After his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Obama addressed questions from reporters, specifically about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Recent controversy has erupted over Netanyahu's expected visit in March, where he will speak to a joint session of Congress and not meet with President Obama. Obama's response was consistent with White House protocol that they don't meet with foreign leaders before their elections.
"I talk to him all the time. Our teams constantly coordinate," Obama said. "We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections."
Hinting that the visit is inappropriate, Obama explained that the German leader wouldn't have done the same.
"As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House, and I suspect she wouldn't have asked for one," he said.
But Merkel and Obama are not at a crossroads like Netanyahu and Obama are. Divided on the issue of Iranian sanctions, Netanyahu is fearful of Iran pulling out of a deal, skeptical a deal is even possible. President Obama, on the other hand, wants to let the negotiations take their course with a critical meeting just two months ahead.
"I don't want to be coy. The prime minister and I have a very real difference around Iran sanctions," Obama said. "It does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they're about to be completed."
Acknowledging that U.S. partners agree with his assessment, Obama's plea will try to calm domestic pressure from Congress to increase sanctions on Iran. Foreign policy leaders in the House and Senate refuse to believe than Iran will come to an agreement that is satisfactory with American interests. Still, Obama doesn't see the need to potentially ruin a possible deal.
"What's the rush?” Obama questioned. “Unless your view is that it's not possible to get a deal with Iran and it shouldn't even be tested. And that I cannot agree with, because as president of the United States, I am looking at what the options are if we don't get a diplomatic resolution. Those options are narrow and they're not attractive."