What was also quite interesting about this interview was not only the content, but also the journalist to whom the White House gave the interview. Mr. Goldberg is considered fairly pro-Israel overall, and it is possible that in choosing Mr. Goldberg to do the interview the White House is taking an extra symbolic step to send a message to Israel and its US supporters that the President is indeed prepared to order a strike on Iran if necessary. While there has been quite extensive speculation that the US would be willing to live with a nuclear Iran and simply pursue a policy of "containment," Mr. Obama's interview seems designed to make clear that this is in fact not true, and that the US will not tolerate an Iran with nuclear weapons.
It is worth noting that in the past when Iran has felt sufficiently threatened by the Americans, it has retreated from its most hardline positions. This happened most notably in 2003 after the US overthrew Saddam Hussein, and the Iranians began to fear that they were next. Read this review by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on the incipient steps Iran took to reach a grand bargain with the US. As there have been some tentative feelers coming out of Iran indicating a willingness to compromise, perhaps it is time to review the possibility of a "grand bargain" with the Iranians. George Washington University Professor Amitai Etzioni has an excellent piece in the magazine National Interest in which he reviews Iran's seeming willingness to compromise in 2003, and then outlines the parameters for what a diplomatic deal with the Iranians might look like today. Do read Mr. Etzioni's article.