Tension: U.S., Israel, Iran

Posted: Mar 02, 2012 8:10 AM

President Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday to discuss Iran's nuclear program and how to approach it. Netanyahu has made it clear he doesn't have much faith in the United States in backing Israel over the issue. It also doesn't look like the Israeli Prime Minister will receive the reassurance he is looking for either.

"If you don't want me to attack now, I want guarantees," an Israeli official quoted Netanyahu telling top Obama aides who visited Jerusalem last month. "If you're saying, 'we'll take care of you', you're not saying that clearly enough."

The White House has signaled that Obama, who has pledged to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon but has been vague on how far he is prepared to go, will resist pressure for a public policy shift.

Instead, amid growing signs that U.S.-led international sanctions are starting to take a toll on Iran, he will seek to persuade Netanyahu to hold off on any military strike to give those measures and diplomacy time to work, U.S. officials say.

Last time Netanyahu was in town, he rebuked President Obama's calls for Israel to retreat back to 1967 borders and explained Israel doens't have second chances when comes to Iran, in front of Congress.

The Prime Minister started his remarks by addressing what he referred to as an “epic battle underway in the Middle East,” saying the region stands at a crossroads and has potential for freedom, liberty and true democracy rather than tyranny and oppression. Netanyahu hopes the countries surrounding Israel will take a path to liberty, as he believes true democracy is the only way to bring long term peace to the region, but said democracy is not paved by elections alone. His remarks noted that there must be a respect and dedication for the rule of law rather than men and that free speech must be upheld by governments rather than suppressed. Netanyahu upheld Israel as an example of that true democracy.

“Israel isn’t what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East,” he said.

Netanyahu said that governments like Iran's that continue to deny the holocaust and have called for the total destruction of the Jewish State should be exiled from participation in the United Nations and other international organizations. He said Iran specifically must continue to know that all options, including harsh sanctions and military intervention, are on the table in order to prevent the rogue nation from developing nuclear weapons, which he says would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and pose a fatal threat to Israel and the United States.

“We must take calls for destruction of our nation seriously,” he said. “When we say never again, we mean never again.”

And of course, President Obama is handling the situation with Iran and Israel's calls for support by saying, "I don't bluff."

In the most extensive interview he has given about the looming Iran crisis, Obama told me earlier this week that both Iran and Israel should take seriously the possibility of American action against Iran's nuclear facilities. "I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff."