under an illusion about Iranian intentions, without in any way being naive about the nature of that regime, they are self-interested. They recognize that they are in a bad, bad place right now. It is possible for them to make a strategic calculation that, at minimum, pushes much further to the right whatever potential breakout capacity they may have, and that may turn out to be the best decision for Israel’s security.” Continue reading