As tensions with Iran over its weapons program continue to simmer, President Obama tried to thread a tricky needle at his Tuesday press conference, where he was stern, but also avoided confrontational talk when speaking about the Middle East.
Obama's message wasn't just directed at Iran. It was also clearly aimed at Republicans.
"The notion that how to solve every one of these problems is to deploy our military, it hasn't been true in the past and it isn't true now," Obama told reporters at the White House's press room.
And he blasted others who were, in his view, "casually" calling for a military confrontation.
"What's said on the campaign trail, those folks don't have a lot of responsibility," Obama said. "This is not a game, this is not something to be casual about."
Several of the Republican presidential candidates have criticized Obama over his stance on Iran—most recently, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney attacked the president's policy in a Washington Post editorial.
Obama's comments come as negotiations have cautiously been re-opened between the world's powers and Iran over its arms program. The president claimed that there was no rush to resolve the situation, and there was still plenty of time to resolve it diplomatically.
"My policy is not containment," Obama said, claiming there was still a "window" for Iran to defuse the crisis. "My policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining weapons of mass destruction."
Obama's comments come as Iran has reportedly accepted offers to resume the negotiations which had ended over a year ago, provoking the current stalemate.
As Obama continuesto manage an international crisis while also preparing for his re-election battle, his comments will no doubt increase the political rhetoric on the topic. It will also be read as a chance for Obama to reclaim the political image which has served him so well in the past—the wise leader, willing to use force, but reserved about when.
Obama's success in politics can, in some ways, be traced to his early opposition to the Iraq war--a stance which set him apart form his political opponents and helped fuel an insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton. But as president, Obama has been faced with attacks on both sides for his foreign policy stances--from liberals for increased use of drone strikes to conservatives who have blasted him on what they see as a weak and conciliatory foreign policy.
Whether Obama was seeking to calm a growing international crisis or was hoping to quell Republican critics with an eye towards the campaign, the image was similar to the 2004 candidate which Democrats fell in love with--tough, but wise about the use of American military might. And it will certainly invite more criticisms from conservatives who claim that Obama hasn't done enough to protect Israel from threats.
- See political cartoons about the turmoil in the Middle East.
- See photos of soldiers returning from Iraq.
- See political cartoons about Iran.