Obama’s message seemed to be: Other politicians can speak of war with “casualness” if they choose, but the commander in chief cannot. “This is not a game and there is nothing casual about it,” he said.
Yet Obama the politician also knows that polls show war-weary Americans oppose by a wide margin a military intervention against Iran. The underlying political message seemed all the clearer given that the president chose to hold his first press conference since October on the day 10 states hold Republican primaries and caucuses in their presidential nominating process.
At the press conference, Obama repeated what he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House Monday – that his policy is not one of “containment” of a nuclear-armed Iran, but of preventing Iran from ever obtaining the bomb.
“We will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon,” Obama said. At the same time, both American and Israeli intelligence officials believe there is “a window of opportunity [in which] this can still be resolved diplomatically,” he said.
Tuesday's press conference took place shortly after the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, announced that the six world powers involved in stalled talks with Iran on its nuclear program agreed in a letter to Iran to a return to negotiations. The EU announcement did not offer any dates or place for the renewed talks.
Obama said he would not reveal everything he told Mr. Netanyahu in their two-hour meeting, but he gave some hints on how he answered some of the questions the Israeli leader is thought to have asked.