President Obama has been defending his policy on Iran and Syria in Washington at his first news conference of 2012.
On Iran’s nuclear programme, the president said there would be consequences for both Israel and the US if action was taken prematurely – and it was wrong to think a decision had to be made soon: “When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I am reminded of the costs involved in war. I am reminded of the decisions that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle and the impact it has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, on our economy. This is not a game and there’s nothing casual about it.”
On Syria he said the US could not take military action unilaterally, but he was confident President Assad would go: “What’s happening in Syria is heartbreaking and outrageous and what you have seen is the international community mobilised against the Assad regime and it’s not a question of if Assad leaves, it’s a question of when.”
Commentators were quick to note that the timing of the conference – Super Tuesday – must be a reminder to his challengers that Obama is still in charge.