WASHINGTON â€”Â President ObamaÂ gave a forceful defense of his administrationâ€™s commitment toÂ Israelâ€™s security on Sunday, using aÂ speech to a pro-Israel lobbying groupÂ to take onÂ critics on the Republican presidential campaign trailÂ who have called for a harder American line to rein in Iranâ€™s nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Obama, speaking before a conference of the influentialÂ American Israel Public Affairs Committee, declared that he would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and would act â€” militarily, if necessary â€” to prevent that from happening.
â€œI do not have a policy of containment,â€ Mr. Obama said, to applause from the huge crowd in the cavernous hall at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. â€œI have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as Iâ€™ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.â€
But the president also made clear that he considers diplomacy, and the policy of sanctions set in motion by the United States and Europe, as the Westâ€™s best hope for getting Iran to stop short of pursuing a nuclear weapon. â€œAlready, there is too much loose talk of war,â€ Mr. Obama said on Sunday. â€œFor the sake of Israelâ€™s security, Americaâ€™s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster.â€
He has said repeatedly that he does not think a military strike, either by Israel or the United States, would do more than delay any IranianÂ nuclear program.
In a rare detour to discuss domestic politics in what was billed as a foreign policy speech, Mr. Obama chided â€œpartisan politics,â€ which he said had no place in national security debates. He issued a lengthy defense of actions he has taken as president to protect Israel, including military aid; support for Israelâ€™s â€œIron Domeâ€ missile defense system; and his decision, to great criticism around the world, to throw the weight of the United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement last fall when he opposed the Palestinian Authorityâ€™s bid for statehood through the United Nations Security Council.
On Sunday, he issued a pre-emptive challenge to the roster of Republican presidential candidates and Congressional representatives who will be speaking to the group on Monday and Tuesday. â€œYou can expect that over the next few days, you will hear many fine words from elected officials describing their commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship,â€ Mr. Obama said.
â€œBut as you examine my commitment, you donâ€™t just have to count on my words,â€ he said. â€œYou can look at my deeds.â€