Obama Warns Against Effects of 'Premature' Military Action on Iran

U.S. President says Iranian representatives must show they are serious in planned round of nuclear talks, adding that Tehran has to prove its nuclear program is 'peaceful.'

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U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that it is his belief that there is a still a "window of opportunity" to use diplomacy instead of military force to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. During a press conference, Obama also warned against prematurely instigating war over the matter.

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U.S. President Barack Obama holding a news conference from the White House Press Briefing Room in Washington, March 6, 2012. Credit: Reuters

Referring to his position that the world should exhaust the path of sanctions and political pressure on Iran before considering a military option, the U.S. president urged caution in reference to talk of war, adding: "This is not just an issue of Israeli interests - this is an issue of American interests."

However, Obama added, "It's also not just an issue of consequences for Israel if action is taken prematurely. There are consequences for the United States as well."

"When I visit [U.S. veterans hospital] Walter Reed, or when I send letters to families whose loved ones didn't come home, I'm reminded that there is cost," Obama said, adding: "Sometimes we bear that cost, but we think it through. We don't play politics with it. When we have in the past, when we haven't thought it through and it gets wrapped up in politics, we make mistakes."

In an apparent gesture toward American officials who have urged the president to attack Iran, Obama said: "Typically, it's not the folks who are popping off who pay the price it’s the men and women in uniform who pay the price." He added that the Iranian issue requires a "careful, thoughtful approach."

"Those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities," Obama added. "They are not commander in chief."

"Historically, we have always cooperated with Israel with respect to the defense of Israel. And that broad statement is confirmed with what we've done with the last 3 years things like Iron Dome that prevents missiles from being rained down on Israeland we're going to continue this unprecedented security commitment," Obama added.

When asked whether or not he thought nuclear talks with Iran - which are reportedly scheduled to be renewed soon - would last as long as they did, Obama said that "there is no doubt that over the last three years, when Iran has engaged in negotiation, there has been hemming and hawing and stalling the issue in a way that the international community concluded were not serious."

Asked whether or not the upcoming talks represent a "last chance" for diplomacy with Iran, Obama said the world's expectations, "given the consequences of inaction for them, the severe sanctions, the huge toll that's taking on their economy, (the indication) was that Iran's representatives to the talks... were serious."

"They understand that the world community means business. To resolve the issue Iran will have to come to the table" and prove that "the intentions of their nuclear program is peaceful," Obama added.

Referring to the crisis in Syria, Obama said that unilateral military action by the U.S. against President Bashar Assad’s regime would be a mistake. He added the situation in Syria is more complicated than it was in Libya.

Obama has resisted calls to get drawn into the turmoil in Syria to stop Assad’s bloody crackdown on protesters. More than 7,500 people have been killed there.

According to Obama, the international community has not been able to muster a campaign against Syria like the one in Libya that ousted Muammar Gadhafi last year. Russia has blocked a UN Security Council resolution against Assad’s regime.

Obama’s strategy has been to use sanctions and international diplomatic isolation to pressure Assad into handing over power.

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