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Obama Defends Diplomatic Approach to Iran

December 9, 2013 By:
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U.S. President Barack Obama discusses the Iranian nuclear threat with Haim Saban during the 2013 Saban Forum. Photo by Ralph Alswang, courtesy of the Saban Forum.

U.S. President Barack Obama is insistent that the path to preventing Iran’s nuclear program is paved in diplomacy.

Speaking to Haim Saban at the 2013 Saban Forum in Washington D.C. on Dec. 7, Obama outlined his support for the recent P5+1 deal with Iran that will lead to an international easing of economic sanctions on Iran in return for nuclear inspections and scaled-back uranium production.

“The best way for us to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is for a comprehensive, verifiable, diplomatic resolution, without taking any other options off the table if we fail to achieve that,” Obama said.

The Saban Forum, sponsored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, aims to provide a platform for high-level dialogue between American and Israeli leaders.

Based on the line of questioning by Saban during the interview and by audience members afterward, the Iranian issue was at the top of the agenda for those in attendance.

One man, who identified himself as a former Israeli Air Force intelligence general, demanded to know Obama’s Plan B if the current deal should fall through.

“This deal goes away and we’re back to where we were before the Geneva agreement, and Iran will continue to be subject to all the sanctions that we put in place in the past and we may seek additional ones,” Obama answered.

The keynote speaker was U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Forum via webcast.

Kerry was careful in using a rhetoric that fell in line with Obama’s comments pushing forward diplomacy as the means: “To fully and verifiably address the threat that is posed by the Iranian nuclear program.”

Though Netanyahu struck a softer tone toward the deal than he has recently, he alluded to recent anti-Israel remarks made by Iranian leaders as continued cause for concern.

Not content that there be a simple cessation in Iranian uranium production, Netanyahu asserted: “There must be an unequivocal demand alongside the negotiations of Geneva for a change in Iranian policy" toward Israel; and "this must be part and parcel of negotiations.”

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