Obama Warns of 'Too Much Loose Talk of War' between Israel and Iran
President Obama met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning to discuss growing concern over Iran's nuclear weapons program. With increasing talk of a possible Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear capabilities, U.S. leaders caution against a premature military strike.
"The United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security," Obama said as Netanyahu nodded.
Speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Sunday, Obama said it was time to follow Theodore Roosevelt's axiom to "speak softly but carry a big stick."
A slim majority of Americans said that the U.S. should remain neutral if Israel attacks Iran, according to a February poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Forty percent voiced support for Israel, while only 5 percent of suggested the U.S. should oppose military action.
Among evangelicals, nearly two-thirds said the U.S. should support Israel if it attacked Iran. Evangelical support for the U.S. backing an Israeli attack was stronger than it was among mainline Protestants and Catholics, each of whom favored neutrality over support for Israel (52 percent to 42 percent).
"Our argument is going to be that it is important for us to see if we can solve this thing permanently, as opposed to temporarily," Obama said. "And 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."
The President's comments came as Israel signaled that it is growing impatient with sanctions and will use force to eliminate Iran's nuclear capabilities.
"I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war... For the sake of Israel's security, America's security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built," Obama said.
Netanyahu said he welcomed Obama's speech. "For them you're the great Satan, we're the little Satan," Netanyahu said. "For them, we are you and you are us. And you know something, Mr. President? At least on this last point, I think they're right. We are you and you are us. ... Israel and America stand together."
Israeli president Shimon Peres also addressed AIPAC Sunday saying there was "no space" between the position of the U.S. and Israel on the question of Iran, but he was far more forceful on his assessment of Iran as a threat.
"Iran is an evil, cruel, morally corrupt regime. It is based on destruction and is an affront to human dignity," Peres told AIPAC. "It must be stopped. And it will be stopped."
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich will address AIPAC Tuesday. Responding to Obama's statements, both Romney and Santorum called for tougher U.S. actions against Iran.