Reuters is reporting that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are both satisfied with their non-encounter at the United Nations last week. Both men "left the U.N. meeting with more than they arrived with: Obama with an assurance that Israel would not attack Iran's nuclear sites before the November 6 U.S. presidential election, and Netanyahu with a commitment from Obama to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from producing an atomic bomb."
I found the second half of this statement surprising. If it is indeed news to Netanyahu that Obama has promised to do "whatever it takes" to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold, then he hasn't been listening. He's not the only one who hasn't heard the President clearly on the subject. I run into people constantly who believe that the bluffer in this relationship is Obama. Their argument holds that Obama will move toward a strategy of containment soon after the election, and that there is no way he would ever use military force to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.
I'm in the camp of people, however, who take him at his word, in part because he's repeated himself on the subject so many times and in part because he has laid out such an effective argument against containment and for disruption, by force, if necessary. With the help of Armin Rosen, of The Atlantic's International Channel, I've posted below a partial accounting of Obama's statements on the subject. Of course, it is possible that in a second term, should he win his bid for reelection, he will change his mind on the subject, and it is possible, of course, that Iran will somehow manage to defy his demands. But the record is the record: Given the number of times he's told the American public, and the world, that he will stop Iran from going nuclear, it is hard to believe that he will suddenly change his mind and back out of his promise.
Here are some of his statements on the subject, going back to his first campaign for the presidency:
June 5, 2008, in Cairo: "I will continue to be clear on the fact that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be profoundly destabilizing for the entire region.It is strongly in America's interest to prevent such a scenario."
June 8, 2008, to AIPAC: "The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.... Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel."
October 7 2008, in the second presidential debate: "We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. And so it's unacceptable. And I will do everything that's required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table,"
November 7, 2008, press conference: "Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is unacceptable. And we have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening."
February 27, 2009, speech at Camp Lejeune: "(W)e are focusing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world."
January 27, 2010, State of the Union address: "And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise."
July 1, /2010, at the signing of the Iran Sanctions Act: "There should be no doubt -- the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
May 19, 2011, speech on the Middle East: "Now, our opposition to Iran's intolerance and Iran's repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known."