'US determined to prevent nuclear-armed Iran'

In State of the Union address largely devoted to US economy, Obama trumpets "ironclad commitment" to Israel's security.

Obama 311  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Obama 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama had tough words for Iran and Syria in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
“Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal,” Obama said to sustained applause.
RELATED:Obama flaunts record on Israel, IranNetanyahu, Obama talk Mideast peace, IranHe said that currently, “The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.”
The president did, however, leave the door open for diplomacy, saying that, “A peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.”
His words were more hawkish than one year ago, where his brief reference to Iran focused only on the American diplomatic effort.
Before turning to Syria, he mentioned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who met his end at the hands of his own citizens, who were angered at his regime.
“Gaddafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators – a murderer with American blood on his hands,” Obama said. “Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity cannot be denied.”
Obama’s remarks on Iran and Syria earned him two of the few standing ovations in which both Republicans and Democrats joined in. His speech focused almost entirely on domestic issues over which there is a deep partisan divide, including taxes, education spending and defense budget cuts.
After tackling trade issues with China early in his speech, Obama substantively addressed the Middle East around the 55- minute mark. He devoted more time to that region in his one hour and 16 minute speech than any other, touching on the withdrawal from Iraq, Gaddafi’s death, the Arab Spring and the US’s relationship with Israel.
“Our ironclad commitment – and I mean ironclad – to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history,” he said to applause.
He also alluded more than once to the successful operation to assassinate Osama bin Laden, which he authorized last spring. He stressed that America would continue to pursue al-Qaida, and argued that ending the Iraq war and winding down the war in Afghanistan would aid in that effort.
“Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies,” he said. “From Pakistan to Yemen, the al-Qaida operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can’t escape the reach of the United States of America.”
He pledged that the winding down of military action in Afghanistan would continue with a large withdrawal of 23,000 troops this summer.
“This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America,” he declared.
Obama’s words on Iran were echoed by his Israel envoy, Dan Shapiro, on Wednesday.
Shapiro told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which he was addressing for the first time, that all options are on the table in dealing with Iran.
He also said that the US is working “day by day” to intensify sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and central bank.
At the same time, he added in the closed meeting, the US will still consider other courses of action.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.