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(photo credit: AP)
In an interview published ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday, US President Barack Obama reiterated comments made by other top officials, saying that he understands why Israel considers Iran an existential threat.
"I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat, and given some of the statements that have been made by [Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, you can understand why," Obama said in an interview with Newsweek, which was published on its Web site and will appear in print in the magazine's May 25 issue.
With respect to concerns Israel might carry out an air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, the US president said that since Israel is "right there in the range" of Iranian missiles, "their calculation of costs and benefits are going to be more acute."
Obama remarked that he did not think it was his place to "determine for the Israelis what their security needs are."
When asked about how he intends to explain the US policy to Netanyahu in their upcoming meeting, Obama said, "the approach we are taking is one that has to be given a chance and offers the prospect of security, not just for the United States but also for Israel, that is superior to some of the other alternatives."
While he reiterated that his administration was going to reach out to Teheran and "try to shift off of a pattern over the last 30 years that hasn't produced results in the region," Obama stressed that he was not naÃ¯ve and that other options were also being considered.
"I've been very clear that I don't take any options off the table with respect to Iran. I don't take options off the table when it comes to US security, period," the president told Newsweek.
"We want to offer Iran an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules. I think, ultimately, that will be better for the Iranian people. I think that there is the ability of an Islamic Republic of Iran to maintain its Islamic character while, at the same time, being a member in good standing of the international community and not a threat to its neighbors," he said in the interview.
Obama emphasized that while he hoped for the best, he was prepared to adopt harsher policies, together with the international community, if the Islamic republic failed to cooperate and halt its nuclear program.
"I assure you, I'm not naive about the difficulties of a process like this. If it doesn't work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself, as opposed to a perception that it seeks to advance that somehow it's being victimized by a US government that doesn't respect Iran's sovereignty," said Obama.
Also Sunday, the Washington Post reported that US and European officials had said that if Iran fails to begin serious talks by September or October - when the UN Security Council is set to convene - the Obama administration and its allies would pursue tough sanctions on Teheran.