The president, says Paul, is "closer to my position than the other candidates, because what the other Republicans are saying is reckless."
Most Republicans seem to be lining up with Newt, Mitt and Rick on a more hawkish stance. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Congress to vote the president a blank check for war now. And the president is aware of and alarmed by the Republican stampede to war:
"The notion that the way to solve every one of these problems is to deploy our military -- that hasn't been true in the past and it won't be true now. ... Sometimes, it's necessary, but we don't do it casually. ... We think it through. We don't play politics with it."
When rash decisions are made about war, said the president, mistakes are made, and "typically it's not the folks who are popping off who pay the price."
What to do about Iran -- and whom to trust to deal with Iran -- seems fated to be the foreign policy issue of 2012.
And the battle lines are drawn.
Bibi Netanyahu, the Israeli lobby and its allies in Congress will be demanding ever harsher sanctions and military action before November. For they assume, rightly, that the president does not want war and, if he wins, there will be no war with Iran.
The Republicans will portray Obama as dithering, vacillating and weak, no true friend of Israel, though the U.S. military and intelligence community are behind Obama in his belief that a war now on Iran would be unnecessary, unwise and potentially calamitous.
Nervous Democrats, facing Sheldon Adelson super PAC ads in the Jewish communities of every swing state, all accusing Obama of "throwing Israel under the bus," will be pressuring the president to get tougher.
And Obama surely knows that an October confrontation with Iran, with war a possibility, or a reality, will mean the nation rallies around him and he wins a second term.
Will Iranian intransigence provide him a casus belli? Or will Iran negotiate seriously and agree to more intrusive inspections to prove its nuclear program is not aimed at a bomb?
Whether there is a U.S. war on Iran seems up to the ayatollah now. Will he play into the hands of Israeli and American hawks who are salivating over a war with his regime and his country?