Former White House Middle East adviser: Obama would ‘absolutely’ use force against Iran if diplomacy fails

A former Middle East adviser to President Barack Obama said Thursday that he is “absolutely” convinced that the president would use military force against Iran to forestall its nuclear program if diplomacy failed.

“The president thought about it very carefully, the debate was between prevention and containment, he made a very conscious decision for prevention,” Dennis Ross said in response to a question asked by The Daily Caller at a post-election foreign policy forum hosted at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“And I think once he made that decision, he also understood that has implications. If diplomacy fails, it leads you down the path towards the use of force. Do I think he would act on it? I think that absolutely he would act on it.”

A longtime Middle East foreign policy hand for both Democratic and Republican administrations, Ross began in the Obama administration as a special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with a focus on Iran.

In 2009, he moved to the White House, advising President Obama on the Middle East as a special assistant to the president and as the National Security Council’s senior adviser to the Central Region until the end of 2011.

Though Ross, who now holds the title of counselor at the Washington Institute, says he is confident Obama would use force to set back Iran’s nuclear program, he emphasized that the president would obviously prefer to solve the problem through diplomacy.

“But I think, like anyone, he would like to achieve this through diplomatic means,” Ross said.

“Ultimately, I think our best bet to achieving it through diplomatic means is continuing to have the pressure felt, which is being felt, making it clear that when it comes to diplomacy we want it to succeed, but the Iranians have much more to lose from its failure than anyone else.”

During his presentation at the forum, Ross said that he believes that 2013 will be the “decisive” year for dealing with Iran and its nuclear program.

“What I’m suggesting to you is that the combination of the pressure on the one hand, the pace of their program on the other and the likelihood that they will at least be given a way out means we will see this come to a head,” he said. “Either we’ll find a diplomatic way out during the course of this year or the prospect of the use of force goes up dramatically. “

Ross said he believes that the Iranian regime is beginning to feel the pain of international sanctions spearheaded by the Obama administration.

“I think actually the impact of sanctions is profound,” he said.

“For the first time it is truly profound in the case of Iran. We had the Supreme Leader two weeks ago referring to the sanctions as being brutal. His word, the sanctions are ‘brutal.’ Now this is someone who has said on an on-going basis ‘look, we’ve lived with sanctions since the beginning of the Islamic Republic. The sanctions make us stronger, the sanctions make us self-sufficient.’ He has a long litany of describing how the sanctions are something that ultimately Iran will turn to its benefit. Now he’s saying that the sanctions are brutal and the truth is, they are brutal.”