msnbc | January 26, 2013
>>> we will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully. not because we are naive about the dangers we face but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.
>> that's president obama giving his inaugural address , giving a glimpse to iran and its nuclear ambitions. this came in the same week hard line benjamin netanyahu suffered a setback in elections but a new interview with israel prime minister. dennis ross , senior director of the national security council and special adviser to secretary clinton on iran . dennis w a big welcome to you, sir, what was your takeaway from the president's line we played from the inaugural address , what does it signal to you?
>> i think there's been a continuity in the president's attitude, certainly in his approach to foreign policy . you'll recall from the beginning of administration, the word engagement was, in fact, a guidepost for how we were going to try to deal with adversaries as well as in terms of how you try to deal with resolving conflict. so, i think engagement as such is not new. there's als been a premise to that engagement. it's engagement without illusion. the president has looked at iran as a country that is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability and he's made it clear his objective is to prevent that, not to live with it. his preferred approach is to resolve it through peaceful means, resolve it by engaging with iranians, getting ourselves and others to engage, but to get the iranians to change their objective. the end result may be preferably achieved through diplomacy but the implication is if diplomacy does not work, force may be likely.
>> you listen to what the president said in terms of interpretation from israel , couple with what ma hud barack was saying, if that kind of back-channelling doesn't work. are we at odds with israel ?
>> you know, i would -- the way to try to create perspective, we share objective of prevention, also share perspective of achieving it through peaceful means. the israelis become more skeptical that ultimately that will be achieved through peaceful means, therefore, they are more open about the use of force as a result. we are a little bit less explicit, but when the president says all options are on the table, that is also designed to send a message. there's a potential potentially when it comes to timing. israe israeli's facing an exten shall threat from iran . it's more a case of timing than it is objective.
>> adding to the timing consideration, dennis, look at netanyahu's election setback. does that put things further away from military intervention by israel or the u.s. against iran or does it move it closer?
>> well, i don't think it moves it closer. what i think it does, if you look at the israeli attitudes on this, the public attitudes on this have been very clear. basically, almost no one in israel thinks israel can live with an iran that has that capability but there's a very strong presumption that if israel were to act, it should do it either in concert with the united states or certainly not in opposition to the united states . and i think that's where you may have something that creates a little bit more time and space for the united states to try to work things out diplomatically.
>> how about the personal relationship between the president and benjamin netanyahu , where does that stand these days?
>> i've always felt the portrayal of this tend to be somewhat exaggerated. i think they have a correct relationship. i think it's -- when i say correct, they can work together, they understand the need of working together president the fact is, when you look at iran , there's a shared strategic objective. when you look at the arab awaking, there's a shared strategic objective. i would say even on the palestinians. both we and the israelis understand it's much preferable to have a palestinian identity that is nationalist and not islamist. it's preferable to preserve palestinian authority and not have it collapse. there may be tactical differences in how you chooef that but strategically there's a basic convergence. the question is, can you assure that's always pursued taktticly.