Seeking to reassure an uneasy ally, President Obama today told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. is entering into possible nuclear negotiations with Iran "very clear-eyed."
"Given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past, the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel, it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient; that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that in fact they are meeting their international obligations fully and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon," the president told reporters in the Oval Office following a meeting with Netanyahu.
The leaders are meeting at the White House just days after Obama had an historic phone call with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has signaled a willingness to work with Obama even as his country has not made any concrete steps to fulfill the preconditions that the administration requires for negotiations on the nuclear issue.
"Because of the extraordinary sanctions that we have been able to put in place over the last several years, the Iranians are now prepared, it appears, to negotiate. We have to test diplomacy. We have to see if in fact they are serious about their willingness to abide by international norms and international law and international requirements and resolutions, and we in good faith will approach them, indicating that it is our preference to resolve these issues diplomatically," Obama said.
The president underscored that the U.S. and Israel share the same goal: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. "We will be in close consultation with Israel and our other friends and allies in the region during this process, and our hope is that we can resolve this diplomatically," he added.
Netanyahu stressed that "Iran is committed to Israel's destruction" and urged Obama to keep tough economic sanctions in place.
"If diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place. And I think they should not be lessened until there is verifiable success," Netanyahu said. "In fact, it is Israel's firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened."