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On Super Bowl Pregame, Obama Discusses Iran

Obama stresses diplomacy, insists all options left on the table

Marc Tracy
February 05, 2012
President Obama today.(The author)
President Obama today.(The author)

I found it especially interesting not only that Matt Lauer asked President Obama about Iran in a traditional pre-Super Bowl White interview, but, following some discussion of who is going to win the game and whether the Obama ladies have a hankering for Tom Brady, that it was the first hard-news question Lauer asked him. Unofficial transcript (i.e. me, typing) follows.

It seems now the Israelis are signaling they may act and conduct a strike inside Iran at their nuclear sites, sooner than latter. Do they have your full support for that raid?
I don’t think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do. I think they, like us, believe that Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program. And we have mobilized the international community in a way that is unprecedented, and they are feeling the pinch, they are feeling the pressure. But they have not taken the step that they need to diplomatically, which is to say, ‘We will pursue peaceful nuclear power, we will not pursue a nuclear weapon.’ Until they do, I think Israel, rightly, is going to be very concerned and we are as well.

Has Israel promised you that they will give you advanced warning to any such attack? Should they give you that warning?
You know, I won’t go into the details of our conversations. I will say we have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we ever have. And my number one priority continues to be the security of the United States, but also the security of Israel, and we are going to make sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this, hopefully diplomatically.

When you talk about the security of the United States, Iran has had a long time to contemplate how they might respond to such an attack. Do you fear they will wage attacks within the United States—on American soil?
We don’t see any evidence that they have those intentions or capabilities right now. And again: our goal would be to resolve this issue diplomatically—that would be preferable. We’re not going to take options off the table, though. Obviously, any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive and has a big effect on us: it could have a big effect on oil prices; we’ve still got troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran; and so our prefered solution here is diplomatic—we’re going to keep pushing on that front. But we’re not going to take any options off the table, and I’ve been very clear that we’re going to do every thing we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating an arms race, a nuclear arms race, in a volatile region.

Then they started talking about the economy.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.