Obama talks tough on Iran during State of the Union

US president stresses support for Israel’s security, backing for Mideast transitions to democracy.

Obama State of Union address (photo credit: REUTERS)
Obama State of Union address
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama had tough words for Iran in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, but separately endorsed American military restraint.
“The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations,” Obama declared.
“And we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”
The president earned applause for his statement, some of the toughest words he has uttered on Iran at a State of the Union address. His message to Tehran comes as the US warned that the window for diplomacy was closing and has applied increasingly strict sanctions.
But elsewhere in his remarks, which focused mainly on US domestic issues, he spoke of America’s ability to defend against dangers without deploying American soldiers in every conflict.
Al-Qaida, while “a shadow of its former self,” had new affiliates and branches that threatened violence, Obama noted. “But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy other nations.”
Instead, Obama pointed to countries such as Yemen, Libya and Somalia, where the US would help local security forces, and Mali, where America provided assistance to French fighters.
Obama also took a stern tone with North Korea, which earlier in the day conducted a nuclear test.
“Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats,” he said.
Obama also made a nod to the prospect of peace and progress in the Middle East, referring to American support for Israel and for regional citizens protesting their oppressive regimes.
“In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy,” Obama stressed, though he added a word of caution.
“We know the process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt,” he said, adding that the US would still continue to pressure Syria.
“And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace,” Obama maintained, receiving a standing ovation.
He noted that these messages on the Middle East were ones he would deliver when visiting the region next month.
Reflecting the almost military- like planning for the visit, as well as the message Israel hopes emerges from the trip, the Prime Minister’s Office has given a code name to the visit: “Nations United.”
National Security Council head Ya’acov Amidror, charged with coordinating the visit, convened what was described as a large meeting about the visit on Wednesday. He is scheduled to go to Washington next week to plan for the twoand- a-half day visit which one official described as a major logistical operation.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.