Third presidential debate transcript: President Barack Obama on Israel & Iran

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida on Oct. 22, 2012

Transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks on Israel and Iran: 

Moderator Bob Schieffer: Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States, which, of course, is the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan.

And if you made such a declaration, would not that deter Iran? It’s certainly deterred the Soviet Union for a long, long time when we made that — we made — we made that promise to our allies.

President Barack Obama: First of all, Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I’ve made that clear throughout my presidency. And…

Moderator Bob Schieffer: So you’re — you’re saying we’ve already made that declaration.

President Barack Obama: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.

In fact, this week we’ll be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week. But to the issue of Iran, as long as I’m president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office.

We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles.

And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel’s national security. We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.

Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. And for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that’s unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.

So the work that we’ve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States president, me, who said we’re not going to take any options off the table.

The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that, during the course of this campaign, he’s often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake, because when I’ve sent young men and women into harm’s way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.

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