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.
On the question of how much time the so-called “5 +1” powers – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany – expect to give Iran in the upcoming talks, Obama said, “We will have a pretty good sense fairly quickly how serious they are.”
Netanyahu said in his speech Monday night to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that negotiations in the past have simply provided Iran cover – and time – for pursuing its nuclear goals. US officials acknowledge there is truth in that observation, noting for example that in some past “negotiations” Iran has completely avoided any talk of its nuclear program and instead focused on its historical grievances with the West.