Obama Blasts Republican ‘Bluster’ on Iran

Posted March 6th, 2012 at 3:25 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama criticized Republican presidential candidates Tuesday, accusing them of resorting to “bluster and big talk” on the threat from Iran.

Mr. Obama held his first news conference since November, speaking to reporters at the White House. He decried Republican rivals for the “casualness with which some folks talk about war.”

The U.S. and other Western powers suspect Iran is pursuing nuclear technology in order to build nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Some Republican presidential candidates have warned that the re-election of President Obama and the continuation of his policies will ensure Iran develops nuclear weapons. During speeches to a pro-Israel group in Washington Tuesday, three of the leading Republican presidential hopefuls called for a tougher approach with Tehran – from placing warships along the Iranian coast to destroying Iran's nuclear facilities.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in Washington he is pushing a resolution that would authorize the use of force against Iran.

Mr. Obama defended U.S. policy on Iran, saying Tehran is facing unprecedented, crippling sanctions and that the Iranian government is now isolated. But he also stressed that U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials believe there still is a window of opportunity to resolve tensions with Iran diplomatically.

Earlier Tuesday, the so-called P5 plus 1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – offered to resume long-stalled talks with Iran. But U.S. President Obama said he does not expect a breakthrough at the first meeting of the talks and that the international community will have a good sense fairly quickly about how serious Iran is about the negotiations.

With respect to Israel and its suggestions that it could strike Iranian nuclear facilities, President Obama said Israel is a sovereign nation that has to make its own decisions about how best to preserve its security. But he said it is deeply in everybody's interests to see if the issue can be resolved in a peaceful fashion. He said the notion that the international community has a choice to make in the next two weeks or even two months is “not borne out by the facts.”

Mr. Obama said it is not just an issue of consequence for Israel if action is taken prematurely, but an issue of consequence for the United States as well, and he said it is important to take a careful, thoughtful, sober approach.

Mr. Obama also used his news conference to defend U.S. policy on Syria, where forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have been attacking civilian areas.

He called the situation in Syria heartbreaking and outrageous, and said Mr. Assad's actions have been inexcusable. But he also said simply deploying U.S. military forces will not solve the problem, and that he believes it is just a matter of time before Mr. Assad is ultimately forced from power.

Reporters also asked Mr. Obama about the burning of Qurans in Afghanistan and immigration reforms.

The president said the anger over the accidental burning of Qurans concerns him, but that Afghan leader Hamid Karzai knows the violence directed at American troops is unacceptable. Mr. Obama also said he is confident the U.S. will be able to transfer responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the 2014 deadline despite some “bumps in the road.”

On immigration reform, the president blamed partisan politics for a lack of progress. He urged Republicans to take the same approach as former president George W. Bush and commit themselves to fixing a system that is not working.

Mr. Obama said the goals remain improving border security and making sure employers do not take advantage of undocumented workers, which hurts Americans looking for work.

He also said there needs to be a path to citizenship for immigrants who are not breaking the law and a way to encourage talented immigrants to come to the U.S. to start businesses.