By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
President Obama says he is dedicated to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, arguing that if Iran becomes a nuclear-armed power it would spark an arms race in the Middle East and Iran could supply a nuclear device to a terrorist group.
Speaking in Washington March 5, Obama said the United States prefers to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear activities through diplomatic means and that it has worked with other countries to set up “the most crippling sanctions ever” against Iran.
“We do believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue, but ultimately the Iranians’ regime has to make a decision to move in that direction, a decision that they have not made thus far,” he said.
Obama said it is “profoundly” in the interests of the United States to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and “my policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons,” he said.
“We do not want to see a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. We do not want the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists. And we do not want a regime that has been a state sponsor of terrorism being able to feel that it can act even more aggressively or with impunity as a consequence of its nuclear power,” Obama said.
The president spoke with The Atlantic Magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg March 2 and said Iran’s leaders need to decide what exactly is in their country’s genuine interests.
“What we’ve seen, what we’ve heard directly from them over the last couple of weeks is that nuclear weapons are sinful and un-Islamic,” he said.
But Iran’s leaders must “prove to the international community that their intentions are peaceful and that they are, in fact, not pursuing weapons,” he said.
“It doesn’t require them to knuckle under to us. What it does require is for them to actually show to the world that there is consistency between their actions and their statements. And that’s something they should be able to do without losing face,” the president said.
Obama noted that history has shown that the only way a country has forsaken nuclear weapons without the need for foreign military intervention has been when the country itself has made that choice, as with Libya and South Africa.
“We think that, without in any way being under an illusion about Iranian intentions, without in any way being naive about the nature of that regime, they are self-interested. They recognize that they are in a bad, bad place right now. It is possible for them to make a strategic calculation that, at minimum, pushes much further to the right whatever potential breakout capacity they may have,” he said.
But if Iran does choose to have a nuclear weapon, they will likely be followed by four or five other countries in the region, and “at that point, the prospect for miscalculation in a region that has that many tensions and fissures is profound. You essentially then duplicate the challenges of India and Pakistan fivefold or tenfold,” he said.
Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon is not only something the United States would like to solve, “this is something we have to solve,” he said, telling Goldberg, “I don’t bluff.”
“Anybody who is sitting in my chair who isn’t mindful of the costs of war shouldn’t be here, because it’s serious business. These aren’t video games that we’re playing here,” he said.