Bluffing, the dangers of letting Iran play the victim, and the lack of buddy-buddy time with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--it's all in The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with President Obama. With all eyes on Netanyahu's visit to the White House next week and Israel's will-they-or-won't-they-strike-Iran stance in the past few weeks, it's perhaps fitting that Goldberg's interview, posted this morning, focuses on Obama's position on Israel and the growing tension in the Middle East. Goldberg gets Obama to admit that he's had enough of Republican criticisms about his defense strategy ("These aren't video games that we're playing here."), it's his strong message to Israel and Iran (and the American people) that's caught our (and the Twitterverse's) eye:
GOLDBERG: Go back to this language, 'All options on the table.' You've probably said it fifty or 100 times. And a lot of people believe it, but the two main intended audiences, the supreme leader of Iran and the prime minister of Israel, you could argue, don't entirely trust this. The impression we get is that the Israeli government thinks this is a vague expression that's been used for so many years. Is there some ramping-up of the rhetoric you're going to give them?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think the Israeli people understand it, I think the American people understand it, and I think the Iranians understand it. It means a political component that involves isolating Iran; it means an economic component that involves unprecedented and crippling sanctions; it means a diplomatic component in which we have been able to strengthen the coalition that presents Iran with various options through the P-5 plus 1 and ensures that the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] is robust in evaluating Iran's military program; and it includes a military component. And I think people understand that.
I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff. 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. Let describe very specifically why this is important to us.
In addition to the profound threat that it poses to Israel, one of our strongest allies in the world; in addition to the outrageous language that has been directed toward Israel by the leaders of the Iranian government -- if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, this would run completely contrary to my policies of nonproliferation. The risks of an Iranian nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorist organizations are profound. It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons. So now you have the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world, one that is rife with unstable governments and sectarian tensions. And it would also provide Iran the additional capability to sponsor and protect its proxies in carrying out terrorist attacks because they are less fearful of retaliation
Head on over to The Atlantic for the full, very worth-it read.
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