[Click here for a full video replay of the address.] In his State of the Union address last night, a stubborn President Barack Obama said he would veto a new Iran sanctions bill if presented with one, but that he would “be the first to call for more sanctions” if Iranian leaders “do not seize this opportunity” for a diplomatic solution to the issue of their nuclear program.
“The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity [for negotiations with Iran] possible,” Obama said. “But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed. If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.”
On the topic of the U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations, Obama said American diplomacy “is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel-a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.”
The president said U.S. diplomacy, back by pressure, has also “halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program-and rolled parts of that program back-for the very first time in a decade.”
“As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium,” he said. “It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Negotiations with Iran “do not rely on trust” and any long-term nuclear deal “must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb,” said Obama. If Iran’s leaders “do seize the chance” for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, Iran “could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war,” he said.