By Jeremy Herb - 03/02/12 02:03 PM EST
President Obama said in an interview published Friday he isn’t bluffing about the potential for military strikes to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
Ahead of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, Obama said both Israel and Iran should recognize that he’s serious about an attack on Iran if it attempts to garner nuclear weapons.
“I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”
In the wide-ranging interview, the president defended his administration, cautioning Israel against a strike on Iran. He said his notoriously frosty relationship with Netanyahu is “functional” and that the Israeli government understands “we've got Israel's back.”
“One of the things that I like to remind them of is that every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept,” Obama said.
“One thing that I have found in working with Prime Minister Netanyahu is that we can be very frank with each other, very blunt with each other, very honest with each other,” he said. “For the most part, when we have differences, they are tactical and not strategic.”
The president said that it is a “profound national-security interest” of the United States, and not just Israel, for Iran not to obtain nuclear weapons.
But he argued that sanctions are working better than expected to isolate Iran and mobilize the international community. Obama suggested a military strike could aid Iran in the international community.
"At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally [Syria] is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?"
Obama and Netanyahu will meet Monday at the White House, and both leaders are speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference that starts Sunday.