Israel acknowledges upside of diplomacy with Iran, Obama says

Obama hits back at "foreign policy establishment" on shoot-first mentality.

December 21, 2014 16:44
2 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – The government of Israel believes that talks with Iran over its nuclear program has frozen the long-standing crisis, US President Barack Obama said over the weekend, classifying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as one of his many critics.

“Critics of our policy, like the Netanyahu government in Israel... their intelligence folks have acknowledged” that the Joint Plan of Action – an interim deal agreed upon by Iran and world powers last year – has paused Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapons capability, the president said.

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Hitting back against “some in the foreign policy establishment” for a shoot-first mentality, Obama said he has demonstrated a consistent focus on diplomacy over provocation and force in his policies toward Iran, Cuba and Russia.

“There is this knee-jerk sense, I think, on the part of some in the foreign policy establishment that, you know, shooting first and thinking about it second projects strength,” the president said. “I disagree with that.”

The president’s conversation with Candy Crowley, a veteran CNN anchor, was pretaped on Friday before her last Sunday show with the network.

Netanyahu supports negotiations between world powers and Iran over the nuclear issue, though he has repeatedly expressed disappointment in the position of the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – throughout the talks.

Israel seeks the dismantlement of Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure. But early on in the diplomatic effort, the P5+1 granted Iran the right to continue enriching uranium on its own soil – a key step toward the production of fissile material.

On relations with Russia, Obama told Crowley that his critics and the media have been proven wrong in assessing his policy by the downward spiral of Russia’s economy in recent days.

“There was a spate of stories about how he is the chess master and outmaneuvering the West and outmaneuvering Mr. Obama, and this and that and the other,” he said.

“And right now, he’s presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis and a huge economic contraction.”

“That doesn’t sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America,” he continued.

But one of those vocal critics, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), reinforced his overarching assessment of the Obama doctrine on Sunday, speaking to Crowley: The president’s statements are “bizarre,” the senator said, characterizing Obama as misunderstood.

“The Iranians are watching everything this man does,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “They must be feeling pretty good about their chance to negotiate with America.”

Negotiations with Iran will continue into the new year.

The parties seek to clinch a political agreement by late March and a final comprehensive agreement by June.

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